Doggone it! It happened again. I read it, reread it, wrote it, rewrote it, and someone still found a mistake. Has this ever happened to you?
They say the hardest part of writing is the re-writing. However, we should not feel too bad; movies and books have editors and they still make mistakes. So what can we do to minimize errors in our writing? Below are eight quick tips that can help reduce errors.
Brainstorm! One of the biggest mistakes people make when writing is trying to get the content perfect the first time. (My big problem.) Try to get all your ideas out and don’t edit while you write. When you have finished, go back, reread what you have written and then start the editing process.
- Put your writing aside before you reread it. I know time is important, but setting it aside for at least an hour or two (longer if you can) will give you a fresh look at what you have written. This break will reduce the effect of writer’s blindness.
- Don’t look for all the errors at once. Focus on one area at a time. Your first pass may emphasize sentence structure, then grammar, then content, etc.
- Review it in a different format. Print a hard copy and then read it silently and slowly line by line. Then read it backwards. Next, read it out loud. (This reduces the likelihood of your brain filling in the missing words or skipping over errors.) Finally, check for verb and noun agreement, the correct use of verb tenses, punctuation, etc.
- Reduce the number of words (some say by 10%). Look for redundancies, clichés, buzz words, etc. and eliminate them.
- Don’t forget to ask for help. Just like you wouldn’t look for all the mistakes at once, don’t ask the other person to do the same. Have one person check the grammar, another check for content, and a third person check for flow. Each new set of eyes can help find items you have overlooked.
- Know your style and create a list of things you want to correct. Do you use a lot of clichés, big words (plethora – my favorite), or the passive voice? This becomes your checklist when you are reviewing your writing.
- Do not rely on spell check. Don’t hesitate to use the dictionary and/or thesaurus. If I used both re-read and reread in this blog, spell check would accept both spellings. The dictionary (not Wikipedia) has reread, so reread it is.
Using these eight quick tips on editing/proofreading can help reduce writing errors and make our written messages clear and to the point. For tips on writing clear, concise, complete, and compliant content, check out one of my past blog posts.
What tips would you add? Do you have a tried-and-true method for editing and proofreading your writing that you’d like to share?