Proofreading – Prove we need it!
These days, written communication is used in every part of your day. Whether you’re checking your child’s essay for school, you may be writing a formal report for work, or writing an email message. It is important to reread the text to ensure it’s written accurately and clearly. Proofreading is reviewing the final draft of a piece of writing to ensure consistency and accuracy in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting.
This is where proofreading comes in. Learn how proofreading your written work can help you avoid confusion and miscommunication in your message.
What is proofreading?
The word ‘proofreading’ came from the traditional publishing industry. Before digital publishing gained popularity, publishers would print an early copy of a text (the ‘proof’). A final review of the proof was performed by a proofreader who catches any grammatical, spelling, and formatting errors or inconsistencies.
Although the text or manuscript might’ve gone through top editing, line editing, and copy editing, some errors can still get missed in these early review stages. Proofreading, however, is the last opportunity to correct any errors that might’ve slipped past before it’s published.
Since proofreading is such an important step in the writing process, it helps to know a few ways to improve your proofreading skills. One or all of the following tips can help you catch mistakes before your document is submitted:
Stepping away from your work. After writing and rereading the same text, it’s easy for your brain to fill in missing words in a sentence for you or for your eyes to glaze over grammatical details.
Read the text out loud. I’m not joking, your family may think you’ve gone mad? But it does help, really, I mean it. This strategy helps you spot confusing points or jarring structure. It also helps you identify awkward or abrupt sentences.
Print out the document. Getting your eyes away from a computer screen and onto a physical page can help you find errors that fell through the cracks.
These are just a few ways to develop your proofreading skills on your own. You can try one approach or a combination of them to see what’s most effective for you.
British versus American style
There are two major styles of English punctuation: American (commonly followed also in Canada) and British (commonly followed also in Australia and New Zealand). Over the years, these two styles have converged. The few major differences that remain are described below.
You may wonder if I’m writing in British English or USA English?
We all know the variations in naming certain things, for example, ‘Trunk’, and ‘Boot’. We can go into that in another post, for today we’ll concentrate on quotations, not spoken, but written.
American style uses double quotes (“) for initial quotations, then single quotes (‘) for quotations within the initial quotation.
“Economic systems,” according to Professor White, “are an inevitable byproduct of civilization, and are, as John Doe said, ‘with us whether we want them or not.'”
British style uses single quotes (‘) for initial quotations, then double quotes (“) for quotations within the initial quotation.
‘Economic systems,’ according to Professor White, ‘are an inevitable byproduct of civilization, and are, as John Doe said, “with us whether we want them or not”‘.
The above examples also show that the American style places commas and periods inside the quotation marks, even if they are not in the original material. British style (more sensibly) places unquoted periods and commas outside the quotation marks. For all other punctuation, the British and American styles agree: unless the punctuation is part of the quoted material, it goes outside the quotation marks.
Mr., Mrs., and Ms. all take periods in American English. In British English, the periods are omitted.
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