Thorough proofreading is an essential part of any writing project. But how do you spot those pesky typos? Here are our tips.

1. Are you sitting comfortably?

Proofreading is a task that takes concentration. So make sure you’re in an environment in which you can concentrate – even if it’s just for short bursts. If you work in an open-plan office, can you make use of a quiet meeting room or even get some noise-cancelling headphones?

2. Print it out, read it out

Now, we don’t advocate wasting paper. But proofreading is much easier to do in print than it is on screen. So while you’re getting the hang of it, print things out to check them. As you get better you can do more on screen. Reading out loud can help too, although it’s not always possible in an office environment.

3. Cover up the other lines

Use a ruler, piece of paper or the edge of the window on your computer to cover up lines other than the one you’re working on. This will help you focus and stop your eyes skipping ahead as they’re used to doing when you're reading quickly.

4. Use Word’s find function 

On a computer, use Word, Pages or whatever word processing software you use to find common errors for you. For example, you can use the find function from the edit menu in Word and Pages to search for all the its and it’s in your document and check they’re right.

5. Read forwards and backwards

Read sentences both ways, forward and then back. The first read gives you the sentence in context and the second, backwards, read helps you focus on individual words. It can be a bit tedious but it’s worth it if it helps you catch some typos.

6. Call in the professionals

There’s no doubt that proofreading is distinct skill (that’s why we don’t offer it as a standalone service). So if you find yourself faced with a lot of documents to check it’s time to call in the professionals. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders is a great place to start.

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