Proper Proofreading Practices
Want to make your work better? Proofread it. But editing is more than just a glance — true learning only comes by opening your work, and yourself, to feedback.
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So, you've got your article all written and you're ready to submit it. Just go to the arrow next to the save button and...
Are you sure it's ready? Really sure? Did you proofread it? Really proofread it? After all, you're submitting your work to be seen by thousands of developers across the world. You probably want to put your best, most professional foot forward.
Fortunately, solid proofreading doesn't take up much time. In fact, there are tools you can use to help you on the way. So, let's dive into what you can do to impress your readers.
If you write on the Internet, you should use the Grammarly extension. It's that simple. Like most modern word processors, Grammarly will underline your words and sentences when it detects something wrong. Even better, they've got a very clickable interface. Click on the underlined term and it will give you some suggestions. Click on the one you want, and it changes it for you. It's really as easy as that. I can't think of a reason not to use it, unless you're using a word processor. Even then, you probably want to run your article through Grammarly one time before submitting it to wherever you submit posts.
Let It Lie
"... and that concludes the best article written of all time." (A very natural conclusion to end your posts with, by the way.)
So, your stuff is clearly ready to go, right? Just a quick read-through, and...
Go do something else. Literally anything else. Go hang out for an hour. Watch TV. Play some sports. Work on another article. Just get away from the work you just finished and let your brain reset.
Of course, anyone with a decent teacher as a child would have learned this. The thing is, you already know what you want your writing to say. It's very easy to misread your own work as you review it and just assume it's coming out exactly how you want it to. Spend some time away from it, then come back with fresh eyes and a fresh mind.
Actually, better yet...
Get Someone Else to Review It
Don't review your own work at all. That's part of the beauty of DZone — we have editors on staff who review articles for grammar/spelling as well as performing more technical QA. Of course, we editors also review a dozen or more articles a day, in addition to other duties, so it's always a good idea to get someone you know who can give you a more personal touch.
If you're serious about writing, find someone you trust who can give you deeply personalized feedback. If you're writing for a technical audience, make sure your helper shares your expertise. That way, they aren't just proofreading, they're copy editing (minus the layout and spatial aspects that copy editing implies. That's not quite as important on the Internet). And that's a very important distinction.
It's one thing to correct spelling and grammar, but it's another to point out that you completely forgot an important component of your article or that your facts don't quite add up. MS Word and Grammarly can't do that.
And speaking of which...
Be Open to Feedback
It's very easy to get attached to your work. You've put a lot of effort and time into crafting something that you think is worthwhile — and let me stress that you should be proud of that. Very few people bother to give back to their communities by sharing their knowledge.
But part of writing is accepting that you're not perfect. With every article I write, I send it out to my team and tell them to be as brutally nitpicky as possible. That's because I care about what I put out to the public, and I want to make sure it's the best version of itself as possible.
That also means that I can't jump down people's throats when they offer criticism and feedback.
Trust me, I know the feeling: that sinking sensation in your gut, the tightening around your heart, the reflexive desire to say, "No, no, you're wrong, I'm right!" And the world of brutal Internet comments has given authors no reason to be gracious.
But you have to be.
When you feel your tension rising, don't reach for the keyboard. Read through or listen to the feedback again and see if there's any validity to it. Do they have a point? Even if it's phrased in an asinine way, the criticism could be coming from a place of truth. And remember, even if someone is being a jerk (although that's ideally why you'd shop your work around to people you know and trust first), you can take the good from it and put them out of your mind forever.
And that isn't to say you can't argue against the feedback. If you have a reason or rationale, present it. It might just mean that you should include that rationale in your article. After all, if one person points out a potential problem, the scale of the Internet will likely mean that many more people will feel the same way. But at the same time, people are more open to counter-criticism than you might think.
And in the meantime, whether you end up rewriting a passage, adding to it, or getting rid of it altogether, you can rest securely in the knowledge that you've made your work as solid as possible.
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