On Writing

On Writing: Proofreading


These are the types of headlines that some people enjoy finding in newspapers or online articles. Many of those errors are caused by mistaken intent—i.e. a reader inferred a meaning that the writer did not intend. Some, of course, are proofreading errors.

Proofreading and editing your work is an important part of the writing process.

Many professional writers believe that it is as important as drafting ideas and doing research. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King (2002, p. 211) gives the following advice to writers who have finished their first draft:

You’ve done a lot of work and you need a period of time (how much or how little depends on the individual writer)

to rest. Your mind and your imagination—two things which are related, but not really the same—have to recycle

themselves, at least in regard to this one particular work. My advice is that you take a couple of days off—go fishing, go

kayaking, do a jigsaw puzzle.

King believes this will help you see errors that you had missed, and find new and fresh ways to express your ideas and connect with your audience.

Let the draft cool.   Finish your work in plenty of time so you can walk away for at least 24 hours then come back and read what you’ve written with fresh eyes when you’re more likely to catch mistakes.

The second element that can interfere with proofreading is familiarity. One of the biggest problems writers have in finding errors in their work is a weird visual aspect with the content related to the theory of cognitive dissonance. When we read something that we have just written, we read the words and thoughts we expect to read not what is actually there. This is why having another person proofread or a beta reader is so important. This person doesn’t have to be an expert on the topic or have strong writing skills; if something in your draft doesn’t make sense it is not hard to spot.

The time and effort that you put into proofreading your work will make a world of difference.


Check out the accompanying video on my YouTube Channel: On Writing with Chris Pavesic

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