When you’re proofreading your own text there’s nowhere to hide. If there are any typos – SPAG, syntax, factual errors – you can’t blame your proofreader. Your proofreader is you.
What’s more, if your writing is going to appear online, you will have additional proofreaders: your readers. You can’t blame these people either.
While in days of yore if people wanted to comment or offer proofreading advice on a newspaper article or TV programme they would have to write in – a process that we all know would take days, involving pens, paper, envelopes and stamps – now of course readers can connect with you easily and instantly, directly and personally.
Often anonymous, some of them will love to point out your mistakes. The rest of your text could be Pullitzer/ Orwell/ Booker/ Nobel Prize-winning material, but if there’s a simple typo or factual error, that’s what they will focus on.
So even if your text isn’t going to be posted online, it can be useful to imagine that it is – for the whole world and his wife to see.
Because not only can posting something online for real be a marvellous way of helping you to spot typos – suddenly they become visible in a way that you’d swear they weren’t before – just imagining people anonymously commenting on your piece, relishing your mistakes, can help crystalise the mind.
No one wants typos to show them up. A typo is a bit like going out in public with your skirt tucked in your knickers. Or your flies undone. Or egg on your shirt. Most people will be polite and not say anything, but your commenters are the ones who will tell you.
In a sense, everybody’s a proofreader these days. People will know if you weren’t present at the proofreading stage.
Your commenters can hide but you can’t. Give yourself some grace, but also remember your commenters and thank them in advance. Take them on side, because when it comes to proofreading, they are your best friends.
They will tell you when your knickers are showing.