Proofreading: this is the one thing every writer needs master before publishing their writing. After all, no one wants to look like they had an oversight when it comes to having a grammatical error or an awkward sentence in their work.
Believe me, whenever I see a typo in a book, I always want to whisper into the editor’s ear, “How did you not notice this? You’re supposed to catch this to help your author!”
However, fact is that proofreading off a screen can sometimes be challenging. Our brains have a tendency to gloss over words, and sometimes the red squiggly line doesn’t catch that you wrote “to” when you meant “too.”
Our brains also only read the first and last letter of every word. Take this for example:
If you can raed the wrods taht are msseed up, it’s buesace of our biarn.
Okay, it’s actually a little more complex than that; however, because we can process information like this, that also makes proofreading difficult if spellcheck doesn’t catch swapped letters for you.
I’m sure we’ve all read writing that has an unintentional mistake in it. However, the goal is to minimize those as much as possible in our work before sending them off for publication.
Don’t fear: there are many tools right within Microsoft Word that can help you proofread! Let’s take a look at these functions and how they can help you improve your proofreading.
The Read Aloud Feature
My number one go-to feature when I’m proofreading is Read Aloud. This program will read any part of the text you highlight with one click. I love this for my writing, whether it’s for work or the book I’m working on.
The Read Aloud feature is handy because you can audibly hear how your sentences sound when read aloud.
Microsoft Read Aloud is personally one of my holy grails when it comes to proofreading. It helps me make my dialogue better, and I’ve avoided writing silly sentences on social media. I use it almost every single day, and certainly every time I sit down to write.
I’ll even have Read Aloud check my work again once I edit something just to make sure there’s no new errors. You can never check your writing too many times!
Give Microsoft Read Aloud a try if you want something interactive and easy. The best part is you don’t have to pay anything to enable the feature.
How to Enable Read Aloud
Read Aloud doesn’t come automatically enabled, at least not in my experience. However, it is available with the more recent versions of Microsoft Word. This function may also be called Speak and have a different path to activate depending on your version of Microsoft.
Here’s how you can enable Read Aloud.
- Click File
- Scroll down to Options
- Click “Customize Ribbon”
- Make sure you add in the “Read Aloud” function
And here is how it should appear in the ribbon, under reviews:
Proofreading with Microsoft Read Aloud
Proofreading with Read Aloud is quick and easy. Here are the steps:
- Highlight the part you want Read Aloud to read. Whether it’s a sentence, a paragraph, or the whole page, you highlight the part you want Microsoft to read. The program will begin reading starting with the first part highlighted.
- Follow along as it reads. Edit your work as Microsoft Read Aloud reads it. This will ensure you don’t forget to fix the mistakes you see. When you stop to edit, can just re-highlight the part you want Microsoft Speak to read again.
- Always re-check anything that sounds awkward. You want to make sure your writing makes sense, so have Microsoft Read Aloud reread your writing again to check for flow.
The benefits of proofreading with audio
Here are some of the benefits of proofreading with audio.
- Read Aloud can catch strange sentences. Does something sound awkward? You’ll hear it when Microsoft reads it. This can help you make your writing sound more natural over time.
- The program won’t skip over any words. Read Aloud will say exactly what’s written, so you’ll know if you’re missing a word within the sentence. Sometimes our brains naturally fill in the gaps, but speak can help you find what you’re missing.
- Microsoft Read Aloud can save you time. While you’ll have to sit through your computer reading the audio, you’ll save more than if you reread it without it. When you find errors within your writing, it takes time to go back and find them all. However, Microsoft Read Aloud can help you quickly find the cadence and feel your writing evokes.
Have you ever had a class where the teacher will mark the mistakes you’ve made in red pen?
Or maybe you’ve done a peer edit on someone else’s paper yourself, crossing out the lines and adding suggestions in the margins.
Microsoft Word has it’s own, hip version of a red pen that can help you keep track of all your changes — whether it’s on your own document or someone else’s. The tool is called Track Changes.
Track Changes is a helpful Microsoft Tool because it lets you know what someone else suggested side-by-side to your original markup. Here is an example of what track changes looks like:
Track changes can be used on a document you created yourself, but I personally find it more helpful to use it to track what others give you as feedback.
How to Enable Track Changes
Enabling track changes is easy, and only takes a few clicks.
- Go to the “Review Tab”
- Press “Track Changes.” You will be given two options: Track Changes and Lock Tracking. Use “Track Changes” if you want tracked changes to be able to be turned off at will. “Lock Tracking” means the tracking will happen until the designated passcode to unlock the changes is put back. This is helpful if you want to ensure the person editing your work is tracked. Make sure to choose a passcode you remember.
- Every time you edit something, it will show up red (or a different color, depending on the version you use. Usually other colors activate if there is one set of track changes). There will also be a gray box along the left side that shows the changes as you go, so someone could scan for the changes easily.
Proofreading with Track Changes
There are many advantages to using Track Changes. Here are a few tips on how you can best utilize the feature when you are looking at the edits someone sends back to you.
The first step is knowing the different modes. They are:
- All Markup. This shows all of the markup on your document. This includes what was deleted, added, and originally there.
- No Markup. No markup is shown, but the suggested changes are still present.
- Simple Markup: Shows changes, but just indicates which lines they take place with them being present on the side
- Original Markup: the original version of the document before the edits
The Benefits of Track Changes
Track Changes can change the way that you accept and receive feedback from other people. Here are some of the benefits:
- You can easily toggle between your work and the suggested changes. This allows you to compare what you wrote versus what your peer editor suggests.
- You can make the suggested changes immediately or reject them. When you have track changes enabled, you can accept or deny the changes, which saves time from typing in the change requests.
- It’s easier than printing out a document and asking for edits in pen. Track changes doesn’t require extra steps such as printing your document and asking someone to read it in person. Plus, you’re saving paper!
This Microsoft tool can help you improve the way you and writer friends edit each other’s work. Give it a try and see how it works for you!
Are You Ready To Improve Your Proofreading?
Now that you have some more tools you can try using on your documents, give them a try today. See how these programs can help improve the way you proofread and accept feedback over time!
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