How to Proofread when Totally Knackered at 1 am


I’ll be finished by nine, you tell yourself. After that, maybe a bit of Netflix.

That’s at 7.30. Then someone comes over.

“Just popped over for a minute.” You put the kettle on.

8.45 they’re still there.

“I hate to be rude”, you stammer, “but there’s this report thingy…”

It’s a bit awkward but they head off.

“I’ll be finished by 10, maybe 11 at worst. But no Netflix. Or maybe a quick episode of…”

At 11 you’re still writing.

At 12.15 you’re FINALLY finished.

Now, we have to proofread it. One misplaced comma could ruin everything.

For a moment, you remember the typo hall of shame.

“That’s not going to happen to us,” you whisper, and head off for another red bull.

Good boy, you tell yourself, that’s the attitude!

Now for the tricky part.

If writing is re-writing, then editing is un-writing, which is as painful as it sounds.

A deep breath and we’re off. Of course, the problem now is that all of your energy went into the writing.

There’s nothing left in the tank.

So, when we proof-read that tired we need to be extra vigilant.

Here’s the approach I use:

Print out the document. Yes, print.

  • Get a wooden ruler. A book will do if you’ve no ruler.
  • Go to the last sentence.
  • Cover the second last line.
  • Read the last sentence out loud.
  • That ok?
  • Move the ruler up a sentence.
  • Read the next line.

Keep this up until you get to the top. It’s not fool proof. It doesn’t catch the flow of the document.

But it will protect you against the real horrors. Like when I wrote mange instead of manager.

What’s the worst typo you’ve seen?

How do you proof your documents when you’re dog tired?