Taking care of the details

Writing your life story is no easy feat. It requires time and discipline.

Don’t let fear of spelling or grammar mistakes hold you back from writing your story. There are plenty of online tools to lean on and people who are willing to step in and help.

Here, we give you some tips on how to proofread and get the details right: spelling, grammar and consistency.

Check your work once or twice, then have a break

Your break could be ten hours or several days long. Eat some cake (or a healthier snack!), have a cup of coffee, or go on a long walk for fresh air. Sleep does wonders. Give yourself space to see what you wrote with fresh eyes. Mistakes are easier to spot when you feel refreshed.

Read your work out loud

One of the best tools for picking up errors is reading your work out loud. Our brains are so clever that we can read words even if they are misspelled – if the first letter and last letter of each word are in the right place. Reading out loud helps you notice these mistakes. You can also see if you’ve doubled up on words (like the the or and and).

Have fun! Read it in parts; to your cat, your spouse, in the mirror, or while in the bath.

Print your work and check it with a pen

For many of us, holding our work in our hands and physically proofreading it stimulates our mind more than a device. So, print out your work on paper and grab a couple of different coloured pens. Using a pen as your guide, read every line. Try to spot inconsistencies, such as the specific way names are written and how you use capital letters. Create your own marks for recurring mistakes, and use different colours for different edits (eg red for typos and errors, green for queries or new thoughts, blue for doodles and notes to self…).

If you realise that you trip over a word a lot in your story (eg spelling ‘George’ as ‘Geroge’), you can then go back to your digital document and do a search and replace to find all instances of this word in your document. Use these instructions on how to perform a search and replace in a Word document.

And, once you’re done with your marked-up proof, why not get it bound and save it as an artifact of your writing process, or recycle it in your compost… or even use it as unique gift-wrapping paper!

If in doubt, get a second opinion

Our eyes can let us down when rereading the same passage over and over. Ask a friend or family member who has an eye for detail and good grammar skills to read over your work. If you’re not ready to share it with anyone, don’t worry – you can always refer to a style guide and dictionary, or there are some free online proofreading tools, like Grammarly. If your budget lets you, you can ask a professional to do it for you.

Don’t sweat it too much

Remember that this is YOUR story, told in your own voice. Don’t let worrying about small errors or perfect grammar prevent you from telling your story and taking it through to publication. Your family will treasure your memoir, whether it is word-perfect or not.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash