In the vast ocean of never-ending content in today’s world, proofreading often takes the backseat. There are the pressure of finding attractive content ideas, the actual task of content creation and the rigorous promotion of published content – all under narrower deadlines. Amidst the chaos it is too common to overlook existing errors in your text but they can hurt you. A lot.
A text with a fair bit of grammatical mistakes, typos or wrongly formed sentences make you look like an amateur. In this post, I’m going to share with you a few proofreading tips that I’ve learned about and personally use after finishing my writings. But remember that tips are just tips, mere suggestions. All tips will not work for everybody as they do for me. I hope that some of you will benefit somehow and maybe even improve upon my tips.
Oh, and this post concludes the series, “Write Them Right” that began from here. I’ll continue to touch on several topics on blogging and content marketing from next week of course. So please continue to come back here every Sunday.
What is Proofreading?
Proofreading is the happy task of checking for errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, word usage, overall consistency of the content produced and maybe more. It is usually the final stage before publishing your content.
Isn’t Content Editing & Proofreading the Same Thing?
Well, yes and no. A content editor does all the things a proofreader does and then some more. He checks for factual errors such as dates and quotes, continuity errors to make sure that the content stays true to its theme throughout, possible legal liabilities and a lot more. Moreover he doesn’t just focus on the text of the content but also other media used in creating the content. Maybe a video is not on the proper place. Maybe the pictures used need to be of better quality. You get the idea.
If you’re a one-man army, you’ll have to fit both roles yourself. For that you’ll need some idea about both. But let’s look at only the proofreading part for now. Content editing is a much more complex and vast subject to cover together with.
Proofreading Basic Tasks
The basic tasks of a proofreader are:
- Spelling Check
- Grammar Check
- Punctuation Check
- Word Usage Check
- Consistency Check
- Formatting Check
Now let’s go through each task in more detail.
This is the easy part of proofreading. Most of the times you’ll find words like “writtn” or “awsome” where spelling mistakes are results of what came to be known as typos (typing mistakes). Add the ‘e’s at proper places in both the words and you’re done.
Proper nouns or company names are next in line to be typed wrong most often. Knowing the exact usage of the spelling is most important while correcting these mistakes. For example, Microsoft is correct while MicroSoft or microsoft is not. Note that here is no actual spelling error but merely a capitalization issue. Just as you have to know the correct spelling for a word, you also need to know about which part of the spelling to capitalize.
Another form of common spelling mistakes occur due to cultural, demographic or too much focus on common language. When you’re using words from another language in your writing, these types of mistakes can happen.
Grammar & Punctuation Check
Misspelt words are bad but missing your commas or messing your tense is scarier. In fact, grammatical and punctuation mistakes make up 21% of all writing errors.
On further research, it was revealed that determiner-related errors (such as improperly using a/an/the/this/that/which etc. before nouns and noun-phrases) comprise 60% of all grammatical errors. Using prepositions and subject-verb agreement come close after.
Knowing basic grammar and sticking to a particular style when writing can get rid of most of your mistakes and there are a lot of online free and premium grammar checkers available to ease your worried mind. Personally I keep a lot of faith in myself and my Notion app. People argue about the effectiveness of online grammar checkers but I think Grammarly has been doing an excellent job out there. Also here is a free grammar checker that can take care of most of your concerns.
Word Usage Check
Word usage is (wait-for-it) using a word, a phrase or a concept to clearly communicate a message. Often this means choosing the correct word and its position in your article.
There are many word usage issues in a general writing, some of the most common being comprise/compose, rein/reign or of course desert/dessert. These are not spelling mistakes as both of them are correct words but their context is totally wrong. It’s sometimes easy to overlook them but they can change the meaning of your content totally.
When it comes to using the English language, there is no clear differences between right and wrong. For example, U.S and US both are accepted abbreviations for United States. But it is necessary to maintain your consistency throughout your writing, at least for the blog post in question. You cannot write U.S at the beginning of your post and then in the middle somewhere use US. That will be counted as a consistency error.
The key to maintaining consistency is to strictly stick to a style. In the above example, if you decide not to put the periods and use US as your abbreviation style, stick to it for every other abbreviations used in your post. That way your writing is both professional and easy on the eyes.
Formatting is an amalgamation of all those little things that you and I use to make our content better and more readable. It comprises boldfacing, italicizing, using bullet points and similar things.
Follow your natural instincts in most cases. For example, the whole article shouldn’t be bold or italicized. Overdoing any of these things will hamper your reader experience greatly.
I’ve learned some pretty neat tips and tricks from various resources to better check for errors in my text and I can safely say that they’ve made an impact in my proofreading. Try them out with your own different modifications, see what suits you and tell me what can be further improved.
Read Your Text Backwards
Probably the most heard about suggestion about proofreading, reading your text backwards serve two main purposes in my opinion. One, it effectively highlights your errors as you don’t associate any context to your writing. Two, it can point out those little things which you’d have generally overlooked, such as overused words or overcomplicated sentence formations.
Verify Your Spellings
Whenever using proper nouns and company names in your article, Google them. Knowing the correct spelling and exact capitalization points is essential to get your content appreciated.
Check Your Title and Hyperlinks
Errors existing in the main body can no doubt hamper your credibility as a writer but errors in the title and your hyperlinks are unforgivable. Always double or triple check those before hitting the ‘publish’ button.
Verify Your Stats
Whenever using some data or chart, make sure they are absolutely correct. Same goes for dates and time.
Read Aloud, Proofread Often
Reading your text aloud can spot errors quickly and effectively. Also come back to reading your published content again and again so you can spot remaining mistakes. I make it a habit of reading the whole text at least four or five times before submitting my projects or publishing my blog post. There has been a number of times when I’ve stumbled upon minor mistakes on those readings.
This was the final part of the “Write Them Right” series. Creating content can be a daunting job but at the same time, it’s exhilarating. Taking the time to learn about the technical aspects of writing will make you a better producer of happy little pieces of content that float around the web, making someone else happy. There’s no other feeling like that.
Hope I’ve been of some use in imparting useful information. Please visit my blog regularly for other articles on blogging, content marketing and digital marketing as an intertwined concept vine.