I have heard proofreading described as a talent, a science. I believe it is a learned skill. You have to slow your eyes and your mind down. See each word in its entirety, separate from the rest of the story, the rest of the sentence. But why, you may wonder, do you read slowly? If the wrong word has been inserted by spell-check or another software editing software and you’re only reading one word at a time, how do you catch errors in parallel construction and consistency? Spelling key words out loud can help, forcing you to look at each letter.
You have to read in two separate modes to proofread. One for typos or auto- change words from WORD or spell-check/grammar-check; and another read-through to make sure the facts are correct, like names, events, even descriptive passages. If the flowers along a path are beautiful red roses, and the next day they are yellow daffodils, you’ve got an inconsistent glitch not only in presentation, but in seasonal timeframe as well. It can be daunting to read and reread for different levels of clarity, consistency, and accuracy, but it helps you to find the inconsistencies that creep into our writing that many times are not found until after it’s in-print. That’s when they jump out at you. Unfortunately, a little too late.
Most people who follow my blog know I do not recommend proofreading or editing your own work. Let another pair of eyes see what you’ll read right over because you wrote it. But even as you’re writing, stop, slow down, and read each page, each paragraph. Even read it aloud. If it sounds awkward or is difficult to read, you know you need to go back and do some finetuning.
You’ll be glad you did in the long run.