Proofreading strategies

Student proofreading your documentsOnce your written document has been completed, the final task that remains is to use your proofreading strategies to check the text for errors, inconsistencies and style. This process is crucial to ensure that your text engages the reader and captures their attention, because if proofreading strategies are overlooked or dismissed then you run the risk of the reader rejecting your article, assignment or dissertation due to inaccuracies or poor presentation.


Therefore, it is vitally important to consider the various approaches to proofreading your document that will ensure it is rendered ready for submission or publication. You might already have a system that works for you. If, however, you have not found the right combination of proofreading tools to rid your document from concealed errors, then please read on.


Choosing your proofreading strategies

You may find that employing a combination of strategies works best for you, or you might have one method that is tried and tested, which you feel you can trust. The following is not an exhaustive list of strategies, but it forms a strong foundation with suggestions for free, collaborative and paid solutions to ensure that the presentation of your written work does justice to its content.

  • The cushion approach is ideal for larger documents or those that do not require imminent publication. The method is to place the text to one side for a few hours at least, but more preferable is a few days. Then, you can return to review your document with a fresh mind and more vigilant pair of eyes.
  • The methodical approach is suitable when delays to your document’s completion and submission are unacceptable, and time is of the essence. Therefore, after completion and a brief time out for a breath of fresh air and a cup of tea, it is necessary to plunge back into the text, and scrutinise it for errors and improvements. Now, an extra keen eye is required to avoid overlooking mistakes due to writer’s fatigue and over familiarity with the text. Consequently, the document should be proofread twice. Once to repair all the obvious errors and amendments, and a second time to check the changes and locate any problems missed on the first pass.
  • Reading the text aloud can be helpful to overcome seeing what you wanted to write, rather than what you actually wrote. Our ears have a keen sense of whether a sentence’s construction sounds right or wrong, and this early warning system can alert us to errors that might have been overlooked on a silent read. Also, the sound of your own voice can help to keep you alert during long periods of lengthy proofreading.
  • Peer proofreading is ideal for professionals and students who have colleagues in a similar position of needing their written work reviewed and repaired. A fresh set of eyes unencumbered by the depths and challenges of the writing process can offer valuable insights, suggestions and feedback on your written work, whilst also flagging up the errors that they find. Of course you need to choose your proofreading partner carefully, so someone with attention to detail and a sense of curiosity would be an ideal candidate.
  • Reading your text backwards has been suggested as an excellent way to root out even the most well concealed errors in a text. This approach is quite time consuming, and perhaps more suited to highlighting flaws in spelling and punctuation than sentence structure and flow. Nevertheless, it is another tool to add to the armoury.
  • Using a professional proofreading service is the easiest option, but one which of course comes at a financial cost. There are many proofreaders advertising their services for students, bloggers, authors and writers of any text that needs reviewing. Key here is the speed of return and depth of scrutiny that is applied to your document. Feedback from previous clients is helpful to gauge reputation, but ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. Or in this case, the document you receive back with the edits highlighted for you to review, accept or reject. Only then can you truly measure a proofreader’s worth.


That just about concludes this review of proofreading strategies. Maybe some new ideas have been suggested here, or perhaps you have your own suggestions you would like to add. What is most important, regardless of the route we take, is to arrive at a document which we feel confident is free of errors, polished and ready for readership.