I have a problem where I often proof my own writing and I don't catch all the errors while I am reading through it. I often miss entire words out of sentences or find myself repeating words. I can read a document several times and I catch new errors every time. Eventually, I'll feel like I've caught everything, but I find out after I've posted or printed it that I left out some word. The whole process takes hours instead of a few minutes. This process is so frustrating that sometimes I just give up. Does anyone have this experience writing and if so, what techniques have you developed that help?

For some reason, I make fewer errors and my writing is a lot speedier if I write it out long hand first. For some reason, the word processor makes it hard to keep your train of thought going because you find yourself derailed by the formatting. I also found using NotePad to be a useful tool. Since it doesn't have formatting, it is less distracting. I also set the width of the Window to be very short. For some reason, my thoughts are less likely to get derailed and I make fewer errors.

Edit: I haven't picked an answer because all of these responses are great! I also want to keep the suggestions coming so that others will benefit. Thanks a lot.

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    You would read alud recordering your voice. Next you could ear your text catching the errors. Then you could rewrite the text correctly.
    – Carlo_R.
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 20:40
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    How about re-reading what you wrote? These kinds of typos are a result of hurried or skipped editing. You should spot them, when you read your manuscript, and if you don't, you need to work on your grammar or spelling.
    – user5645
    Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 9:03
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    @what I think writer's usually develop some kind of error/typo blindness the more they read their work. I read mine like 10 times and the errors/typos people found had nothing to do with my grammar.
    – wyc
    Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 9:07
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    @what Well, maybe it doesn't happened to everyone. Here's an article about it: ramonadef.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/how-to-avoid-typo-blindness (like many others)
    – wyc
    Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 9:19
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    @what You mean skim, not scan. To scan is to read something slowly, carefully, and thoroughly. Common mistake. :) Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 18:52

21 Answers 21


You could try reading the final draft out loud either to yourself or to another person. (That's what I have always had my own children do when they're working on school essays.)

Reading out loud slows you down so that you are less likely to read over a duplicated word and it will be more obvious when a word is left out. It is also a good method for detecting awkward sentence construction.

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    +1: This is the foolproof way to proofread. If you read it out loud, every mistake is apparent. The only quibble I have is that frequently you find more to edit than you imagine, and so have to read the whole thing over again.
    – Robusto
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 2:41
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    Especially good if you put it down for a while, a couple weeks perhaps, then pick it up and read it to someone. That gives your brain time to clear out the auto-insert cache so you stumble over a missing word rather than speaking it anyway.
    – Patches
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 17:03

Read from the bottom up.

It derails the comprehension so it's much easier to see individual words, and you catch many more typos and dropped words.


I use a Mac. I use the built-in Text-to-Speech feature to read back aloud the words I have written. It is by far superior to reading yourself because the brain sometimes skips things right in front of your eyes! And the more tired your eyes, the ears usually hear better! You can achieve similar results if you use a PC.

  • How does this technique help you to catch wrong word spellings such as their/there, road/rode, whet/wet and so on? Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 17:56
  • @spiceyokooko Since rode and road are pronounced differently, you will spot the mistake more easily than if you just looked at the word. In cases where the pronounciation is similar (whet/wet), reading alout won't help you, of course.
    – user5645
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 12:03
  • @what: Where are you from, that you pronounce rode and road differently? Not mocking; I'm curious.
    – dmm
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 15:50
  • @dmm lol, yes, my mistake. Bad example :-) I had the feel/fell example in mind that is given in a related question. I'm German, btw.
    – user5645
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 16:00
  • I never knew this was a feature. Thanks!
    – Dynas
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 15:30

I think the answer to your specific problem is that there is no simple solution. There is no trick. Reading out loud does definitely help, but ultimately if your mind is subconsciously fixing the errors as you go so that you read right over them without taking any notice, it's going to happen when you're reading out loud just the same.

You have to train yourself to see what's there instead of what you want to see.

It really is that simple.

The funny thing is that this is applicable to much more than just proof-reading. It applies to characters, to plots, to descriptions, to entire novels.

You have to see it as if you've never seen it before. It's difficult as hell, but you've got to learn it.

Just keep practicing. Go slow. Slow, slow, slow. Go slow enough and you'll only have to go once or twice.

  • simple lol. Psychology suggests otherwise!
    – Matt Ellen
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 7:59
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    @MattEllen: So does the first sentence of the answer :D
    – naught101
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 4:25
  • Interesting, but training your brain to read slower has side effects. You might also read more slowly when you're not proofreading, which may not be desirable. Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 16:50

Something I have done with considerable success is to read the finished product in a much larger font. When you are reading along in your normal font, it is easier for your mind to anticipate and gloss over words, even when they are obviously incorrect. By increasing the font size, an error tends to stand out more clearly, making it more difficult to gloss over.

All of these are excellent ideas, and if you are planning to do multiple passes through your work, it would be good to use at least two different techniques. Anything that gets through the first pass might be more easily detected in the second pass by using a different technique. Either way, I strongly agree with the recommendation to set it aside at least a couple of weeks. That way you don't do as much anticipating as you are reading.

BTW - I read somewhere that people tend to use the creative side of their brain when they are writing using longhnad, but they use the other side of their brain when they are typing. As a result, typing out your story as you are trying to develop it can prove to be difficult for some people because their creative side is not being engaged as much.

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    Steve did you deliberately misspell longhand, to see if anyone would spot it? ;-) Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 17:43
  • lol - I wish I could take credit for being that clever, but it was an honest typo! :) Nice catch! Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 19:15

I don't know whether you do this or not, but one of the best ways of proofreading I've found is to print out the document and read it through in the paper format, rather than trying to proofread writing on screen.

Mark up your corrections on the paper in a particular coloured ink and correct them on-screen. Now take a break and do something else before going back to the paper proof again and correct the next set of errors in a different colour and so on until all corrections have been found.

Keep repeating this process until the draft is correct. Don't try and catch all errors in one read through, sometimes it can take several readings to catch them all.

  • 2
    Yes, this. I catch most of my mistakes by being confronted by them on paper. In addition, proofreading on paper prevents me from switching into "edit" mode to fix it. Proofread, then edit; in my experience (both personal and team members), if you combine the two you miss stuff. (This doesn't mean never edit online, but don't check the "proofread" item off the to-do list until you've done it some other way.) Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 14:00
  • Yes, reading off a screen is never the same as reading print. Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 2:35

Proofreading is the process of looking for errors. Revision is the process of improving the writing. The two aren't necessarily synonymous.

Yes, removal of errors usually results in an improved piece. But many other improvements require restructuring, better word choices, removal of stale idioms, switching passive voice to active voice, etc.

This sentence made me laugh out loud: The whole process takes hours instead of a few minutes. Forceful, effective writing takes more than "a few minutes."

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    I love that last line. Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 22:00
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    Yeah, but we're not talking about complex prose here. Just writing that question took at least an hour. I just edited it to change"though" to"through" a few minutes ago, for instance. This is a clear case were it would help if spell checkers had a tad of context checking. Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 18:03
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    How is this answering the question? Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 15:22
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    @Shantnu: Perhaps it doesn't answer the question directly, but it does address the issue of whether or not the right question is being asked, or if the question has a valid answer. The O.P. wanted proofreading tips to help shave the process down from "hours" to "a few minutes". Most of the answers here allude to the fact that there's no magic solution to this hard problem. Even tricks like "read from the bottom up" might help make the proofreading process more thorough, but not necessarily more quick. The O.P. asked, "does anyone have any experience...?" I do; I've learned it takes time.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 15:46
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    @Neil Finn, how is mocking the questioner a good answer? This reeks of the "Ha ha Noob" attitude on most forums. I thought Writers SE was supposed to stop that, but evidently not. It seems I'm in the minority, so let's keep the answer as it is. Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 10:16

I just recalled a friend telling me years ago that he witnessed professional proof readers and editors, who work for publishers, use a pencil to plot a dot over each and every word as they read through a manuscript. It forces them to read every word. Of course, it is only a matter of time before your brain goes on autopilot again, especially on very long documents.

I thought of another idea from folks here about reading aloud and even a software suggestion. A speech synthesis program can help by reading the text back to you. It won't get the tone and pace right, but it helps as you read along.

  • Joel, I moved the first paragraph here into your question above, as it's not really part of your answer. I see you've reverted my edit, and it's now in two places. Do you want to leave it here? If so, you can revert my edit to your question as well. Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 18:26
  • We were editing at the same time. I want to keep edits. Thanks. Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 18:41
  • M great-aunt was a professor and she swore the only way was to run a ruler down the page, like by line. It forces you to look at every oine, and also prevents you from speed-reading.
    – user207421
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 22:53

I thought the obvious answer was this: Have someone else proof your work.

No matter how many times I go over my story, a reader will still find stuff I've missed. They'll also find sentences that I read as perfectly sensible, but that they can't parse.

  • I think you got it, Ken. Students trade papers as early as second grade and then through twelfth. Depending on the subject and length, OP can find a partner. For longer fiction, beta readers often do the rest (I always pick an Obsessive-Compulsive friend).
    – Stu W
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 20:33

I find that most of my mistakes occur at or across line breaks.

After your first proof-reading pass, change the margin slightly on your window - perhaps just by half an inch. This will cause all the text to wrap at a different point and previously hidden errors will become apparent on the second pass.

Of course I think that (as others have suggested) reading it out loud is the very best way, this way is quick and will always turn up a few more. In fact, it will reveal errors that will be MISSED by reading it aloud.


Is it possible for you to practice Ernest Hemingway's advice of leaving some time between writing and proofreading so you come to it fresher?


You mentioned, that the formatting of your word processor is distracting you while reading through your text. One suggestion is using a Markup language like Markdown, that is also used on Stackexchange. This will separate your writing from formatting and you can use any text editor (like Notepad).

One tip for searching for doubled words is using the advanced search function of your word processor. Select »Regular Expressions« and use the following codes, then your doubled words will be found.

  • Or use a word processor in which you can turn off the distracting grammar-checking and then turn it back on when you're ready to review. Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 18:25
  • @MonicaCellio this is helpful, but the formatting of the text won’t be disabled, so you still can be distracted from the formatting.
    – rosetree
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 8:36
  • There is no formatting in the editing view of Markdown. The text is formatted by converting it to HTML. Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 23:16
  • @SimonWhite isn’t that what I wrote? Or am I misunderstanding you?
    – rosetree
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 20:31

Print out your work, as others have suggested. Print 2 or even 4 pages per sheet, thus using fewer trees.

Newer versions of Word (and most other word processors, I'd imagine) attempt to catch words that are spelled correctly but used in the wrong context. An example I see all the time is 'been' for 'being'. E.g. 'Are you been serious?'. In Word, potential errors like this are highlighted in blue when the grammar checker's on.

Also, I use an online editor called Autocrit. It's one of the few pieces of software I pay for. It highlights commonly overused words, repeated words and much more. For the novel I recently published, I put the whole thing through Autocrit before giving it to my human editor. It took me ages to review and address the issues this showed up, but it livened up my writing no end and left my editor free to focus on higher-level issues.


The best proofreader I ever worked with always read everything twice -- once forward and once backwards. The first reading caught punctuation mistakes as well as obvious errors; the backwards reading made every spelling error or unplanned repetition stand out very clearly.


It is theoretically impossible to proof your own prose. To achieve professional quality copy, no less than two sets of eyes must be applied. Writers can't self-proof with 100 percent fidelity.

The presence of the "second set of eyes" may not be available or practical. If my prose MUST be self-proofed, then while COPY is a DRAFT:

  1. Create (print) a HARD COPY using black ink on white paper
  2. Use a serif font (ex: Times New Roman)

    12pt or bigger


  3. Maximize natural/ambient light, minimize projected/artificial light
  4. Read
  5. Markup (by hand - use a red pen)
  6. Update to Versionn+1
  7. Stamp (Tag) - "Change & Resubmit."

However, I'm going to resubmit Versionn+1 to myself. Within the confines of on-time delivery I will--

  • Place as much time in-between writing and proofing as possible
  • Use the first rule of style -- Have one.
  • Not rely on or trust a spell check system.
  • Continue to re-read/re-edit
  • Expand time-intervals between reads/edits

Once satisfied; DRAFT VERn of COPY becomes FINAL


Adding an idea that seemed to work for me.

  1. Write in your usual font (by font I mean "times new roman", " Ariel", etc)

  2. Change the format of the whole manuscript to a different font preferably with the following properties: A font you never read in, one that is similar to cursive (handwritten). Also change the line spacing if you need.

    1. It seems very effective, it slows your reading speed. We have read tons of books in "print suitable fonts". This new style causes our brain to read afresh ( turns off autocorrect in our brain).

    2. Cycle between the fonts once a while, to re-gain freshness.

Bonus : Re-reading in a cursive style, appears to stimulate my mind to restructure a lot of sentences. Making them crisp and comparatively better.


Use text-to-speech software. It's available on almost every computer nowadays, for free. The advantage of this is that the computer is stupid and will read whatever you have written, even if it makes no sense. (Of course, this approach assumes you will recognize the mistake when you hear it.) Human readers will instead often unconsciously fix textual mistakes as they read aloud.

(OT: My experience in teaching young children is that this human tendency to fix/guess often hinders learning to read, especially for comprehension. Watch for that with your kids. When they are reading aloud, don't let them paraphrase the text. Force them to read it word for word, phrase by phrase, exactly as written. [Scanning and speedreading are for skilled readers, not for beginners.] If your kids can't do this with age-appropriate texts, then they either need more phonics work, or they have dislexic issues, or they are rushing too much.)


You could try using some sort of text-to-speech program. Once you've finished your writing, get the text-to-speech software to read it out to you. Missing words will stand out much more, and you can do it as often as you want without annoying a human :)

Some of the voices can be a bit awkward, but it should work well enough for your needs.

You can add a "Speak" command to Microsoft word, which will read out the selected text, by following these steps:

(copied from the linked page)

  1. Next to the Quick Access Toolbar, click Customize Quick Access Toolbar.
  2. Quick Access Toolbar Speak command
  3. Click More Commands.
  4. In the Choose commands from list, select All Commands.
  5. Scroll down to the Speak command, select it, and then click Add.
  6. Click OK.

Then just selected some text, and click the "Speak" button to hear it.


Are you doing any technical writing? I work for a professional services company that does a lot of technical writing. We use automated scripts to help us with the trivial stuff so we can focus on content. One example is dealing with acronyms and making sure that they are called out correctly. This can take hours of your valuable time if you do it manually but goes much faster with a little technical help.

Becoming part of a strong team would be my second advice.

  • Welcome to Writers! There's some good advice here, but have edited your answer to remove promotional content. (If you want to add a URL to your profile, that'd be fine.) While self promotional content can be okay here, I suggest avoiding it for your very first posts. Again, welcome, and thanks for contributing to the community. Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 18:38
  • Appreciated. And again, welcome. I'm looking forward to seeing more answers like this from you. Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 20:32

Translate it (that is, manually, yourself, not using an app) into another language. If you are monolingual, consider learning Esperanto for that purpose.

  • This is an interesting idea. I only hesitate to upvote it because I'm fairly sure more people are fluent in Klingon than Esperanto. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 16:38
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    But a true Klingon Warrior does not comment his code! Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 9:23
  • ::snicker:: Yes, Klingon code isn't released; it escapes into the wild. Your general point is valid; I just think Esperanto in particular isn't a widely applicable suggestion. Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 23:20

I made a proofreading app and I feel your pain. If you are the author, you can't proofread it right because your mind tends to skip things it already knows.

The next step is to read it loud but that is not the best approach because you're still subjective and tend to race it down.

What most people seem to suggest is having someone else proofread or read it loud for you.

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Since our last update, Typely is able to read text for you and the feedback we received is awesome.

  • 2
    Be certain that you are not using stack exchange to market your products.
    – SFWriter
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 23:53
  • Not marketing anything. My product is free and directly addressing the issue that is being discussed. Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 0:55

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