Traditionally, 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 content marketers can take advantage of proofreading to avoid the all-too-common extremes of caring too little or too much about your content.
Caring too little about your content is fairly obvious; it created the current content marketing climate.
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 proofreading tips that will help you publish with confidence.
1. Proofread backwards
Whenever I mention that proofreading your text from the end of your content to the beginning is my favorite proofreading method, Sonia always quips:
“How about a tip that doesn’t take forever?”
At which point, I like 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
- 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 and books.
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 live 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 communicated.
Aim to express your message as succinctly as possible.
Your reader will appreciate that you value their time.
A new resource to simplify your content marketing tasks
If you like guidelines and best practices, you might like something new we’ve cooked up. We prepared a small but mighty resource to help you click Publish with confidence.
It’s a framework that lets you check off the most important elements of good content, so you know you’re producing your best work. Because even when we know what to do, we have to remember to do it … every time.