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I expect the last thing you want is for your business content to contain silly mistakes. It’s not only embarrassing but could also cost you money. You could lose out on repeat visitors and sales, just because of one tiny error.
Proofreading your business content will improve its quality and make it easier to read. There are certain techniques you can use to ensure it ends up as a professional piece of writing, free of mistakes. Proofreading involves searching for errors in:
… and, in fact, anything else that jumps out as being incorrect.
It is generally done on the final draft of your work. These top proofreading techniques will help you produce your best content yet.
1) Take a rest between writing and proofreading
Preferably wait until the next day if you are proofreading your own work. If that’s not possible, give it at least an hour or two.
When you have just finished writing, you are too close to the work to see your own mistakes.
Your brain will see what you believe you have typed because it is still fresh in your mind. This is especially true of missing words. Your brain will put them in, whether they are on paper or not.
2) Make use of the online spell-checker
Using an online spell-checker is a good idea, but it does have its limitations. If a word is spelt wrong, the spell-checker will amend it to what it thinks is correct, but it may not be the word you want. Remember, there are many words sounding the same but spelt differently.
There have been some hilarious errors due to spell-checkers. A restaurant menu written by students was supposed to read ‘Stuffed Aubergine.’ Unfortunately, the spell-checker amended it to read ‘Stuffed Aborigine.’
3) Print out a hard copy
Printing your work onto paper will help you to spot mistakes. People read in a different way on paper than they do on screens.
This was highlighted by a study first published in July 2017, entitled Reading on Paper and Digitally: What the Past Decades of Empirical Research Reveal. The study revealed that students learn more effectively from print textbooks than screens.
This is because scrolling disrupts memory and focus. Also, the brightness of the screen can cause tiredness. Plus, people do not use as much mental effort when they are reading from a screen.
Working from a hard copy will make your proofreading more effective.
4) Use a non-transparent ruler
Using a non-transparent ruler is a good way to ensure you don’t miss out any lines. You are also more likely to concentrate fully on each word.
Proofreading this way slows you down and allows you to focus, so you won’t miss the subtle mistakes.
5) Use a red pen
Make all your corrections using a red pen so they can be easily seen. As well as the correction itself, mark an asterisk in the margin of the line where the mistake is.
This will help to avoid missing any when it comes to amending the copy.
6) Double check facts and figures
Make sure all your names, dates and figures are correct. This applies especially if you have used cut and paste to bring your business data into the document. It’s easy to forget to update to the current year, for example.
It’s also possible there may be errors in the original text, so don’t assume because it’s been cut and pasted, it’s automatically free of mistakes.
With figures, check the comma or decimal point is in the right place. Names should also be double-checked to make sure they’re spelt correctly.
Spaces left in the text for last-minute additions, such as current data, should be highlighted to avoid forgetting to add it.
7) Check formatting
Make sure things like headings are the same font or size throughout the document. Check for consistency in underlining or emboldening.
If numbers are in the text, check they are in the same format in each place. For example, 37 or thirty-seven. The same goes for numbered lists, 1) 1. or just 1 without any punctuation. Also, check they run in correct sequence.
8) Use tools to help you proofread
There’s a whole range of tools you can use to help you proofread, from the humble dictionary to a free online tool, such as Grammarly. This invaluable tool will correct grammar and spellings. It will also make suggestions to improve your writing.
Common spelling mistakes can be checked against an infographic, such as my 10 Common Spelling and Grammar Mistakes. A thesaurus is handy too, in case you have used the same word too many times and need a substitute.
9) Read aloud
When you have completed your proofread, read the work aloud. This can highlight any final errors you may have missed.
You will also get a good idea of the flow and whether any commas need to be inserted, or sentences restructured.
10) Finally, if in doubt
If there is anything you have the slightest doubt over, double-check it. The extra time it takes to make sure everything is correct will be well worth the effort.
If you’ve been struggling with proofreading, I hope these ten techniques have given you some pointers to make the whole process a bit easier.
And if you have any of your own techniques on proofreading, please do share them in the comments below.