Our brains use prior knowledge to help us understand the world around us to enable us to make quick decisions. But it also influences how we interpret what we hear and read, which is not so helpful when it comes to proofreading content that we have written ourselves.
Click here for a great example of this from Alexis Madrigal (@alexismadrigal).
If you have written the content, you know what it is supposed to say. So when you try to proofread that content, you read what you are expecting to read, making it difficult for you to spot errors.
Ideally, you’d get someone else to proofread your content for you. But if you can’t, here are five techniques you can use to help you proofread your own content.
How to develop technical proofreading skills?
1) Sleep on it
If time permits, put the text aside over-night and come back to it in the morning. Not only will you be fresh and alert, and therefore more capable of spotting errors, but you will have forgotten some of what you wanted to write, so you’ll be more likely to read what you actually did write.
2) Print it out
Reading content for learning in a different format can make it seem novel. Therefore, you are more likely to read what you did write.
3) Read it out loud
Reading your content out loud forces you to both annunciate the words and listen to them. If you find the text is difficult to read or sounds strange, then there is probably something wrong with it.
4) One thing at a time
Focusing on one element of the text at a time, for example the grammar or factual correctness, disrupts the flow and so takes the focus away from the meaning. This means you are less susceptible to being influenced by your prior knowledge of the content.
5) Read it backwards
Reading text backwards is hard – it forces you to concentrate on each word at a time. This technique is particularly useful for picking up spelling mistakes.
The best option is to get someone else to review your content for you. Not only will this enable you to avoid the difficulty of proofreading your own content, but your proof-reader will also bring new ideas that can enhance the content.
If you are producing content regularly, you should build time into your process for proofreading. This will improve the quality of your content, decrease the production time, and also make the process more resilient.