Traditionally, content proofreading is a separate task from editing.
And I still treat the two as different activities.
However, the creative benefits of a consistent proofreading process surpass the classic definition of proofreading.
Modern writers can take advantage of proofreading to avoid the all-too-common extremes of caring too little or too much about your content.
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 let our writing sit before we edit and proof it. That’s great advice in theory, but not realistic in a fast-paced content publishing environment.
“Proofreading backwards” 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 (here’s how to
- 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.
This tip is especially helpful to find “it’s/it” and “they’re/their/there” mistakes.
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 begin with the same word, your writing won’t be as dynamic as it could be.
Use this opportunity 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.”
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 an article look sloppy.
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.
To impress your clients and bosses, don’t rely on someone else to inspect your work for accuracy.
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.
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 webinar or event, don’t send it without first double-checking that the day of the week mentioned matches the date.
Then confirm the start time and time zone.
9. Scrutinize hyperlinked text
Making sure your hyperlinks work is part of your publishing 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 when you edit your content, proofreading is still an excellent way 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.
Bonus: Soon it won’t be 2020 anymore …
That’s not a celebratory subhead above (but if it makes you want to celebrate, I won’t stop you.)
Every December, it’s my editor-duty to remind
anyone who will listenwriters to stay aware that, starting in January, it’s really easy to mistakenly write “2020” in content.
Although, this year, something tells me it’ll be easier to remember we’ve moved on. Nonetheless, this error usually occurs when communicating dates for meetings, webinars, or events. It’s related to Content Proofreading Tip #8.
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 tell your colleagues to write “2021” whenever they need to reference the current year.
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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.
- Words drive engagement.
- Words drive customer experience.
- Words drive 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 — 2021 marks Copyblogger’s 15th anniversary of helping accelerate the careers of writers just like you.