Five tips for perfect proofreading

Steve TylerEditing, Writing

WHETHER we are putting together a magazine, writing a press release or composing a feature article for a client, one of the most important aspects of our work is accuracy.

Getting to grips with your subject and being able to write clearly and with an engaging tone is one thing, but combining that with making sure the facts and figures are correct, your spelling and grammar is spot on and there are no errant pieces of punctuation is quite another.

Decades of experience in poring over copy have taught us a trick or two when it comes to proofing, so we thought we would share our top five tips for producing error-free content…


We live in a world where phones ring, computers beep and colleagues chatter at seemingly unprecedented rates and this can spell disaster for a proofreader.

It’s an obvious thing to say, but concentration is made easier when external distractions are removed, so find a place away from conversations and background noise where you can really focus on the words in front of you.


Although more and more content is now reaching consumers via electronic means, the professional proofreader should always keep a stock of paper to hand. Why? Quite simply because it is much, much easier to concentrate and take in text when you have a physical copy in front of you. Proofing on a screen is a recipe for tired eyes and mistakes and also leaves you open for distraction when an email pops up or your Twitter feed refreshes.

There is, of course, the planet to think about, so at TylerBale we load our printer with old documents and print the text to be proofed on the reverse side before recycling it once the job is done.


As you’re going to be putting your grey matter to the test when proofing, it’s only fair that you give your brain a helping hand. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 20/20 vision or need glasses every waking moment – if your copy is larger, you won’t have to strain to read it and you can engage more of your brain in the job at hand. If you’re proofing a text document, don’t be afraid to increase the point size beyond the usual 12 or 14 to make your life that much easier.

This advice applies equally to the size of the paper you use. If you’ve got some old A3 knocking about then use it – you’ll find it much easier to spot any mistakes.


Ignoring the advice in point one for a second, perhaps the most important part of any proofreading session is reading your copy out loud. When reading something in your head, your brain has the rather devious ability to make you skip some words, insert others that you thought were there but actually aren’t and miss areas where punctuation breaks the natural flow.

If you want to get one over on yourself, all you have to do is read the copy aloud. Take your time over it and check as you go that the words make sense, the sentences are well-constructed and of the right length and any commas and full stops are effective. It can also help to use a pen to trace over each word as you say it to make sure that you don’t miss anything.


No matter how good your proofreading skills, you will always benefit from another pair of eyes on your copy. You might be convinced that your facts and figures are accurate and your spelling and grammar are perfect, but someone else coming at the copy with fresh vision may well spot something you have missed.

At the very least they might be able to suggest different ways of constructing sentences or alternative words that really add something to the piece you are working on, so don’t be too proud to ask for help!

If you want to know more about TylerBale’s editorial services, call 01252 714870 or send us an email.