We are human. That means human error is bound to occur, no matter how many times you read something.
So how do you catch those mistakes before you hit send/ self-publish/ post a status without looking like a bumbling idiot? Here are a few tricks I regularly use:
1. Read it aloud — this works whether it’s your friend’s story you’re critiquing, a query letter, or a status update on FB. When you read it aloud, your mind is forced to actually see the words for what they are, not SKIM them into an order you wish them to be.
2. Paste your words into another venue — I use this one a lot, especially with blurb writing. When you’re knee-deep in a blurb, you can’t possibly see it for what it is, which is most often crap. If you post it into a new place, you suddenly see it differently.
I typically find a trusted FB friend and in the messages say, “I’m just using this space for a moment. You don’t have to read this or even respond.” Then I’ll paste it, work on it, paste, re-paste, and paste again until I get it right.
You could also paste it into an email to yourself. This is VERY HANDY.
Or open a Microsoft NOTE.
Scribble it longhand. I swear you will see the words differently and catch more errors.
3. Read it Backward — Sometimes when I’m working on a difficult edit, one with a lot of grammar changes, I read a paragraph out of order. I’ll start at the bottom and read up. This also forces your mind into seeing the work literally.
4. Look particularly hard at Homophones and Apostrophe placements. Get yourself a good list of homophones and lock those words in your mind. When you encounter one, read more slowly, looking at that word twice. Then you won’t have a LED vs. LEAD problem, which is one of my pet peeves.
Also, look closely at apostrophe placement. I see a lot of “my parent’s home”. This means 1 parent. Are you talking about 1 parent or 2? (MY PARENTS’ HOME).
5. Use the PREVIEW feature. This works perfectly in blogging. There’s a reason you can look at it before you publish.
6. Get a good proofreader. Have an anal friend? (stop it with your dirty minds!) A nitpicky cousin? Use them but give them rewards for their efforts. A Starbucks coffee goes a long way.
Hope these techniques help you. Thanks for reading!