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Thread: Proofreading

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    Senior Member animenagai's Avatar
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    Default Proofreading

    Hey guys, proofreading has always been a major weakness of mine. I just find it painful to read my own work. I have high standards, so I often fear that what I've written isn't good enough. Obviously, that's not a reason to not proofread, quite the contrary, I should be proofreading more. So, do you guys have any tips on getting over this fear of inadequacy? 'Just get over it' isn't quite doing it for me.
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    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    My biggest weakness with proofreading is that I simply miss stuff. When writing I spend a reasonable amount of time rephrasing so that everything flows nicely. But then I get left with all sorts of weirdness left over from my method of editing, and I guess from trying not to get too bogged down in the details. I also have a tendency to not really look at what I have written, because I've seen it so many times (or have I?)

    I think the key is to have a break of a day or two between writing something and proof reading. That way you are both less emotionally invested and also you are more likely to look at your work in a fresh way. If its just some essay for school/uni that you don't much care about, then just get someone else to proof read. As long as they understand what you are saying, it is good enough right?
    With the right person/group for feedback and suggestions, you can usually smooth out your writing pretty quickly with this method.

    But if it is something you care about (especially if it is going to be published in some way), you should always give it a few days before proof reading it again. (and perhaps again if it is to be published)

    The English language provides a huge amount of freedom for expressing ourselves and this can also be a double edged sword in terms of how easy it can be to mess things up. There are a lot of ways to mess it up as I said. My favourite example when people try to be too clever with aureate language (or ostentatious erudition if you prefer). Writers who forget that the need to look up a word in a dictionary really upsets the flow of the piece. At the same time, it doesn't need to be perfect, merely good enough to effectively transmit our ideas. If it did, I'd probably have to cry every time I wrote something.

    I'm sure you've seen bad examples of writing that ended up being published anyway. From scientific articles, philosophy, fiction, to journalism, I frequently see badly written shit. So if you are halfway decent at writing, you are already better than those people right?

    I found this link in Google and it's probably helpful, although I haven't really read it yet:
    http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/proofread.html

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    Similar to Catb's ideas, for proofreading:

    1. Put time in schedule to distance yourself from the piece (i.e., don't proof right after you write it).

    2. Get someone else to proof it.

    3. For professional work, print it out and proof it on paper -- it's much easier to catch mistakes visually.

    4. Work backwards -- at least for punctuation and mistakes, you're much more apt to see what is actually there if you start at the end and go back line by line, from right to left, than start "reading for sense" if you are actually reading forward. You want to jolt the brain to just see the literal symbols.
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    Read it out loud to yourself to make sure it sounds right. Sometimes, just reading it in your head will make you miss stuff because the brain will get used to what's on the page.

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    What is this "proof reading" you speak of? Do you mean to say you don't just write something a submit it for another's consumption without regard for the plethora of spelling and syntax errors present in it?

    That's just crazy.


    Personally I find it's not worth going over your work several times over, dissecting every little mistake. If there are so many mistakes that you find yourself picking a sentence or paragraph apart, over and over again, just throw it out and write something else entirely. Getting hung up on mistakes will only make it worse.

    Write from the gut. You will have far less mistakes than you would carefully trying to concoct something.

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    I try to make it an active process. Print it out; grab a pen and read it really closely. Get the thrust of each paragraph down in the margins, cut out the extraneous bits, or expand. I find it just becomes a matter of this paragraph; next paragraph; next paragraph. Makes it more tangible and less daunting, I suppose? Then mindlessly make the changes in the actual file.

    Or try looking at it differently. I used to hate proofreading but…I kind of enjoy it now. Sure, my writing might suck but feeling it get that much closer to the ideas I had in my head — that's awesome. If it sucks, it can only get better, right?

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    I actually enjoy proof-reading and editing other people's work...but not so much my own. I'm a perfectionist but I also respect due dates on assignments and work projects. I know there will always be something to add or fix so once an assignment is done and printed, I will NOT read it on the way to school/uni because I know I'd find something to worry about.
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    Quote Originally Posted by animenagai View Post
    Hey guys, proofreading has always been a major weakness of mine. I just find it painful to read my own work. I have high standards, so I often fear that what I've written isn't good enough. Obviously, that's not a reason to not proofread, quite the contrary, I should be proofreading more. So, do you guys have any tips on getting over this fear of inadequacy? 'Just get over it' isn't quite doing it for me.
    Give yourself lots of time. After you're done writing. Put it down. Don't look at it again for at least 24 hours - 48 hours - 1 week.

    When you re-read something it's astonishing at all the mistakes and just things you pick up on.

    If you keep staring at the page and don't see anything, you're too "close" and have lost focus.
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