Proofreading: how to find (almost) all errors.

How to check your text: Copy the lines you want to check from your word processor into the check box below (just overwrite the sample text) and then click "Check Text".

Afterwards, possible errors are displayed in color and if you click with the mouse on the colored words, you will see explanations of the errors found. In most cases, the correction can be easily applied with another click.

Everything correct in your text?

Important texts must be (largely) error-free.

No one will blame you if a mistake creeps in very rarely. Where people work, mistakes happen. And if someone does get upset, they feel sorry for the know-it-all. He is punished enough with himself.

But how do you get to an (almost) error-free text?

This is the fine-tuning at the end of the writing process; when you go through the text with a flea comb, weeding out all the mistakes step by step. This page helps

  • with the "Language-Tool" (see above),
  • with tips for proofreading (see below),
  • And with a long list of helpful links (see at the very bottom).

I will gladly send you the article as a formatted PDF [11 S.] "Proofreading: How to find (almost) all errors [with link collection]". Just click and enter your e-mail.

Watch out: This is how proofreading works.

The biggest enemy in proofreading (and in original, attractive writing) is the Autopilot. Your conscious mind is constantly trying to save attention. Because you hardly pay attention to many things, you can focus on important things (the rope you’re balancing on, your beloved’s declaration of love, the four-leaf clover in the meadow).

When proofreading, you need your attention. Even if you know the text almost by heart and your subconscious thinks: "I’ve seen this before, I’m allowed to switch off".

Therefore, many of the tips for proofreading are actually tips for increased awareness.

The work begins even before you start working on a text. "Know thyself," Heraclitus already said. He is right.

Before proofreading

  • Get to know "your" favorite mistakes.

Every writer makes certain mistakes again and again. In my case, for example, "keyboard errors". I have big hands and often hit two keys at once. Most of these errors are found by the spell checker; because "ereinfach" is not in the dictionary.

If, on a cursory reading, you find, "This is a coherent text," you can begin proofreading.

Preferably one, even better several days.

If you have limited time: Leave it for at least a quarter of an hour and do something else in that time. Gladly something strenuous. A short jog, a phone call with a difficult customer or running up and down the stairs ten times.

During the proofreading

  • Print the text.

It is much less stressful to read a text on paper. Your text will look different on paper than it does on the screen. This will make it a bit strange for you.

Foreign is good. For what seems strange, read more carefully. Your subconscious wants to help you by only skimming over what you know. Most of the time, after all, it’s just a matter of grasping the content of a text. To do this, it is sufficient to skim.

If you can somehow manage it, don’t proofread yourself, but have proofread. Foreign eyes see mistakes that escape your eagle eye. You can never look at your text as unbiased as a foreign reader reading it for the first time.

I always have the spell checker running when I write. How to correct my favorite keyboard errors immediately. Otherwise the error density would be too high.

Our LanguageTool (Source: languagetool.org)

Spell checkers work very well to detect words that are not in the dictionary. It also often gives good hints for capitalization and some grammar errors.

But with sophisticated mistakes they are overstrained and sometimes they make suggestions that you should not simply accept. Microsoft Word, for example, wants to put more apostrophes than necessary. At "Now go on in the text" the program always wants to improve to "go’s". This apostrophe is not mandatory and many typographers think: if it is not necessary, better no apostrophe. Looks better. That’s what I think, too, and that’s why the Word correction function gets on my nerves in this respect.

"Our" tool is not necessarily better than the spell checker of your text program. The language tool also knows common phrases and uses probability algorithms to track down suspicious cases. Its rules are constantly being expanded by legions of volunteers. It therefore finds some errors that "your" check overlooks. And there are explanations of the suggested corrections. You only have to move the mouse over the marked places.

In return, it may make mistakes in places that your program knows better. But it already has, for example, the very latest German spelling changes from June 2017 on board. Has your word processor already added to it? Furthermore: If you find a "wrong error", you can add a new rule at the Language Tool and help yourself and all other users with it.

Mistrust allowed

No spell checker is perfect. I recommend you to take the displayed errors as suspicions and to make the decision about right and wrong in each case yourself. This way you train your eye for correct language at the same time.

To get on the track of the suspicious cases, you can follow the explanations in the Language-Tool or help yourself in the following link list.

Spelling Punctuation Grammar

Course spelling, punctuation, grammar

We also have a course for correct writing. In two days, the fabulous proofreader and lecturer Erika Reist will teach you the most important rules about spelling and grammar. The rules that you know from years of proofreading work the vast majority of errors provoke. Even the very last doubts about the comma rules are solved.

Afterwards, you will still have to practice; but such a course is a brilliant start to finally leave embarrassing mistakes behind you.

Information about the official rules and their interpretation

The official rules

The official set of rules from 2006 (with additions from 2010 and 2017) is the "Spelling Law". You can download the documents as PDFs or access them online here.

In the report of the German Spelling Council interested people can find background information about the latest changes.

For many, the first port of call when in doubt about spelling and grammar.

Not all experts agree with the Duden recommendations. But those who decide with the Duden do not have to justify themselves. Who decides against the Duden, must have good reasons for it.

Differences between German and Swiss-German orthography

In Switzerland, spelling is a bit different than in Germany. The most obvious difference is in words that are spelled with "b" in Germany and with "ss" in Switzerland. But there are more differences and of course the lovely Helvetisms.

The point of view of the Swiss Federal Administration

The Swiss Federal Administration has published a set of rules for its own purposes, which takes into account the special features of German spelling in Switzerland.

German spelling at important publishers

As already mentioned, the Duden recommendations and the official spelling rules are partly controversial.

Therefore, some publishers have developed their own house rules. Here you can find the house rules of sda and NZZ.

FAQ list on German spelling

A versatile forum for doubts about German spelling. Mostly with plausible reasons.

Learning aids and overviews

Mindmaps: Rules of thumb for spelling

To make it easier for you to remember orthografietrainer.net has put together 4 mindmaps with rules of thumb for spelling.

If you want to systematically practice and improve your spelling, this is a good place to start.

Learning aids from the Duden

Here is a crash course in 25 steps to correct spelling from the house of Duden.

Spelling exercises easy / medium / difficult

One of the few sites with exercises on Swiss German spelling. A bit outdated, but still useful.

Here you can test your linguistic skills in a dozen languages (including German) and get an evaluation of where your weaknesses lie.

Entertaining spelling facts

Here you can test your knowledge of the not-so-new spelling rules.

Bastian Sick’s entertaining columns on spelling and grammar will make you smile and get your spelling up to speed.

Johannes Wyss corrects the Tagi

Confident: The professionals from the Tagesanzeiger are not too shy to have their spelling criticized. The article is entertaining, instructive and trains the attention.

A charming NZZ article on helvetisms.

Our blog also has some articles on spelling

Other reference works

"The word information system on the German language" in history and present is a comprehensive and wide-ranging tool of linguistic doubt cases. Like a cockpit, it compiles a lot of important information about a search term on one results page.

Does the word really fit? What resonates? A look at the history of words clarifies this. For over 150 years the Grimm. Now also digital. However, the spelling is to be taken with a grain of salt. The dictionary is partly still from the 18th century. The German spelling rules are from the nineteenth century and use old and very old spelling rules.

Background information on spelling

If you want to understand spelling better, to see through the reasons why certain spellings are preferred, have a look at Peter Gallmann’s book. He is one of the great authorities on German spelling. But it’s not easy.

Sometimes you may wonder where a proverb comes from and how exactly it reads. Karl Friedrich Wilhem Wanders dictionary can help you here.

If you still notice a fuzzy word while proofreading, here is an alternative.

At Langenscheidt you can find online a dictionary on spelling and meaning of foreign words.

I will gladly send you the article as a formatted PDF [11 S.] "Proofreading: How to find (almost) all errors [with link collection]". Just click and enter your e-mail.

And here is the complete overview of our texts on correct language

Finally see through Comma rules: All 13 rules explained with examples [Loose and easily explained. Understandable through examples and graphics. Popular with teachers in the classroom. From now on you put all commas correctly.]

Doubtful spelling: 52 Stumbling Blocks to avoid [Frequently misspelled words: graffiti – graffiti, email – email, mattress – mattress; with clear explanations so that you never forget it again.]

The Apostrophe: Where it belongs, where it disturbs and where it is forbidden [The apostrophe is rarely used nowadays. Where it fits, where it is tolerated and where it does not go at all, you will find out here.]

Doubt cases of spelling: the Anglicisms [Ladies or Ladys, downgeloadet or gedownloadet – how to build english words correctly into german texts?]

Doubtful spelling cases: "news" from the Foreign words [Exposee or expose, essential or essenziell – how to write it correctly in German texts? And: This is how you say it in German (often sounds better).]

You need to know: new Spelling rules as of June 2017 [The new official rules. Valid in D/A/CH. Rather small things: A few failed innovations abolished. Besides changes in upper and lower case letters. Read this article, then you can keep your old Duden.]

Proofreading: How to find (almost) all mistakes [Many concrete tips for finding mistakes, a nifty online spell checker especially for Swiss and a extensive collection with reference books and further links.]

We save the Subjunctive (Part 1) The subjunctive is a clever stylistic device that only a few still master. In this article it is explained in detail: With justifications, examples, formation tables and so on.

Other: If you are interested in good writing, here is the collection of articles "good writing style. And here is our overview with all articles about Online Marketing.

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Warm greetings
Matthias Wiemeyer

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