Traditionally, when I teach content proofreading tips, I treat them as separate tasks from content editing.
And they are indeed two different activities.
However, the creative benefits of a consistent proofreading process surpass the classic definition of proofreading and are important to learn even if you’re a beginner blogger.
A master proofreader’s skills contribute to the production of unique, valuable, and trustworthy content.
Are content proofreading tips just for perfectionists?
Professional writers can take advantage of proofreading to avoid the all-too-common extremes of caring too little or too much about your content.
The trouble with caring too little about your content is fairly obvious, but caring too much about your content is also a problem.
It occurs when writers:
- Second-guess their abilities
- Obsess over their drafts
- Delay publishing their posts until they’re “perfect”
Proofreading ensures you’ve thoroughly reviewed your work, so you feel good about releasing it to the world.
Here are 10 content proofreading tips that will help you publish with confidence.
1. Proofread backwards
Sonia Simone and I used to have a running joke.
Whenever I mentioned that proofreading your text from the last sentence of your content to the beginning is my favorite proofreading method, she would always quip:
“How about a tip that doesn’t take forever?”
At which point, I liked to explain why this technique is actually a time-saver.
We don’t always have a day to put our writing aside before we edit and proof it. That’s great advice in theory, but not realistic in a fast-paced content publishing environment where you sometimes only have several hours or less.
One of the best proofreading tips
“Proofreading backwards” is actually one of the best editing tips for writers. It helps you see your writing with fresh eyes, without first putting it aside for 24 hours.
In addition to spotting actual errors, you’ll also likely find:
- Words you overuse
- Sentences you can clarify
- Paragraphs you can simplify
Give it a try the next time you need to polish a fresh draft before you publish.
2. Stop at every punctuation mark
Proofreading is all about paying attention to little details that help your audience effortlessly understand your message.
Pause at every comma, period, apostrophe, quotation mark, etc. to make sure you’ve used them correctly.
(Need a punctuation refresher? Check out this article: How to Use a Comma)
This tip is especially helpful for finding “it’s/it” and “they’re/their/there” mistakes — which you want to avoid in email subject lines for sales as well.
Remember, content proofreading tips aren’t just for blog posts. They can help your email marketing strategy too.
Sign Up for Your Free Assessment
Give us 30 minutes and we’ll transform how you sell online.
This offer is free for a limited time.
3. Scan the first word of each paragraph
Varying your word choice elevates your content to a more sophisticated level.
If a number of your paragraphs or subheadings begin with the same word, your writing won’t be as dynamic as it could be.
Use this time — even though it’s “just for proofreading” — to push your creativity.
4. Verify spellings of people’s names
Google is a proofreader’s best friend.
Keep a Google search tab open when you proofread and look up the proper spelling of every name in your text.
My name is spelled “Stefanie,” not “Stephanie.” (Sometimes content proofreading tips hit home.)
I’m sure you also appreciate when your name is spelled correctly.
5. Verify spellings of company names
When the name of a proper noun is spelled correctly, your audience takes it for granted. However, when a knowledgable reader spots a spelling or letter-case error, it makes your content look sloppy.
And if you’re submitting an article to another site’s editor, you definitely want to follow guest blog posting best practices to avoid careless mistakes that will turn off that editor.
It could be “copy blogger” or “CopyBlogger,” instead of the correct spelling: “Copyblogger.”
It could be “Bang & Olufson,” instead of “Bang & Olufsen.”
Or it could be “McSweeneys,” instead of “McSweeney’s.”
An incorrect spelling of a name isn’t a typo. It’s a mistake.
Performing a final spell-check is an important part of proofreading, so I’ve dedicated several of these tips to items professionals verify … in every piece of content.
6. Verify spellings of product names
Here we go again.
Today, a content marketer’s job also often includes research, fact-checking, copy editing, and proofreading.
If you want your writing habits to impress your clients and bosses, don’t rely on someone else to inspect your work for accuracy. For example, if compound words often confuse you, look them up to make sure you got them right.
7. Verify spellings of titles
Editors commonly see subtle mistakes in the titles of articles or books, such as missing or additional words.
They are almost correct, but technically wrong. Another reason why content proofreading tips involve the techniques that contribute to the most accurate and reputable content.
I make it a practice to get these right in my own writing by remembering that I would want another author to write the exact titles of my own articles, books, and videos.
8. Verify days, dates, and times of events
This is a super easy one.
If you’re going to share an announcement about a meeting, webinar, or event, don’t send it without first using a classic fact-checking tip: double-check that the day of the week mentioned matches the date.
Then confirm the start time and time zone.
Also, at the beginning of each calendar year, make sure your content has the correct year, since it’s a common mistake to repeat the previous year out of habit. After all, you’ve been writing it for the past 12 months.
I’m willing to bet that every content proofreader in All-the-Land has caught at least one “year error” within the first three months of a new year.
Don’t let your proofreader have that satisfaction. In January, make a note for yourself and remind your colleagues to write the new year if they ever need to reference the current year.
But why stop there? You could also recommend that they review all of these content proofreading tips as well. 🙂
9. Scrutinize hyperlinked text
Making sure your hyperlinks work is part of your blog post checklist, so this step is about carefully reviewing the hyperlinked text.
A hyperlink will be a different color than the rest of your writing, which (for some reason) makes it easy to overlook.
Don’t fall into that trap. Fine-tooth-comb those words too.
10. Spot repeated information
Even though you’ll tighten up your sentences and paragraphs while editing, these content proofreading tips still include excellent opportunities to find information you’ve already stated.
Aim to express your message as succinctly as possible.
Your reader will appreciate that you value their time.
Copyblogger for writers delivered directly to your inbox
If you like these content proofreading tips, chances are we agree on one important thing:
The written word drives the web. It always has, and it always will.
Even if you’re working with audio or video, the right words are still what make the difference.
- Customer experience
- Sales, growth, and profit
And if you want to master the art of using words to drive business results, you’ve come to the perfect place — Copyblogger has helped accelerate the careers of writers just like you since 2006.
Join us for free by signing up to stay in touch via email …
Reader Comments (21)
Michael LaRocca says
I always use a straightedge. If it’s on paper, I use a ruler. If it’s on my computer, I use the bottom of my screen.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Classic and effective! 🙂
Don Wood says
Wajahath Ali says
I used to proofread while I write and I was slow as a snail but then I discovered speed writing without using backspace.
I finished many posts and e-books with this technique and I usually proofread with a cup of coffee.
I personally tend to repeat words while I am writing writing…
Thanks Stefanie for all the tips.
Stefanie Flaxman says
I see what you did there … 😉
Marcia Yudkin says
Several of your tips already lean into fact checking, so why not add that as part of the proofreading process? Fact checking involves making sure that you’re passing along solidly grounded information rather than rumors or urban legends and that you have dates, places and numbers correct, as well as having spelled proper names properly.
For instance, if you refer to a study purporting to prove that people who write down their goals make more money or are more successful, you need to look that up and confirm that. You’d find out that that point has been thoroughly discredited.
Respectable content is fact checked as well as proofread!
Stefanie Flaxman says
Excellent points and guidance, Marcia! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Reading backward is an interesting and I guess rather unknown trick. I am going to use it for sure.
Paula Biles says
As a magazine editor in a previous life, this proofing procedure was invaluable and effective. I still use it to edit/proof my own writing. • Change your entire document’s font from serif to non-serif (or vice versa). Then re-read it carefully. Once you’ve fixed all the edits and typos, change the font back again.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Love that tip, Paula!
Stephan Mathys says
Uh oh! Maybe you didn’t get either #2 or #9 completed as fully as you usually do for this article. After I signed up for the Content Confidence Checklist, I saw this pop up:
[Head over to your inbox to confirm your subscription so you can get updated on when the “Content Confidence Checklist is available!]
Is that an extra “ in there? Oops! Just giving you a hard time, but also to let you know that people really do take your suggestions. Thanks for the tips.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Those rogue quotation marks happen to the best of us. 😉
Thanks for the heads up, Stephan!
Sonia Simone says
What, Stephan, you’re unaware of the ironclad writing law that any time you publish an article on proofreading, there will be at least one weird, small, and/or hard to catch error in there?
Thanks for the heads up. 🙂
LC Plaunt says
These are excellent proofreading tips!
Mario Didier says
Reading backwards is a really interesting method, have immediately started implementing this into my work!
LJ Sedgwick says
I often change the font (it makes it feel like a new piece of writing even if it isn’t) or I read aloud to find mistakes!
I will try out reading backwards. What helped me was to invest in a writing app that supports me in finding mistakes. As it’s software-based, it’s not perfect, of course, but it still catches a lot of errors and helps me to write better especially as English is my second language and proofreading on my own is not cutting it.
Next step is to invest in a human proofreader.
Reading backwards is a great strategy. Its amazing how many “I’s” & “and’s” along with other common transition words we can miss while in the grove, busting out content.
If available, I always get a second pair of eyes to review “final” draft. They always seem to catch one or two sentences which could be structured a little better.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Right on, Kevin!
Rajesh Chandra Pandey says
I recently realized the power of a useful list. That was about writing and publishing a blog. I followed the list and wrote a successful blog post in less time than I generally take to write.
And now, I’ve made it a point to bookmark this page, I mean this one about proofreading hacks. Simply because I can visualize the merits it has. Seems to be an absolutely actionable post. Thanks a million!
David Fonsbo says
I usually use Grammarly but even Grammarly can’t find everything. I usually end up proof reading a few times and for the last proofreading I usually get another pair of eyes.
When I write fast I tend to skip words, omit punctuation and even repeat words. But after writing a few action/adventure books I have become soooo much better at writing.
Will try reading backwards – haven’t even thought about that!
This article's comments are closed.