It is essential for you as a medical writer to learn and polish your proofreading and editing skills, even though a senior writer or an editor is available and will edit and proofread your work before it is submitted to the client.
A systematic approach for editing and proofreading:
– Helps you to find and correct unnoticed language errors.
– Gives you a chance to recheck, rearrange and polish your work.
– Helps you to enhance readability of your writing.
– Reflects professionalism by ensuring accurate and consistent work.
Once you acquire these skills, you will be able to:
– Ensure that your work is perfect before it lands on your editors desk. (Note, it not the responsibility of the editor to rewrite any unsystematic and an incomplete article submitted by you).
– Proofread in a more efficient manner the final layout of the article / brochure / bulletin, usually performed at the final stage of the project, i.e. before it is goes out for printing.
– Help editing and proofreading the work of your fellow writer’s.
Following are some editing and proofreading tips which can be useful for you:
– It is important to ensure that the purpose and objective of each manuscript is achieved and that all essential points as per the client’s brief are included.
– Check if the draft matches the agreed upon terms (client expectations) such as the expected word count, number of expected figures and tables, number of pages etc.
– If necessary rearrange the work. Some key points are easier to understand when listed in a tabular form or as bullet points.
– Be careful with the frequently occurring errors in data and p-values, tables and figures (e.g. whether the figure is referenced appropriately with correct labels and axis) units, spelling of medical terms etc.
– Proofread from a print-out and do not rely completely on a computer spell check. Only certain types of errors (e.g. spelling mistakes) are identified by computer spell check programs whereas errors with homonyms (e.g. “they’re”, “their”, “there” etc) or certain typos (e.g. “he” for “the”) are not identified.
– Covering up the lines below the one you are reading with a blank sheet or an opaque ruler is an useful technique to help focus on the part you are reading and prevent you from skipping possible errors.
– To be more careful a list of common errors can be prepared while proofing for errors such as capitalizations, abbreviations, general spelling (British vs. American spellings), grammar (past vs. present tenses) and repetition.
– Prepare a personal checklist (based on your strengths and weaknesses in proofreading) for use every time you proofread. Moving from the most to the least important, from technical details to consistency.
It is only practice and practice and practice that makes one a good editor or proofreader!