Top 10 tips to proofread your own work more accurately

You know why proofreading is essential, but how can you do it yourself without missing those pesky typos, punctuation and spelling mistakes, and grammatical slips?

Proofreading is very different from how we usually read, especially if you are a fast reader. It can be difficult to spot mistakes in your own writing because your brain already knows what you are trying to say! We become too close to our own work, and our eyes automatically skip ahead, missing the blips we are trying to find.

But the good news is it’s a learned skill. These proofreading tips will help you complete a careful inspection of spelling, punctuation, and grammar to catch more of those potentially embarrassing mistakes and increase the quality and professionalism of your work.

None of the links are affiliate links; I’m just recommending tools you might find helpful.

1.    Let some time pass

Bitmojo taking some time away from writing and editing.

Sleep on it if you can. The longer you can put your work aside before proofreading, the fresher and more accurate you will be. Take a break, or even better, leave it until the next day. Allocate time for proofreading at the end of a project to avoid rushing before a submission date.

Trying to proofread something you have just written or edited will lead to errors being missed as your eyes simply skip over them. This is why, in publishing, copyediting and proofreading are often done by separate people.

2. Change the appearance

If it is practical to print your document out, you might choose to. This is a favourite proofreading hack of many authors.

If you prefer to work on screen, like me, you might like to change the font (my favourite is Calibri, I’m not sure why!), or make the font size bigger.

3. Proofread a clean copy

BitmoJo proofreading onscreen.

Attempting to proofread a copy with comments or annotations can be distracting. Turn off electronic markup or print a fresh copy if you are working on paper and the document isn’t too long.

Viewing a marked-up version, such as tracked changes in MS Word, can also make it difficult to spot missing or extra spaces.

4. Change viewing mode

If you are working in Microsoft Word, it helps to do a final check using full screen Read Mode. I prefer the Immersive Reader view because it allows typing, which enables you to make any tweaks without the hassle of going in and out of Read Mode. Immersive Reader is also easy to customize:

Immersive Reader is easy to customize.
Text adapted from The Babylonian Legends of the Creation by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge

5. Read your work aloud

BitmoJo reading out loud to spot proofreading mistakes.

This might depend on your workspace, but if you have the opportunity to read your work aloud, don’t feel silly – it really does help! It’s effective because it forces you to slow down and engages additional areas of your brain. It can help you spot awkwardly worded sentences that may benefit from being rephrased.

As an extra step, try reading to an audience, such as a pet or other willing volunteer. You might be surprised by the errors that suddenly jump out at you when you read aloud.

6. Highlight sentence by sentence

Example text with a single sentence selected to highlight it while proofreading.

Another tip for slowing your eyes down when working on screen is to select individual sentences with your cursor. It stops you from automatically reading ahead. This is especially useful if you’re unsure whether there’s an improvement to be made or not, or you’re working on a technical document. In Word, you can use Line Focus in Immersive Reader for the same purpose.

The on-paper version of this tip is to use a ruler to inspect text line by line. I’ve never got into holding a ruler up to the screen, but I’ve heard some people do!

7. Do a separate formatting pass

Once you’ve read through everything, read through again specifically looking for formatting issues. Do chapter headings or subtitles match? Are numbers in order? Are all paragraphs justified?  How are new paragraphs styled in your writing, and is indentation consistent?

In fiction, it is standard to indent all paragraphs except the first paragraph in a new chapter or section.

Example fiction text showing full out first paragraph and indented second paragraph.
Text adapted from the Babylonian Legends of the Creation by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge

8. Use tools with care

Don’t overlook your spelling and grammar checker, but use it with care. They are often wrong and do miss things, but they are worth it when helpful suggestions are made. If you have unfamiliar names, like in the example above, you can add them to the custom dictionary so if you misspell it further on, it can be easily spotted.

I recommend the free version of Grammarly, which covers grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It’s definitely worth a look if you’ve never used it before.

Of course, not all suggestions will be a good fit for your writing style, especially if you are a fiction writer, so AI hasn’t eliminated the need for human editors just yet!

Grammarly free suggesting Lets is corrected to Let's with an apostrophe.

9. Hone your skills

BitmoJo ready to learn new language skills.

Professional proofreaders and editors look things up all the time. Yes, we probably all have favourite dictionaries and style guides. Dictionaries are great for checking if terms are one word, hyphenated, or two and, if you are a fiction writer, they are surprisingly helpful for slang and swear words.

If spelling and grammar checkers are flagging up things you’re unsure about, you can read up on them to learn more. When can you use a semicolon? What is the difference between a hyphen and an en dash? How do you punctuate dialogue in a novel? Hours of exciting research!

10. Enlist help

An extra pair of eyes can help spot things you may have missed. A helpful friend, family member, or colleague is always a useful addition to your proofread if they are willing to look over your work.

Ideally, your volunteers will have the skills to match the stakes of your project. For example, if you are writing a scientific article for publication in a journal, your best friend may or may not be able to help you with that. If the stakes are high, you might consider hiring a professional proofreader or copyeditor.


Proofreading your own writing has its challenges, but with these top 10 proofreading tips, you can improve your chances of spotting typos, spelling and punctuation mistakes, and grammatical and formatting errors.

The key is to slow down, look at it differently, and be aware of what you are looking for. If the stakes are high, like if you plan to self-publish a novel, a professional proofread or copyedit is a valuable investment in your work.

If you have your own top proofreading tip, please let me know in the comments! Do you write in a different variety of English from the ones below and have a dictionary to recommend? And does anyone else have a favourite proofreading font, or is it just me?

Merriam Webster. Online dictionary.

Grammarly. The free version covers spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Khan Academy. There’s an accessible free grammar course.

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Published by Joanne Taylor

I help fiction and mythology authors with developmental feedback, editing, and proofreading. Detail-orientated and thoughtful editing for a book your readers can't stop thinking about.

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