Face it — you are not qualified to proofread your post. This may come as a shock to you; after all, you researched it, wrote it, and it’s your reputation on the line. However, think about it this way: you have spent the last hour or so perfecting the phrasing, content, and voice of this composition. At this point, somebody could wave the Iliad in front of your face, and you’d read your subject between the lines. You need a fresh victim, not a hallucinogenic fifteenth-read-through.

What you can do is read it through one last time. This time, read it aloud or simply speak each word in your head. You know what I mean — be absolutely sure that you give each word its moment in the spotlight. When you’ve finished reading and changing all the suffixes that were somehow in the wrong tense, it’s time to find yourself an unsuspecting reader.


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There are two kinds of reader you can choose from. The first kind knows all about what you’re writing, especially if it’s technical and complicated, and can tell you when you’ve said something silly. The second kind doesn’t know anything at all about your subject matter. Both readers are important, and you should determine for each piece whether you need a particular one or both.

If the subject you’re writing on is at all new or unfamiliar to you, then the knowledgeable proofreader is priceless. Ask them to read over your work, and take any criticism to heart. The second type of reader is important regardless of what type of writing you are doing. This reader may or may not know much about your specific subject matter, and may or may not know much about English and grammar in general — what you need here is a normal person. Someone you can trust to read your project and let you know at which points they were confused or lost or what didn’t make sense to them. These are the points you need to change.

I love writing beautiful, flavorful, glorious sentences. But sometimes those are difficult to understand, especially to a casual reader. The last thing you want to do is confuse or frustrate someone who is reading your material. It is important, as a writer, to realize that languages are not static. They are not so strictly ruled as they may appear. English, for example is constantly changing, evolving, survival of the fittest words, the prettiest words, the words that survive fad-dom and come to mean and imply ideas their creators never meant. Your writing should reflect all that is best and most widely understood in the current form of language.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be colorful, or stand out from the herd — but be very aware of whether your writing can be easily understood by an average person. When you write, even technical subjects should be formatted so that when your reader finds a word he doesn’t know, he can still understand the sentence. Make that a priority, take time to change the composition where it confuses your ‘unsuspecting reader,’ and your writing will be clear and appealing to people who stumble across it.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2008 at 9:35 pm and is filed under Blog. You can leave a comment and follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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