Be nice. Strategies of a proofreader

by Uta Lange on June 30, 2016

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.

I 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reread. Read everything at least twice. I am always surprised how many errors I find in the second or even third round.
  • 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.
  • Read aloud. I can better examine a complex paragraph when I read it aloud.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 new comment

Your email address will not be published.

You might also be interested in

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

by Lucie Le Naour on November 20, 2017

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...