Proofreading Strategies: 4 Ways to Do It Online

Dear Copy Bitch: My eyes hurt! I stare at my computer all day and make mistakes left and right–stupid mistakes, too. Do you have any tips for proofreading on a computer monitor?

–Grumpy Proofreader

Answer: Yes, Grumpy, never fear! The Copy Bitch feels your pain and has proofreading strategies when reviewing stuff on the ol’ monitor:

1. Increase/decrease the zoom level on your monitor. When you’ve been staring at a document for hours on end, this one little change is enough to give your precious eyeballs (and brain) a fresh perspective on the words staring back at you. When I’m in Word on my PC, the zoom toggle is in the lower right-hand corner.

2. Highlight the text in yellow. This works especially well for shorter pieces. In Word, the highlight option is usually in the same area as the font face and size options.

3. Read backwards. Start with the last sentence of your document and work your way to the beginning (note: don’t read the sentences themselves backwards). Reading things out of context is a great way to catch mistakes.

4. Do a “find” on your crutch words and problem areas. Do you write “your” when you really mean “you’re”? Do a “find” on “your” and double-check yourself. Do you tend to use fillers like “just,” “very,” “really” or “George Clooney is a god”? Do a search on those words/phrases. Do you type too fast and always use “manger” instead of “manager”? Ditto.

Would love to hear about some other proofreading strategies. Leave yours in the comments thread.

Word Confusion: Using “Then” & “Than” Correctly

Q: Dear Copy Bitch: I always misuse “then” and “than.” Do you have any tips for using these correctly?

A: I learned a great tip a couple of years ago from a writing magazine (I don’t remember which one, which is why I’m not naming names). Think of it like this: than has to do with comparisons. Then has to do with time. There’s an “a” in comparisons as there is in than. There’s an “e” in time as there is in then.

Examples:

  • I think George Clooney is hotter than Brad Pitt. (comparing George to Brad)
  • First, I’m going to eat ice cream, and then I’ll work out. (giving the timing of my eating and exercising)