You’ve spent time crafting the perfect piece of content. You’re happy with it and you send it off. Suddenly you see an error. Every content writer has had this experience. It can send your heart into your throat and make your stomach drop. There’s an easy way to avoid making this mistake: content proofreading.
Apart from editing, content proofreading is one of the most important parts of your writing process. This is where you show that you care about your writing. Proofreading is simply an act of love for your work. While you don’t want to become overly obsessive about each and every piece, it’s good to care enough to follow some easy steps to ensure that you are sending the best work you can to your editor or client.
- Doing a thorough proofread of your copy is how you will differentiate yourself from other writers and come across as professional.
- Using simple techniques like proofreading multiple times and reading your copy out loud can show you where you need to edit to take your copy from okay to great.
- Writing with your editorial mission in mind is the easiest way to be able to write exciting and clear copy about any subject you’re given.
Here are some proofreading practices to make a habit of that will help differentiate you from other writers:
Spelling & Grammar
Having excellent spelling and grammar is a basic requirement of good content writers. A misspelled word and poor grammar are the fastest ways to lose credibility with readers and appear less professional. Always use a grammar and spelling checker when you’re writing. Applications like Grammerly, Hemingway Editor, and Ginger are great options that can help catch those little slips we all make.
While these checkers are great tools, you should rely on them alone. Knowing basic grammar rules and proofreading for spelling are crucial. These tools are still imperfect and having this basic knowledge in your mind will help make sure nothing is left to chance.
You should also get in the practice of stopping and assessing each punctuation mark. Is it helping or hurting your copy? Is it necessary for conveying your meaning or is it superfluous? Because overly punctuated copy can be tricky for some readers, being conscientious about your punctuation is essential.
Additionally, you should adopt the practice of writing with a style guide in mind. Depending on what your content is being used for and the publication you are writing for, you may be asked to use a style guide you aren’t familiar with. Investing the time to have a strong handle on your requested style guide will always pay off.
Proofread Multiple Times
You finish writing and read through what you just wrote. That’s enough, right? No! Ideally you should get in the habit of proofreading your work at least a couple of times and using a couple of different methods.
Start by reading your work out loud. It’s easy for our brains to fill in information we leave out because we know what was intended in that space. It’s also easy to overlook jumbled wording when reading in your head. By reading your work out loud, you’ll have a better idea of how the words are flowing and how the reader will voice the copy in their mind.
A unique way of proofreading is to read your work backwards. Because you know what your intention was as you were writing, it’s easy to fill in missing information or gloss over incongruities in the structure of the copy. Instead, read your copy backwards a paragraph at a time and you’ll see more ways to improve your writing.
If all else fails, have someone else read your copy. Because they are a step removed from the copy, they’ll have a better eye for things that should be changed or rearranged. If you can get them to read it aloud, that’s ideal.
Wait Before Editing
Writing on a deadline is a challenge for so many reasons. One of the reasons is that waiting to proofread or edit your copy is suddenly a luxury. However, if you have the chance to wait even a few minutes before proofreading and editing your copy, it will pay off. Taking a minute to remove yourself from the copy refreshes your brain so you can more easily see places that need changes.
An easy way to take the extra time before you proofread your writing is to print it out. The difference between reading it on your computer versus a physical copy allows you the chance to physically handle your writing. Just like you remember things better if you are taking notes, physically editing your copy can help you better see where you should focus your attention.
Look For Repetition
Repetitive writing just to make a word count will quickly make your copy read as amateur. Using the same phrases and words over and over will look lazy and read at a much lower level than you’re intending. As you read through your copy, look for ways to shake up the verbiage and phrases you’re using. It will make for a more exciting piece and keep the reader’s attention.
You should also scan the first word of each paragraph. It’s easy for writers to fall into a rut and start each new paragraph the same way. This is just plain boring and will lead to your reader clicking away from your article or blog post. It takes little time to check the first words of your paragraph and pays off in a big way.
There are few things worse than getting a fact or a name wrong and having to issue a retraction or worse get the wrath of the client. In today’s world, being factual is crucial. Double-check all your facts and be sure to save your sources. You should be able to take any fact in your copy and immediately be able to point to where you pulled that information.
Along with that, taking the time to verify the spelling of names of people, companies, and products is a mainstay of conscientious writing. A little oversight like that can lead to a client dropping you as their writer and definitely major embarrassment. Similarly, checking the spelling and accuracy of the titles you use is an easy way to avoid an oversight.
When writing about an event, you must check that you are providing accurate information about the day, date, and time. The wrong information could mean the downfall of an important event and looks lazy on your part. If you aren’t sure of the specifics of the event date and time, always confirm with the client before relying on your memory. Communicating that you forgot the details is far better than guessing and being wrong.
Follow Your Mission
Finally, you should always write with purpose. Keeping in mind the point of the copy and why it’s important will not only help you write more passionately about any subject, it will also help you focus your writing. Rather than going on tangents or writing around a subject, you’ll be able to write directly and clearly about whatever topic you are assigned.
Part of following your mission is to proofread and edit for SEO. Any writer who has been given a list of SEO terms to incorporate in their copy knows the challenge it can be to make those search terms appear organically in a sentence. As you edit, be sure to keep your SEO in mind. The better you can proofread, the more likely your copy will still flow, even with a complex SEO keyword.