Learning how to proofread like a pro is essential if you want to produce killer content. You may think a couple of tiny mistakes here and there don’t matter, but they do.
It’s not only embarrassing but could also be losing you money. Your content is the first thing a visitor to your site sees, whether it’s a blog post or general website content. Do you want them to inwardly groan when they realise you’ve put ‘there’ instead of ‘they’re?’ Sometimes one mistake is enough for a visitor to click away, never to return!
Proofreading your content will improve its quality and make it easier to read. Here’s my top tips for learning how to proofread like a pro and produce killer content.
Take a rest between writing and proofreading
Proofreading your work straight after writing is not a good idea. Preferably wait until the next day or at least give it 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 there or not.
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 spelled 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 spelled 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.’
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.
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.
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.
Double check facts, figures and names
Make sure all your names, dates, facts and figures are correct. This applies especially if you have used cut and paste to bring previous information into the post. It’s easy to forget to update to the current year, for example.
Also, 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 spelled correctly. If there’s one thing people hate, it’s getting names wrong.
Spaces left in the text for last-minute additions, such as current data, should be highlighted to avoid forgetting to add it.
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.
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 an online tool, such as Grammarly. This invaluable tool will correct grammar and spellings. It will also make suggestions to improve your writing. There’s a basic free version too, so there’s no excuse!
Common spelling mistakes can be checked against an infographic (top ten spelling mistakes you should avoid). A good old-fashioned thesaurus is handy too, in case you have used the same word too many times and need a substitute.
Of course, if you’re using Microsoft Word, it has a built-in thesaurus. Just highlight the relevant word and press shift + F7, to reveal a selection of alternative words.
Read your work 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.
Finally, if in doubt
If there is anything you have the slightest doubt over, double-check it. It might be a date, a name or figures; they’re usually where mistakes can happen. Even if you have a tight deadline to meet, it’s worth taking the extra time to make sure everything is correct.
And, if you’re wondering whether it really matters if there’s one or two tiny typos, here’s the truth. Apart from the risk of losing visitors and money, Google won’t be too impressed, either. If your mistakes change the meaning of the sentence or it just makes no sense at all, Google may well perceive it as low quality content. And that will definitely hurt your ranking.