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After an article/book has finally reached the pre-publication stage, the authors have to check the proofs for errors (introduced by themselves or during type-setting). I find this one of the least enjoyable aspects of my work and also think I might not be particularly efficient. It varies with the length of the manuscript. A five-page article in conference proceedings is obviously less of a problem than a monograph.

  • When proof-reading my own contributions, it is the umpteenth time that I am reading the same text. I find it exceedingly boring, which might make me ineffective (taking a long time to read the text, and potentially overlooking errors).
  • The delay between the actual research and publication of the work can be quite extensive. After such a long time, I am less likely to recall all the details of the analysis, making me more likely to overlook errors in the manuscript.

Asking colleagues to help with this also seems ineffective. They might be less bored while reading the text, but (a) might not be very attentive because they have more pressing issues at hand and (b) can only spot clear inconsistencies, but not other errors you can only notice if you did the research yourself.

How can I make my proof-reading more effective and enjoyable/increase my motivation?

  • 3
    Related: Is there an optimum time to leave between writing and self-proofreading? (which also has a thrice-upvoted comment wondering whether better answers might not be forthcoming at Writers.SE) and What to check when examining paper proofs? – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Jun 4 '15 at 10:28
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    Related at Writers.SE: How can I catch more errors when I proofread?. It doesn't address the specifically academic aspects, though, e.g., that we rarely have to worry about rise/raise typos, and suggestions including text-to-speech features won't be useful in an academic text with non-standard vocabulary - but it may be useful. – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Jun 4 '15 at 11:19
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    Asking a colleague can be very effective if it can be presented in a non-burdensome way. Just last week, a friend emailed me a single chapter of something he had written and asked me to proofread it with zero context. I found a few minor grammatical errors--nothing too serious--and one glaring factual error, something I happened to know was incorrect but that my friend had not researched enough to know about, and he was grateful when I pointed it out. I might not have done it if he'd dropped the entire book on me, but one chapter was something I could do in a half hour of spare time. – Mason Wheeler Jun 4 '15 at 17:51
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From Google:

Proof-read:

  • from hard-copy
  • backwards
  • aloud
  • a few days after the last revision
  • after revising the text for clarity and brevity
  • line by line, covering the remainder
  • double-checking small words ("if") and proper names
  • looking for one type of mistake at a time
  • looking for mistakes and idiosyncrasies to which you are prone (using the search function or even more sophisticated).

Helpful links:

On motivation:

  • schedule enough time to divide the task into small chunks and take breaks
  • reward yourself after completion of each chunk
  • listen to music
  • have a nice cup of tea
  • you have the soon-to-be published result of your hard work in front of you. Indulge in some pride as you go through the paper.
  • 2
    "have a nice cup of tea" - crucial. Completely agree with many other points here too - particularly breaking the task up into sections and not doing the whole thing in order. – Luke Jun 4 '15 at 13:04
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    Here are some more tips I've used (please feel free to add to your great answer): cut a few word hole in a notecard and read each word individually; read it backwards to focus on each word; and dot each word with a pen or pencil while reading to force myself to read each word. – Richard Erickson May 3 '17 at 13:22
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  1. Double space it and print it. Nothing tops paper.
  2. make a check list of items that you usually forget. You can write macros and codes to check your common mistakes. However, this list should be ongoing and always around your desk. People have blind spots that lives with them. For example lower-case, upper case in the reference list is something I always miss, even though I hoped Mendeley would take care of it (but it is still very unreliable).
  3. Read it from the end to the front, and chapters in random orders depending on the type of paper.
  4. You can use software like Grammarly, but don't expect 100% accuracy.
  5. If you are doing it on computer, change the color of pages and fonts every once in a while.
  6. You can also assign a memory map to each chapter of the book; for example, assign the whole road from DC to SF to the book and create a road trip by reading each chapter in each state. It helps you also memorize where did you say what in your book.
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    And try changing the margin, so the line breaks occur in different places. – aparente001 Jun 11 '15 at 4:29
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Read it as if you are someone whose opinion on the work matters to you. That will help you read it with their eyes, or as if you are reading it aloud to them.

I find that this, along with the natural anticipation of their (imagined) response gives me the fresh view necessary.

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    I think this answer begs the question. How can the fresh mindset be achieved? Also, doesn't this advice apply to revising rather than proof-reading? – henning -- reinstate Monica Jun 4 '15 at 19:45
  • I find that it answers the question. I am speaking from experience. I read as if I am someone else that I know - that provides the fresh mindset because I am reading it as I think they would. You seem to understand this when you ask if it doesn't better apply to revising - and it may well apply to revising, but I find it helps me discover all kinds of errors. I think my personal success trumps your suspicion that it begs the question; for whether or not it does, it is successful. – Sam Liddicott Jun 5 '15 at 12:02

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