To know what you REALLY wrote? Record, replay, LISTEN!

Back in July on LinkedIn, I shared the following 10-step technique for out-loud proofreading that works with any and all types of copy:

  1. Print out a copy of your writing.
  2. Grab your favorite pen.
  3. Read aloud to yourself slowly.
  4. Read exactly what you wrote, meaning: pause at every comma and semicolon; stop at each period.
  5. If the sentence sounds wrong, it probably is wrong.
  6. Pen in hand, mark off any errors.
  7. If it sounds right, move to the next sentence.
  8. Repeat this technique paragraph by paragraph
  9. When done, re-read the entire piece.
  10. Make corrections and publish or send!

A sound, thorough process! Seems foolproof … right?

Sometimes, though, after-the-fact errors may remain. Why? Reading through the text too fast, perhaps. Or the writer simply doesn’t see or hear the grammar/style issue: often what one thinks they read aloud is still not what is truly written down.

A useful practice to surmount such mental walls builds on the previous technique. Namely, record yourself – or someone else, preferably – reading the piece in question.

Use any device handy: smartphone, computer, voice recorder. What matters most is giving the audio your full listening attention. Meaning, if the recording is a video don’t watch; doing so only introduces more distractions.

Ready? Now complete following six actions:

  1. Try to remove as many external interruptions as possible (television, radio, spouse, kids, pets). Sit down, take a deep breath, press the “play” button and close your eyes.
  2. Carefully, thoughtfully and critically listen once fully through.
  3. Listen to the recording again with pen and paper at hand; stop the recording to jot down notes on areas that need correction or revision.
  4. Make any necessary changes.
  5. Repeat either the read-aloud or the recording/listening technique one final time.
  6. Incorporate final revisions and publish!

Remember, when editing and proofreading EARS are equally as important as eyes!

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