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Oops I made a mistake


You might have picked up the error in one of last week’s blog posts:

Editing your own work error.png

I corrected it as soon as it was brought to my attention but it brings me to an important point: it is very difficult to edit or proofread your own work.

Even if you are writing in your native language.

Let’s think about this from the point of view of you writing a paper.

You see, the thing is, you’ve slaved over this paper. You’ve put content in, and taken it out, and then put it back in, but in a different place. You’ve spent weeks writing the paper, and rewriting it, and rewriting it again. You get to the point where you start seeing the words parading in front of your eyes as you try to sleep.

And that’s the problem.

When you’ve finished your paper and you start to proofread or edit it you don’t actually read the words you wrote. You start to read the words that you think are there instead. You add in extra words or, as I did, you don’t see words that are there and shouldn’t be. 

One way to help with this problem is to read the work aloud. Reading aloud also helps you see where sentences or phrases are clunky and you can rephrase them. You may feel a little stupid doing it, and if you’re sharing an office then I suggest you wait to read aloud until you are at home. Or go outside and read your paper aloud while holding a mobile phone to your ear, and pretend you’re talking on the phone. This can make you look a little less silly, and will stop you from annoying your office mates by muttering to yourself in the corner.

When you read aloud you are using different parts of your brain and it helps you to pick up mistakes.

But it is possible, even after that, that there will still be spelling issues or grammar mistakes in the manuscript.

The best thing you can do is hire an editor or proofreader (like me) to give your work a final polish. You may see articles online telling you ‘how to proofread your own work effectively’ or ‘ways to edit your own document’ and they probably have some good tips. But I’m telling you, nothing beats a second pair of eyes on the manuscript. A fresh pair who haven’t already read it through a thousand times.

An editor or proofreader can help pick up those annoying spelling mistakes (like writing the wrong there, they’re, or their) and can also make sure that your sentences make sense to someone who is coming fresh to your manuscript and doesn’t have all the background knowledge that you have.

You want your work to be the best it can be, and the best way to do that is to let an editor have a final check before you send it off for publication.


Send your manuscripts to me at for all your editing and proofreading needs.

Ruth Amos1 Comment