Can a Ruler Help You Proofread?

I’m fascinated by how difficult it is to proofread my work. Why can’t my eye see if on the page instead of reading of – that’s not really there?

What does a ruler have to do with proofreading? Let’s call it the new tool in my toolbox.

When I think my work is ready to send to my agent, I print the final copy and read it, line by line, very slowly.

I place the ruler underneath each line as I read it. This forces my eye not to stray forward to the next line. The ruler stays in place until I’ve read every word.

Out of 80,000 words, I found five typos. They were:

–       a missing quote

–       a missing word (had)

–       a missing period at the end of a sentence

–       you’re instead of your

–       color instead of colour

I don’t think I would have found the mistakes without the ruler. This may seem like a lot of work for just 5 errors, but I believe in sending my best work out. If I don’t take is seriously, why would anyone else?

Do you have any proofreading tips you’d like to share?

Thanks for reading . . .

8 thoughts on “Can a Ruler Help You Proofread?

  1. Your approach is very professional, good for you! You may have mentioned this in a previous post, the only thing I would add is to take a break if you find your eyes are starting to drift. Proofreading takes a lot of concentration.


  2. Very cool idea! I tried out proofreading by reading the paragraphs backwards — not the whole book, just backward up the page instead of down the page. I think it helped — although there’s no way of really knowing unless I go back in time and try it again 😀


    1. Hi Michelle, I’ve tried reading backwards, but I’m not good at it. It takes me a lot of time and I haven’t caught any errors. It was worth a try, but I like the ruler method better. I’m willing to try most tips at least once. That way I know if it works for me or not. Thanks for commenting.


  3. I’m impressed that you take such care to find errors! I think that kind of diligence might be what separates the pros from the aspiring writers.
    I find nits like missing quotes and wrong words (like ‘he’ instead of ‘be’) in published novels all the time, but still miss mistakes in my own work! I find it best to let another set of well-trained eyes proof the story for me. Of course, I’m always more than happy to return the favor. 🙂
    I’ve also found that the more I write and proofread my own words (and that includes blogging 🙂 ) the better I become at detecting goof-ups!
    (Wouldn’t it be embarrassing though if I made a typo in this comment … )


    1. Kirsten, you are right on both points. Having someone else proofread your work is a must. I like to give my novel after I think I’ve put it in the best possible shape. Then the reader has to look hard for a typos. I also find I am much better at it than I was two years ago. I guess practice makes you perfect 🙂


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