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Every writer needs a proof reader, a second set of eyes on our story before we hit “send.” Editors tell me they are amazed at the number of articles they receive that have misspelled words, poor grammar, and a host of other errors.

fred mays
Fred Mays

We all need to be sure our articles are polished and as error-free as possible before we send them off for publication. That’s where that second set of eyes comes in. In my case my best proofreader is my ex-wife.

She’s been proofing my stories for over 20 years, and has salvaged many an article for me. In addition to proofing, she also analyzes my work with the benefit of experience. One of my faults is I sometimes “bury the lede,” and she’s quick to pick up on that and recommend shifting paragraphs around to punch up the top of the article.

In some cases I have left information out that she will ask about. “Why isn’t this in the story?” “Does the story make sense to someone who has no prior knowledge of your topic?” Important questions, and better to have her ask them than an editor I am trying to impress.

So how does one find a proofreader? You can find proofreaders on the freelance site, Upwork.com, on the professional social network LinkedIn, or you can ask Google and get a million hits. But proofreaders can get expensive. In many cases their fee is more than what we’re being paid for the story to begin with. I suggest you find a “free” option.

Not everybody is as fortunate as me to have an ex or a spouse with the right skills. I suggest you use the resources of groups like the Travel Writer’s Café or similar organizations. Team up with other writers, form a buddy system…they read your articles, you read theirs—for free! A real symbiotic relationship.

Bring a fresh set of eyes and mindset to the page. Your proofreading “buddy” may not be familiar with your article topic and can ask questions that you may have overlooked. Is your writing clear? Are you making the point? Did you leave something out? I had a writer friend review this article and make some suggestions.

Even before you turn your article over to a proofreader, there are pre-proofing steps to be taken.

With spellcheck doing a pretty good job, a lot of that proofing is done automatically by the word processor. But sometimes words slip through, like “your” instead of “you’re” or “too” instead of “two.”

Grammarly is software used by many writers to fix grammar mistakes. But my personal experience with the freeware version was problematic. A writer friend who uses the Pro version loves it.

Another option, a real under-utilized gem, is a speech application that reads your story out loud as you listen. On a Mac you go to System Preferences/Accessibility/Speech. You can pick whether you want a male or female voice, and how fast you want it to read. While your computer is reading to you, follow along with your script. I find printing out the story is preferable to reading it off the computer screen. That way you can jot down notes as you follow along.

A good proofreader does much more than check spelling and punctuation. They “live” the story with you and become a companion on your writing journey. Find a buddy you can trust with your story.

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