Blog

Soft Skills of a Technical Writer

What soft skills should technical writers have when they start their career? Linguistic and technical understanding is important in our profession. So are the soft skills - just like in any other job. more ...

RDF is not XML – RDF serialization and iiRDS metadata

The world of technical writing loves XML. Its document type definitions are the foundation of structured authoring. XML and the underlying schemas structure the content of our information products. The benefits are twofold. Content is consistently structured and easy to read. Authors have an easier time writing the content. The structure provides guidelines for authoring. more ...

How to become a technical writer – Confessions of a former translator

A former translator, I worked the first seven years of my professional life in the translation industry, in various positions. While I learned a lot from this experience, it also left me, as a writer, frustrated. Translators are chained to their source text and writing the words of others in another language, usually focusing on what their clients want. more ...

tekom impressions part 2: API documentation and the VUKA world

Daniela Herbold and Ulrike Parson write about better API documentation and solutions for innovative human resources management. more ...

Impressions from tcworld 2017

Part 1: Improvisation, fluff hunt, and videos for technical documentation. more ...

Be nice. Strategies of a proofreader

We create documentation in several steps: We interview the experts, process information, create terminology, write, rewrite, and translate. Before we publish a text, we proofread.

But finding errors or inconsistencies in your own writing is sometimes difficult. Another pair of eyes can help. This is where I come in.

Fotolia 46241978 XS© Anatoly Maslennikov. Fotolia.comI read a document with respect to style, structure, and consistency. I recommend linguistic changes. I correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

I find a lot: typos, repetitions, or missing transitions. I find too much detail, too little detail, wrong commas, and fragments. I am merciless. I am strict. I get paid for it. I raise questions and I nag. I sense if the author did not know what exactly is going on in the engine he or she is describing. Occasionally, I play dumb. Who says that the audience knows as much as we do?

There are many strategies and recommendations for proofreading. Not all of them may suit you. Most of them work for me. I hope that you find them useful:

  1. Focus and avoid distractions. Proofreading is a demanding task and needs your full attention. Focus on one sentence at the time. If you try to take in too much information at once, you might miss inconsistencies or other errors.
  2. Be suspicious. Don’t trust a word you are reading. Also do not make assumptions. If you are not sure whether the information you are reading is correct, do some research or ask an expert.
  3. Reread. Read everything at least twice. I am always surprised how many errors I find in the second or even third round.
  4. Create a routine. I like to read the text first with respect to content, style, language, structure, and consistency. Second, I check spelling, grammar, and commas.
  5. Read aloud. I can better examine a complex paragraph when I read it aloud.
  6. Create variety. Proofreading can be hard, tedious, and frustrating at times. Interrupt your work when you feel that you cannot focus anymore or when you lose interest. Try to work on something else. Or go for a run. That helps me.
  7. Be nice and show respect. Sometimes, we tend to be overcritical or point a finger. Even if you are frustrated, make sure that your criticism helps the author. Respect the author’s work and intentions.
  8. Be passionate. Become a grammar nerd. Keep up-to-date on the subject. Read blogs and books about language, grammar, and style.

I am sure there plenty of other strategies. We would like to hear from you. What works best for you?

Add comment


  • facebook
  • linkedin
  • xing