7 Creative Proofreading Tips to Transform Your Jaggedy Draft into a Polished Post

7 Creative Proofreading Tips to Transform Your Jaggedy Draft into a Polished Post

Reader Comments (39)

  1. These are great tips! I love proofreading and I do it as much as possible. Eventually I have to stop myself or I will edit the article away.

    I really focus on cutting out the time-wasting sentences and unrelated content.

    I really enjoyed the tip about opening with confidence. I am guilty of “saving the best for last” and that really won’t matter if they don’t read through to the “last”.

    • You make a great point, Kalen: knowing when to stop proofreading is definitely its own proofreading tip. While you want to be thorough, everyone reaches a point where the review becomes counter-productive. You end up correcting things you don’t need to correct. It’s all about balance. 🙂

  2. Is the last paragraph supposed to say “niche” or “nice?” If that is a typo in an article on proofreading…oh the irony. 🙂

    I actually really like this article, though. Thanks for the tips! I bookmarked it in order to keep coming back and reviewing it.

      • Haha, why thank you! I proofread for my job, and yesterday I found a rather large mistake in something that I had looked at several times. It already went to the printer, so I felt pretty bad about it. Seeing the tiny error in this post reminded me that everyone makes mistakes, even the pros, and you have to just let it go and move on!

        Anyway, thanks for your great work! I’ve learned so much from reading articles on this site.

        • Bourt,

          It’s especially difficult for proofreaders to learn “let it go and move on” because we (proofreaders) tend to be such perfectionists! 🙂

          I’ve learned to look at errors that do slip by as a reminder, or rather, evidence, of the importance of proofreading and having multiple people review a piece of writing. Drafts can always be improved.

          Thanks for reading!

  3. Great article Stefanie! I read somewhere that reading your article out loud is a great way to see mistakes. I do that a lot. It is really helpful.

    Also I find that I miss typos in a blog post when I don’t print it off. For whatever reason that makes it easier to spot them.

  4. I recently wrote a blog on this topic! I hearkened back to school days when we had to write a “two-page paper” broke every proofreading trick in the book to extend our writing. Today, as bloggers and content writers, we have the opposite problem–fit these two pages of content into 100 words! You hit upon my main trick which I summarize in a simple statement: Lose the words, save the message. After an edit I always make sure I have not lost any of the meaning for the audience. That’s the litmus test of a “correct” and “incorrect” edit.

  5. Catch yourself in writing cliches and try to re-write in a more creative fashion … nothing bugs me more than reading “…xxx is not to be missed!” in travel niche blogging. Thanks for the reminder that proofreading is more than just good grammar and spellchecking!

  6. Stefanie, thank you for your article.

    It is great when content is like a music. It lets reader both to get the information and enjoy the process of reading. The better a copy is written, the more chances a reader will be engaged with your ideas and follow you.

    But I think the importance of it depends on a target audience.

    For example, people with technical background (and corresponding state of mind) always put the content (core ideas, facts, data and so on) in front of the linguistic form (flow of the speech, comparisons, epithets, even grammatical mistakes etc).

    In many cases I find that a scheme or a graph (e.g. an on-page flowchart or a mind map) is much better than 30 pages of polished text copy).

    But anyway, I guess that a great cocktail made of rich data and masterpiece of writing can make wonders with readers’ minds.

    As regards your question regarding a proofreading technique, I appreciate logical consistency and the balance between dry data and wording fluff. From this perspective I really like your article.

  7. Thanks. This was really useful. I try if possible to write and print out articles a week before I post them. It’s interesting what jumps out of the page when you’ve had a mental break; it gives me a better idea from the perspective of a reader.

  8. Stefanie,

    Your message comes across loud and clear, and kudos for that.

    Many fall into the trap of confusing proofreading and editing – two very different exercises. Perhaps for simplicity’s sake, your article and 7 tips also merged the two. Recommendations 1, 2, 3 and 6 (at least!) refer clearly to editing, not proofreading.

    This summary sheet from the Writing Center at the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill does a pretty good job making the differences clear (https://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/editing-and-proofreading/).

    • Just so. All of these steps are important for good writing – but a minority of them are proofreading. If your proofreader makes changes to better present your point, your proofreader needs to be refreshed on what the task actually entails. (If only because editing while proofreading makes actual proofreading harder to do!)

      • A final round of “traditional” proofreading for glaring errors without heavy editing is a great habit to form before you publish.

        Thanks for the reminder, Breanne! 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing, Patricia! That’s a helpful article if you want to know the difference between editing and proofreading!

      For this post, the “creative” proofreading tips are designed to help a writer improve his or her own draft so that it becomes effortlessly comprehensible and engaging. To serve this purpose, “proofreading” refers to a more general review of your work.

      As you point out, I have blurred the lines of traditional “editing” and “proofreading” a bit, but in my opinion, the bottom line is: does a certain technique help you refine your work and make it better? If your writing becomes more precise and effective, I don’t care if you call the process “editing,” “proofreading,” “Frank,” or “Sally.” 😀

  9. Hi Stefanie, here’s a little story – about how commenting and guest-blogging can work in more than one way.

    A couple of weeks ago you had left a comment on Copybooger – oops, Copyblogger. It struck a cord with me, so I looked your blog up and earmarked the url to become your customer.

    Then I lost the earmark. After searching for it everywhere (without success) I finally decided – today, no kiddin’ – to look for my proofreader/editorial consultant elsewhere.

    My son and grand-child spent the week here with me. The proofreading action item slipped in direct correlation to my grand-child’s boundless energy. You might wonder where this story is headed. So do I.

    I’m just back from accompanying my son and grand-son to the train station. The proofreading action item was still hanging over me – like an anvil on a thin thread. Returning to my ‘puter I find “7 Creative Proofreading Tips To Transform Your Jaggedy Draft into a Polished Post”.

    An must read – and, “Bingo!”, here you are again. I’ll send you my first order for proofreading/editorial c. in a minute or two.

    It all started with a comment on someone else’s post. Circum’s Dance – I love the place :-]

  10. Thanks for the great advice. I’ll definitely be taken these tips into mind when I next proofread my work. I tend to waffle, and get distracted from the main point at hand, so keeping my eye on the prize is definitely something I need to work at.

  11. I work as a technical writer and a songwriter. I’ve found that proofing and editing each writing form benefits the other.

    My Haiku hobby has improved both. It demands parsimony, organization, and creativity which can provide benefit for all types of writing. There’s always more than one way to say the same thing and singular or simple changes can make big differences in both meaning and effect.

    word utility
    copywritten for the close
    click that box right there


  12. Thanks Stephanie for the proofreading tips! I’ve always been pretty good with grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. because I’ve just always loved it. I guess I always thought that’s what proofreading involved.

    I think I agree with Patricia that your article sort of covers editing and proofreading together. I think of editing as cutting out the unnecessary words and inserting the important ones, creating the “voice” of the article, of which #s 1, 2, 3 and 6 touch on.

    I also slightly disagree with #6 in that I think for some it’s perfectly fine to write as they speak. I think those that do this do, in fact, come across as unique and show their own personality. If done properly, they would eliminate the tangents and inconsistency errors you mentioned but retain their unique “voice”.

    Personally I’m not a very good speaker, inserting a lot of “ums”, talking too fast, getting lost searching for the right words. But I feel I write the same as I speak, only in writing I can remove all the above atrocities, still being myself but an edited edition of myself, if that makes any sense.

    Anyway, thanks for the tips. One thing I like and will always try to remember: “Proofread (and edit – my insertion) from your target audience’s perspective with your objective in mind.”

    • Karleen,

      I love this line from your comment: “If done properly, they would eliminate the tangents and inconsistency errors you mentioned but retain their unique ‘voice.'”


      The best writing definitely has personality, but, just like you state, you need to cut out awkward or confusing phrases as much as possible.

  13. Nice proofreading tips!

    I liked the point no# 3 “Choose your words carefully”, because that is where the whole content and idea is based on!

    Thanks 🙂

  14. I re-read out loud Stefanie. Awesome tips!

    After finishing I might re-read out loud once or twice to nail down my post. One note; sometimes I go with the first draft 😉 Not because I am in a hurry but because editing feels like I am watering down my voice.

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. Thanks for the article, Stefanie. When writing a piece, I always find it helpful to walk away from a draft. Taking a break enables the writer to discover previously unnoticed flaws or wordiness. It also helps the author “feel” the narrative – does it flow harmoniously or jerk uncomfortably? Finally, taking a break helps the writer recall additional information that would better enrich the story and inform the reader.

  16. Stefanie, I loved every bit of this article. Why? Because I love proofreading. And it is only through reading your post that I realized that I’m on the right track when I proofread. I do want to add another point though. I think that proofreaders should be unselfish writers, in a sense that they put the reader first all the time. I know writers who’d just say what they want they want to say. But at the end of the day, we write for the reader and they deserve a well-polished and well-thought of piece of writing.

  17. Lots of great tips – in the post and in the comments. Thank you.

    I especially liked the quote you included from Elmore Leonard:
    “Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.”

    It is such a great a reminder to write with the audience in mind. If I include only what they want to know and not add what I would like to say, my writing gets better. It’s what Ginny Reddish directs us to do in her book – Letting Go of the Words – but sometimes it’s hard to do. Words can be so enticing that it’s easy to lose focus. So go back and edit with the audience in mind.

  18. You are spot on about choosing your words wisely. My favorite quote about writing is from Mark Twain. (Some people think he was a pretty good writer.) 🙂

    “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

    And finding that word can make all the difference, as hard as it is to do sometimes.

    Blogging is so immediate and I think a lot of bloggers (myself included sometimes) don’t take the time to sit on a post for a bit and elevate it beyond its first draft stage. Proofreading isn’t any fun, but it’s what makes a good piece a great piece (and never vice versa).

  19. Hi Stefanie,

    Proofreading is a task that I really don’t enjoy (one among the many people you described above). But, however boring it might be, it is an extremely important aspect of blogging.

    Most of the times, I rush with proofreading, giving it less importance and time. And due to this, errors remain here and there throughout the entire post!

    Often, when I scan for errors, my mind tends to read the wrong word the right way. Like- I may have typed in ‘teh’ instead of ‘the’, still, while proofreading, I’d read it the correct way- ‘the’!

    I guess this happens because I’m hurrying up with the process. I’ve never really given any thought towards spicing up proofreading by adding a bit of creativity in there.

    Maybe I should start doing so. Maybe that’s the missing piece of the puzzle 🙂

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips and thanks to Kingged.com, where I found the link to this post. Hope that I’ll soon start loving proofreading 🙂


  20. Great post Stefanie and I really like the quotes. Another I’m always reminded of by Mark Twain, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

    Learning how and when to proof and polish has always been a challenge for me. I know I should write now and proof later – but I continually get caught up in writing, rewriting and rewriting – and then never finishing the article.

    Recently listened to Sonia’s interview with Chris Brogan on writing better. And as Chris said, striving for perfection is not all it’s cracked up to be. Write it and get it out there. Let people take a swing at it and gather that feedback.

    Now if I could just take my own (and Brogan’s) advice.

    Thanks again for your post.

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