Who has not been the victim of the big, red X, scritch-scratched across a school paper by a teacher or marked on a manuscript at the hand of an editor? It's shocking when we see it. I dare say, it hurts, physically and psychologically. And almost always, it is associated with a violation of standard writing conventions.
Our primary goal, other than to compose a unique piece of writing that others cannot bear to put down, is to avoid the X. The best way to do that is to proofread with writing conventions in mind. And if we have violated any of them, to either correct them or to compose a suitable defense for them.
In that vein, I offer some tried and true proofreading strategies:
1) Put the piece down and walk away. After some time has passed, read through it again with a critical eye.
2) Read the piece out loud, preferably not in public.
3) Alert! Alert! Don't get cornered by a deadline or due date. Allow enough time for proofreading once the piece is complete.
4) Become mindful of your typical mistakes (maybe even keep a list of them handy) and actively look for those in the paper.
5) Ask someone else - someone who is familiar with grammar, punctuation, capitalization and usage - to read the piece.
6) Be a stranger to your own work. Put yourself in the place of your unknown reader and look at it through his or her eyes.
7) Read one sentence at a time, paying attention to each word, each punctuation mark, etc. Reading from the end to the beginning makes this process easier.
Proofreading, like anything, takes practice. It can be very frustrating. The story is complete. There's nothing more to say. Yet, here we are still rehashing it, again and again. When we start to feel bogged down in the process and ready to call it quits, we must remember that we are giving our reader a gift: A beautiful, well-written gift.
Tomorrow: Your v. You're
This post is brought to you by the April A to Z Blog Challenge. Check back all through April for daily discussions of writing conventions.