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Proofreading Other People's Writing

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 19 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Creative Writing; Writer; Edit; Editor;

One of the fastest and most efficient ways to become a better writer is to proofread others’ writings… but what happens when you don’t have anyone knocking on your door begging for an editor?

No one said that you had to be asked to proof someone else’s works in order to do so! In fact, your local newspaper, favourite magazine, or frequently visited ezine could be the perfect place to find creative writings for you to rework. Though you’ll never be telling the authors that you’ve proofread and edited their pieces (and, let’s face it, they probably wouldn’t appreciate the comments from a stranger who isn’t paying them), you’ll be gaining valuable insight and experience for yourself. You’ll also get a feel for the “marketability” of one work versus another, a serious advantage if you’re planning to freelance.

Seeking out Creative Works

It’s not tough to find creative writings such as fresh poetry, articles, greeting card sayings, slogans, or advertisement copy – just head to entertainment or news websites and print off some of the stories you see. Then, take your red pen and start making comments regarding the text, format, length, style, grammar and other relevant items.

You can also browse the many periodicals you most likely have littering your home or office. If you own them (and can therefore do as you wish with the copies), simply tear out pertinent pages and make editorial commentary as if you were being asked to review the creative work before it went to print.

After Your Editing is Finished

Once you’ve examined and analysed a few of the works you’ve uncovered, you can start to compile a log of what you learned from the experience.

For example, you might come to realise that you don’t take enough literary risks in terms of format or genres. Or you might wind up with a long list of vocabulary words that you didn’t previously know (or at least rarely took advantage of using.)

Taking the Next Step

After you’ve penned some thoughts regarding your proofreading process, it’s time to seriously explore new avenues and rewrite the creative piece (or one of the pieces) you’ve proofed as though you were being paid a handsome sum to do so.

But don’t make this literary project too easy on yourself – you won’t learn as much about yourself as a writer by reworking a story devoted to a topic you already love. Instead, challenge your wits by rewriting a creative work that doesn’t resonate with you at all… and make a huge effort to add oomph, personality, and charisma into your updated piece.

Plan to Revisit This Activity Often

Now that you’ve tried proofreading as a method of becoming a more proficient creative writer, don’t allow yourself to put it aside for long, lest you’ll lose the writer’s “edge” you want to gain. If you pledge to undertake this proofreading technique just once a quarter (or, for quicker results, more often), you’ll undoubtedly begin to more easily proofread and edit your own pieces for clarity, errors and enthusiasm.

Regardless of whether your editorial findings are positive or negative, they can and will always serve to teach you more about the art and science of creative writing.

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Proofreading is a skill, and I’d suggest doing it more than once a quarter. It doesn’t have to be a magazine, it can be a book. Make notes on how you think things can be better and play around with different phrases and sentence structures. If you think a section doesn’t work, work out why and how to change it. It all helps.
David - 11-Sep-12 @ 1:58 PM
You could always try online as a source of text to proofread and rework as the internet is filled with articles that you could print off and re-write. Articles on wikipedia would be a great place to start as some of those truely do need proofreading. Online newspapers are also a good source for you to try. If you fancy earning a bit of more from proofreading you could always search the net for freelance proofreader jobs, not only would you be improving your skills but you would also be making some money.
editor - 18-May-12 @ 5:03 PM
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