Why you should stop proofreading your work right now! (Or why thinking, writing, editing, and proofreading should be four separate steps.)

Proofreading a final draft

Do you ever find that you open your work-in-progress document and keep reading back over what you wrote in the last session? Perfecting every sentence and making sure the flow is just right?

I’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt. I’d win the prize for perfect prose every time, but it’d take me an age to get there. In fact, I’d be lucky if I got the writing out the door in time for the competition deadline.

Read on to learn the process I’ve used with hundreds of writers to help them get their writing finished in time for their deadline and to make sure it’s good enough.

How to meet your writing deadlines, by separating thinking, writing, editing and proofreading.

  1. Write an outline (or if you’re firmly in the anti-outline camp, then skip straight to step 2).
  2. Get the content down. Don’t worry about getting the perfect flow at this stage, or stopping to find the perfect reference to back up what you are saying. Just get the IDEAS down.h
  3. Edit for structure. At this stage, you’re editing for the macro-level, or ‘big picture’ structure. Are the ideas in the right place? Does the argument/ storyline follow logically?
  4. Edit for style. This is where you can edit on the paragraph and sentence level. Make sure the paragraphs flow from one to the next (and internally) and that your writing flows between and within sentences. Now’s also the time to find that perfect word or metaphor to explain a concept.
  5. Leave your writing to sit. Preferably leave your writing to sit for 48 hours and do something totally different. Take a walk, go for a swim or catch up with a friend. 
  6. Proofread your final piece. Now is the time for proofreading. This is where you catch all those pesky little typos and punctuation errors. If you can, get someone else to help with this stage. The best writers don’t proofread their own work.

For tips on proofreading your final draft, grab your free download here.

Published by Dr Lizzy Tanguay

Editor | Writing Coach | Applied Linguist

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