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:
- Print out a copy of your writing.
- Grab your favorite pen.
- Read aloud to yourself slowly.
- Read exactly what you wrote, meaning: pause at every comma and semicolon; stop at each period.
- If the sentence sounds wrong, it probably is wrong.
- Pen in hand, mark off any errors.
- If it sounds right, move to the next sentence.
- Repeat this technique paragraph by paragraph
- When done, re-read the entire piece.
- 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:
- 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.
- Carefully, thoughtfully and critically listen once fully through.
- 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.
- Make any necessary changes.
- Repeat either the read-aloud or the recording/listening technique one final time.
- Incorporate final revisions and publish!
Remember, when editing and proofreading EARS are equally as important as eyes!