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. It’s why you hire a content editor to help you out when you don’t have time.
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.
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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.
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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.
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