Charles Dickens described proofreaders as having “… much natural intelligence, much-superadded cultivation, considerable readiness of reference, quickness of resource, an excellent memory, and a clear understanding.”
Presenting your readers with clear and compelling copy enhances your online credibility. To enhance your proofreading skills, I’ve put together this list of 8 tips and techniques which I rely on when I write online copy.
1. Proofreading Requires Concentration And Focus
One of the biggest proofreading mistakes you can make is to leave the task to the last minute and then do it too quickly. Nothing is ever done to perfection when something is rushed
Always proofread your work in a quiet place that is free of distractions. Turn off your phone, TV, and radio to fully concentrate on the task at hand. This is especially important for longer work.
2. Don’t Proofread When You’re Tired
Do you know those signs on the motorway that remind you of the dangers of driving while tired? It’s the same for proofreading.
Trying to proofread late at night when you are tired and your concentration is poor increases the chance you will miss essential errors. Come back with fresh eyes the next morning if you can.
3. Read It Out Loud
This is a really useful tip. If you read aloud, your ear might catch errors that your eye may have missed. It’s especially helpful for identifying run-on sentences and spotting any that don’t flow well or make sense.
4. Print Out Your Work
You’ll always notice more errors on a printed copy of your work. Using a blank sheet of paper to cover up the lines below the one you’re reading keeps you from skipping ahead of possible mistakes.
5. Pay Attention To Punctuation
Poor punctuation really undermines your professionalism. Pay particular attention to misplaced (or missing) commas and apostrophes. One of the most common mistakes is confusing “its” and “it’s.” The graphic below will help you remember the difference between the two.
Cool Tool Alert Grammarly is a free writing app available as a Google Chrome Extension. Adding Grammarly to Chrome means that your spelling and grammar will be vetted on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, and nearly everywhere else you write on the web. I use it all the time and find it super useful.
6. Keep Reference Sources On Hand
While a spell checker is useful, it can miss different meanings (for example, except vs accept). This is where a reference source such as Merriam-Webster, Roget’s Thesaurus, and The Elements of Style are so useful. Whether it’s the online or hard-copy version, keep one close to hand as an essential guide to using the right words in the right context.
7. Check Your Facts
If you are presenting facts in your content, be sure the sources are legitimate. Check and re-check the provenance of quotes and statistics.
8. Ask Someone Else to Proofread It
Final tip. Ask someone you trust to proofread the text for you. You will be amazed at the mistakes you’ve missed. A second person will also be in a better position to evaluate whether the sentences make sense or not.
You might also like to read legendary Fleet Street editor Harold Evans’ glossary to common words you are probably getting wrong.