A proofreading tip that tells you not to proofread? I know it sounds counter-intuitive but stay with me; there’s method in my madness. What I mean is don’t proofread your text…
… at first. In other words, just read it. Like, for pleasure. Not only will this make the job easier in the long run, but it will also allow you to see the bigger picture and get a general sense of flow and meaning, which as proofreaders we are there to serve.
Trying to look for everything at once, especially at first, will impede this process. Not only are errors more likely to stand out against a knowledge of the overall text – what may at first look like a mistake may not be, and vice versa – but a better knowledge of the overall text will also give you the confidence to justify your decisions to yourself.
So when you start proofreading, anticipate nothing else but a pleasurable experience, as reading is meant to be. If your text is not of a pleasurable nature, at least approach it with an open mind. Crucially, try not to put yourself under any pressure to find any errors or issues at first (although it’s great if you do – errors often appear when you’re not looking for them). The more times you can read it the better.
This will of course depend on how much time you have, which isn’t always a lot. But I find that the more I proofread, the more time I need to take, and a professional will always try to tread the balance.
Slow down, take your time, breathe, and at first just read without proofreading. Often, this is how errors are more likely to be found.
So what do you think? Does this sound counter-intuitive to you? How do you find it best to start proofreading? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to post a comment below.