How Do I Proofread and Copyedit Efficiently? Reading in Reverse

When reviewing your grammar and sentence structure, it can be easy to lose track of individual errors. After all, you have spent more time with your work than anyone else, and after so much time looking at the same sentences, it can be easy to miss mistakes you would otherwise catch. A common strategy for catching these errors and to improve the Clarity, Grammar, and Usage of your text is to ask someone else to look over your paper. However, it’s still possible for you to alter the way you read your own paper in order to make catching your own mistakes more likely. Consider the following three tactics, which can all be used together:

Step 1: Read through your paper in reverse, starting with the very last sentence and working your way back to the first. This keeps you from focusing on the content of your work and frees you to focus on the elements of grammar. Reading backwards also helps you to read more slowly and deliberately, helping you focus on the details you might miss if you were reading more quickly.

Step 2: As you read, focus on one mechanic at a time, such as subject-verb-object agreement or punctuation. Make sure to read slowly, focus on one sentence at a time, and read complex sentences more than once.

Step 3: Read more complex sentences aloud to see how they sound and whether you’re able to follow them.

If the project you’re editing is longer, you might find it useful to break up your edits by section, or leave yourself comments to remind yourself of recurrent errors. Remember to take breaks!