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Learning to proofread your own text

It can be hard to see your own errors, especially if you have sat for a long time with a text and changed both the structure and content multiple times. Long days in front of a screen can be tiring and make it hard to notice mistakes in your text.

Occasional language errors or missing words will not have a significant impact on how easy your text is to understand, but such linguistic errors can play a large role in how professional or credible you seem. It is therefore a good idea to always set aside time at the end of your writing process for proper proofreading. 

Make a plan

Decide in advance what should be gained from the proofreading. Are you aiming to only find typing errors and missed words or are you also looking for grammar inconsistencies or questionably placed commas?  Is it the case that you want the proofreading to result in a clearer structure in the text or fix problems with the outline? These are all different goals that take different lengths of time, and you cannot count on being able to do everything at the same time. Create a clear plan for what you are hoping to accomplish in your proofreading and set aside a suitable amount of time. 

Changing perspective

It is often said that you become blind to your own text. This means that you don’t really see the text as it is but instead how you think it is. It is of course difficult to find errors in your text when you already know the contents, so it is important to try change perspective. A great tip for this is to take a break from the text: put it aside for a few hours or even better, if there is time, a few days so that you have time to forget the exact wording. When you return to the text you will notice that it is much easier to find errors and inconsistencies. If you don’t have the time to take a break from your text another tip is to print out the text. You often get a better overview of the text on paper. If you don’t have access to a printer, you can try changing the font to try trick yourself into seeing the text in a different way.

Hearing the text

Always make sure to read your text aloud before submitting. Either read aloud to yourself or, even better, to someone else. When reading quietly, you tend to rush past difficult passages and not read the text properly. Reading aloud, on the other hand, requires more attention. An alternative is to let someone else read the text aloud to you while you mark passages where you think your reader is “reading wrong” or staggering. It is entirely possible to have covid-safe meetings via the phone or by a video call if you don’t have the possibility to meet with someone in person.