* Treat proofreading like a treasure hunt or a game and see how many hidden mistakes you can find.
* Read it aloud. Or set your computer or device to read it aloud while you follow along visually.
* If you’re used to proofreading onscreen, print it out and proofread on paper. Or if you normally proofread on paper, try proofreading onscreen for a change. Or proofread the text once onscreen and once on paper.
* If reading on paper, place a ruler or a strip of cardstock under the line and move it down as you read. This forces you to slow down, focus on the text, and not get ahead of yourself.
* If you’re reading onscreen, change the font, font size, or color so that you’re reading it in a different format. You can also enlarge the screen view without changing the font.
* If you find a mistake or a typo, reread the sentence or paragraph it’s in. Mistakes often come in clusters, and you may miss one (or more) while finding another.
* Beware of doubled words at the end and start of a line. A doubled “that” will often slip right by if you let it.
* Use the search and replace function to check that there are no more instances of a particular error you’ve just encountered. Sometimes words are consistently misspelled.
* Slow down. You’re familiar with the text, so it’s easy to race through it, missing things as you go.
* Read through the text twice. On the second pass, you sometimes notice things that you missed on the first pass, or you gain new insight on how to reword a problematic phrase or sentence.
* Be especially careful when proofreading material set in all caps. It’s easy to miss typos in uppercase text.
* Double-check proper names and claims of distinction (first, best, oldest, tallest, etc.).
* Double-check the numbers. If the text says there were seven students, there shouldn’t be six names listed, or eight. Pie charts shouldn’t add up to 101%. Columns of figures should have the correct totals. Do the math. Do the math again.
* When you make a correction, always pause for a moment to double-check it. It’s easy to introduce new errors while correcting old ones.
* Memorize frequently misspelled and misused words. Here’s one list: https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/spelling-and-word-lists/misspelled.html
* Be wary of names with common variants--Stephen and Steven, O'Neil and O'Neill and O'Neal.
* Make a personal checklist of the things you tend to miss.
Dictionaries and thesauruses
See the list of online dictionaries at the top of my “Links and Stuff” page.
See my “Mistrust and Verify” page. Scroll to the bottom of the page, click on the PDF attached there (197k), and save it to your computer. This file has material on fact-checking, but Internet research is a major part of it. The links are generally recent ones.
Using Track Changes in Word
Computers vary, as do versions of Word and the skills of users. Sometimes the best way to educate yourself on track changes is to search for your version of Word (or platform), plus "track changes," such as "Word 2016 track changes." YouTube can be helpful.
Fair Use, Permissions, and Copyright
A helpful guide: “A Writer’s Guide to Fair Use and Permissions + Sample Permissions Letter” (last updated July 18, 2023), Jane Friedman
Other copyright guides and resources:
Working with PDFs
If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can download it (free) at