Even Proofreaders Need to Proofread!

Posted on Dec 5, 2009 by Kerry O'Malley

When I emailed the November issue of “Marketechniques,” I was reminded of a lesson I learned long ago but was in too big of a hurry to heed:  even proofreaders need proofreaders!  Yes, I admit it.  In my haste to meet my own, self-imposed deadline, I sent out the newsletter without anyone (including me) proofreading it. This started when I was in the uni, always asking smart friends to proofread my essay.  Did you happen to notice the two errors that I didn’t catch?  One of them was in the subject line of the email!

Whether your articles span multiple pages or only half a page, proofreading can make or break the impression you make with your readers. Conscientious writers are concerned with editing and proofreading. Together these processes make an article read as a professional piece of writing.

Many writers think that missing commas or semicolons are the most common proofreading mistake, but they aren’t. One of the most common mistakes made by proofreaders (even experienced ones), is to confuse proofreading with other valuable types of editing. Proofreading concerns the final changes made to an article before it is published in electronic or print media. It does not involve reorganizing passages or changing sentence structure. It is mainly concerned with grammar and punctuation. Thinking of the old phrase “cross your ‘t’s and dot your ‘i’s” is a great mindset for proofreaders.

The following tips are quick steps to proofreading an article:

1.    Sleep on it

Wise writers know that it is more difficult to polish their grammar and review for commas right after they’ve written and edited an article. It is much easier to make proofreading a separate activity from writing and editing; sleeping refreshes the mind and allows the writer to break away from the article long enough to become objective again.

2.    Focus only on proofreading

Proofreading is a separate activity from both writing and editing (though it is technically a branch of editing). It is inefficient to edit for content and for grammatical and punctuation errors at the same time.  First, edit for content without worrying about the rest.  Next, focus completely on proofreading. This assures that you’re not proofreading text that will eventually be edited out.

3.    Make several passes

If you proofread the article multiple times and only focus on one topic, you’ll be more productive. Read through the article several times while searching separately for verb tense, sentence fragments, and semicolon usage.  You’ll find and fix more errors than if you search for all three at the same time.

4.    Have someone else read it.

Having a “second pair of eyes” proofread your article is one of the best ways to find flaws in your grammar or punctuation. That’s because the mind of a writer will often fill in minor details automatically. When someone else reads the article, their mind does not fill in punctuation or grammatical errors as readily.

5.    Read it out loud.

While this may seem childish, reading an article out loud will help you understand which phrases need commas and catch sentences that run-on for far too long.

Author: Kerry O'Malley


Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

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