Proofreading advice: take a break

I’m tinkering with a guide to help students who wish to proofread their own work, and I thought I would share some of the advice on my blog.

You’ve finished writing. You’ve made your edits. The next step is to proofread.

Don’t.

https://pixabay.com/en/snow-winter-cold-white-landscape-616319/

     If it looks like this outside, you know where you should be.

Save your work. Put down your pen. Switch off the computer. Take a break.

The best thing to do, I think, is to go outside. Take a walk and get some fresh air. If you can’t go out, do something else to take your mind off the work. Bake a cake, knit a small hat, clean the bathroom. Do whatever you like doing to relax.

If you have enough time, leave your work for a day or more.

This should create distance, and distance should help you spot errors. When your words are not fresh in your mind, you can look at your writing from a different perspective.

That’s when it’s time to start proofreading.

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18 thoughts on “Proofreading advice: take a break

  1. Excellent advice Hannah. One thing I tend to do is to print off what I’ve written. For some reason this helps me to spot the mistakes I’ve made. I’m currently going through this phase with a short story called ‘Clothing’.

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      • “Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.”

        Excellent advice. I’m naturally inclined to edit everything I write as I write it, and then edit it again the next day and the next for a month before moving on to the next chapter. It’s beyond inefficient. It’s OCDish, I think. So I was relieved to hear that William Gibson does the same crazy thing when he writes. Only he’s a little worse than I am. He starts reading from page one and speed-reads through the whole novel he’s writing, editing along the way, until he gets to the current point where he begins writing new material. Anyway, I like your advice. Wish it came naturally to me.

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      • Thank you. Yes, it can be hard to not do anything! I find I cope by writing quick little notes about things to check or think about changing. Then my perfectionist side knows I’m going to deal with it once I’ve done the hard slog of the actual writing.

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