Proofread with Your Ears

Whether you’re writing an email to a professor or polishing that dreaded end-of-semester term-paper, proofreading should be an essential step before you finalize your work. Careful proofreading can help you locate grammar problems and give you an overall picture of the clarity and structure of your writing.
When you think of proofreading, you probably think of reading over your writing with a pen in your hand, or painstakingly going through your paper with your computer, or maybe embossing a copy in Braille and reading it line by line. While you should proofread your work carefully in these ways, there’s another way that involves more than reading. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your ears when proofreading your work:
1. Take your piece of writing and read it out loud. Imagine that it’s someone else’s work; that will help you check that it makes sense.
2. If you’re blind and have access to a Braille display, you can read it from there.
3. Focus on the sound of your voice. Are you noticing that you’re not pausing where there should be sentence breaks? Do you have too many pauses in your sentences? Are you hearing the same words used over and over again?
4. If you’re using a screen-reader, let it read your writing in its entirety first. After reviewing your paper as a whole, then go back and correct errors you may have heard along the way, and examine your paper in more detail.
5. Try changing the voice of your screen-reader. Sometimes, hearing text with a new voice will give you fresh perspective.
5. Create a sound-scheme for editing if your screen-reader allows. This can help clarify where you’ve used (or forgotten to use), different type set.
6. If you have a recorder, record yourself reading your work out loud. Play your work back the next day. Sleeping on your writing can give you fresh perspective, as well. After stepping away from your paper for a while, you might realize that your body paragraphs don’t relate very well to each other and your introduction.
7. Ask someone to read your work out loud. In addition to helping you spot errors, hearing your writing read back in someone else’s voice might cause a lightbulb to go off in your head. Perhaps that sentence really belongs in the previous paragraph…
While proofreading takes time, it might just help you make that A on your next paper, or help you express yourself more clearly when you’re writing an important message.