Usually, the clue is in the title. Proofreaders, it must therefore be assumed, read proofs. And that’s true enough, they do. However, if you think that means the ability to read is the key component of an effective proofreader’s professional make-up, then I’m afraid you’re very much mistaken.
If anything, the ability to read swiftly and fluently is a major drawback when proofreading. As your eyes skip across the page, bouncing from word to word like that funny little karaoke ball, following the writer’s carefully crafted rhythms and beats, you will miss all kinds of errors.
To become an effective proofreader you have to ‘unlearn to read’.
Now, that’s a lot more difficult than it sounds because your brain is an extremely effective proofreader and editor in its own right. Not only does it spot errors, it also corrects them, immediately and without you even realising it.
Don’t believe me? Try reading the following.
Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.
I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mind! Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.
The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.
Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Can you see now that porofaerdnig inst all aoubt rdaenig?
At least 90% of what you’ve just read is gibberish, yet your brain was able to take it apart and put it back together again in the right order.
And your brain does this all the time. It works with what it’s got and, whenever it can, it forces things to fit in with how it thinks things ought to be.
As a proofreader, this is a positive liability. Which is why you need a robust and effective proofreading methodology. It isn’t enough just to slow things down and read things backwards. You need to head your brain off at the pass and stop it from being so darned helpful all the time. Chapter 5 of The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course provides you with just such a methodology and a whole host of little tricks and techniques to keep that organic supercomputer of yours in its place.
Good lcuk wtih all yuor poorfaedrnig ednaevuros!
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My name's Mike Sellars and I'm an experienced proofreader and the author of The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course. Click here to find out more about me.
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“As someone who has been proofreading for 30 years, I found Mike’s course an invaluable introduction and a very useful practical guide to many aspects of the discipline. I can wholeheartedly recommend it.” Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
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