What strikes you about the pictured passages?
No matter how good you are at spelling, grammar and punctuation, never underestimate the importance of proof-reading to check that your work makes sense!
Here are some tips for maximising your proof-reading skills:
- Whenever you change something in your writing, re-read the entire sentence to make sure that your amendment has not created any mistake or ambiguity.
- Leave your work for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes (preferably at least a few days later).
- Proof your work in a quiet place where you will not be distracted.
- Read your work aloud. If you stumble at any point, ask yourself why and consider what would make your work more reader-friendly.
- Read word by word rather than scanning. Your eyes will try to trick you into seeing what you think you have written!
- Never ignore Microsoft’s spellcheck markings: consider them and then decide whether to ignore them or amend what you have written. Check any peculiar words and then right-click and ‘add to dictionary’. (This option can also be used to teach your computer Australian English!)
- If your work is on a screen, print it out to proof it.
- Whether or not you trust your own proof-reading abilities, give your work to somebody else to double-check. We are all human and, in substantial pieces of writing, perfection can only be achieved through careful reading by more than one set of eyes.
Solutions to the pictured examples:
- How many seals were there?
- The word ‘use’ at the end of the first sentence is superfluous.
- Always take extra care not to misquote anybody! Does she have a poker face or not? It should read: ‘I don’t have a poker face.’
The original version of this article was published as ‘Frustrations of an English Pedant’ in The Australian Writer issue 379 (March–May 2013).