Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Writers' Lab: A Quick Tip for Proofreading

When I was proofreading my dissertation, I felt as if I could constantly fall asleep (every now and then, I literally feel asleep above my print). I experienced the editing and proofreading stages, especially towards the end, as incredibly tedious and boring.

No coffee (even though by that time I was more or less caffeine-free), loud music or other stimulants seemed to help me get through this terrible stage of going over the same sentences for the umptieth time.
I got distracted the entire time, fiddling around with my smartphone, staring out of the window, catching up with colleagues, taking on other tasks - you name it, anything to avoid the dreaded proofreading stage was a reason for escape.

And then I remembered how I used to study courses that had a lot of text in them. Most courses forced me to sit down and take notes, work my way through exercises and basically needed me to sit behind my desk.

But for courses with a lot of text, I used a different strategy. And I discovered that this strategy worked very well for proofreading my thesis as well, and for adding those little edits here and there in the final stages.

Here is what I did:

I walked up and down while holding the text in my hands (and reading it).

Getting some movement helped to get my concentration back together, and it distracted me from wanting to do any other activity that might distract me. While walking around, I didn't feel like picking up my smartphone, for example. I felt more energized, focused and with adding this little bit of activity, I also felt less like a constantly-sitting-lazy-bag.

If you struggle to stay awake to study a text-heavy course, or you need to proofread your dissertation for the twentieth time, then consider taking your printed copy for a walk up and down the hallway. Your concentration might thank you!

Have you tried pacing up and down while reading/studying.proofreading/editing? How is your experience?


  1. I remember well struggling with the same lack of focus/interest when doing the final edits of my dissertation. I solved this by having a special edit-only space. This edit-only space was a table at a local coffee shop that I otherwise never went to. It is not a coincidence that I had to walk ten minutes to get there. The walk had numerous benefits: procrastination, change of scene, and "getting my blood flowing". Really kept me sane during the 20th re-read of that 150 page beast.

  2. That's a great tip as well. Thanks for sharing, Jen!

  3. Walking and reading would certainly (or at least hopefully) keep you awake. But rather than just a hallway to walk up and down, why not a park, a field or a forest? Also, you have probably mentioned this in other posts, but reading out aloud does wonders for editing. You hear the mistakes in grammar and flow much more easily. The only challenge is finding somewhere to read out aloud where people don't think you're crazy!

  4. Walking outside is certainly even better than pacing around a small and shared apartment...
    I agree with reading out loud as well, I used to study by talking out loud as well, but I tuned that down when living with roommates :)

  5. Great tip, thanks! Approaching my dissertation phase soon :s