How to better your proofreading technique

Translators and technical writers are supposed to write perfect texts in terms of linguistics, cultural adaptation and graphical norms. In any case, it is always possible to encounter a few mistakes. Be sure to thoroughly proofread the text to ensure your work is beyond reproach before it can be delivered. This part of the process is necessary to check that the final product is understandable, fluent and in compliance with the target audience. Below are a few pieces of advice which can prove useful to proofreading.

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The goal of a proofreader is to spot mistakes which remained unnoticed in the text. To do so, the ability to focus is strongly required : you have to get rid of distractions of any kind -cellphone, radio, etc.- and to make sure you feel rested. Otherwise, fatigue can lead to a lack in focus. It is also preferable not to proofread your own work. It is easier for us to notice the mistakes others make compared to our own.

One should also read the text out loud to correct any rhythm issues before identifying grammatical or spelling mistakes.

Automated spellcheckers, no matter how useful of a tool they are, are not always 100 % accurate. One way to spot mistakes is to proofread the text starting from the end. It might seem illogical, but this technique allows for the eyes to focus on each and every word instead of focusing on long sentences. That way, our brain does not automatically correct mistakes according to their context -like it usually does when reading chronologically- but it is tricked into finding spelling mistakes and typos.

There are traps specifics to each language that the proofreader needs to pay attention to, such as homonyms for example. It is rather easy to confuse words which are spelled or pronounced the same way, even if they have different meanings.

Finally, numbers can also get in the way of proofreading if they aren’t written correctly. Proofreaders need to pay close attention to numbers whether they are working on a translation or a text written by a technical writer. If a number seems wrong, proofreaders need to rely on their common sense or do a quick research to correct any mistakes.

Francesca Laganella

Translated by Céline ECHILLEY