Proofread Like a Boss
12 Proofreading Tips to Improve Your Content Writing and Editing
Writing the perfect piece can sometimes seem nearly impossible. You spend hours and hours trying to perfect your midterm paper, an article for your town’s newspaper or a work summary for your boss, but you still aren’t confident in what you’ve delivered. You begin to notice, oops…I misspelled this person’s name or hmm…I don’t think a comma was supposed to go there.
Confidence in writing comes with confidence in your process. You can sit down and write for hours but if you only spend 30 minutes editing and proofreading your work, then you’re not giving your work the time it deserves.
Learning some simple tips and tricks to implement as part of your writing process can save you from a lot of stress. No one likes the feeling of sending in a paper or printing out 100 copies of something and noticing a few small errors that could have been avoided, had you proofread your work.
Here are 12 proofreading techniques to help you submit your work with confidence!
1. Fact check
Double check spelling of names, companies, etc. Also, make sure dates and times are correct. A quick Google search can save you from making the smallest oversight.
2. Sleep on it
Go to sleep and look at your work with fresh eyes in the morning. You spend hours writing your paper and that’s all your brain can think of. Before proofreading, give your eyes and brain a rest, so you can do a thorough job in the morning.
3. Read backwards
If you’re in a time crunch and have to proofread and edit your work in one day, this tip will be a lifesaver! Reading your work backwards gives the term “look at it with fresh eyes” a whole new meaning. This will not only help you focus on big errors, but you’re likely to find smaller errors, too, such as spelling, overuse of words and things you can simplify.
4. Don’t be wordy (in order to → to)
Remember in school when papers were given word limits? “Keep your essay under 500 words,” your professor would say. This tip can really come in handy in instances like these. Go through your work and see how many times you wrote “in order to” or “a number of.” These phrases are wordy, and they add up. “In order to” becomes “to,” and “a number of” becomes “some” or “many.” If you correct these errors, you will most likely have so much more room for actual content.
5. Pause at punctuation marks
This tip is crucial. Getting comma crazy is one of the worst things you can do in an important paper. Putting a question mark where an exclamation point belongs is almost just as embarrassing. Give yourself time to pause at every comma, period and apostrophe, so you can save yourself from these silly, catchable mistakes.
6. Beware of homonyms and homophones
Let’s set the record straight once and for all. “There” is a position, meaning not here. “Their” means belonging to others. “They’re” means “they are.” If you’re not sure of which spelling to use in a certain situation, Google it.
7. Use a ruler for focus
When a horse runs in a race, they have blinders on, so they don’t get distracted by things in the background. The same goes for a writer when proofreading. Using a ruler to block out the other things on the page can help you focus on one sentence at a time. Of course, this means you’ll need to print out your work and proofread on paper.
8. Read your work out loud
Listening to your words, is much better than just reading them. When we read, our eyes can tend to jump over and fill in words without us even knowing. Reading aloud forces you to read each word and focus in on what is being said. This is the ultimate tip to help you catch errors.
9. Look for one type of mistake at a time
It’s almost impossible to find every error in one read-through of your paper, and you actually are making it that much easier to skip small mistakes. Give your brain a break and check for one kind of error at a time. That means, only focus on proper noun spelling or punctuation each time you read through your work.
10. Steer clear of jargon
Words that are specific to certain fields or professions are called jargon. Jargon is totally fine if you are speaking to an audience that would understand what you’re talking about. You wouldn’t talk about cardiomyopathy to a group of kindergartners, so try your best to really explain something if it seems like jargon.
Don’t multitask, make sure to have uninterrupted quiet time to 100% concentrate on what you’re thinking and writing. Constant interruptions make writing coherent thoughts much more difficult, and set you up for missing simple mistakes
12. Get another set of eyes
Ask someone else to proofread. After a while, once we’ve written and reread something, we start to fill in gaps or read what we intended to say, rather than what’s actually on the page. A fresh set of eyes can catch things on first read that you may miss.
Just in case you’re not versed in proofreading marks, here’s a little cheat-sheet to use while editing.
Kennedy Caldwell is a Marketing Coordinator here at Clever Girl Marketing. A recent Kent State University grad, we snapped her up when we got a load of her story-telling abilities and can-do attitude. She’s already proving her prowess, successfully helping our clients communicate their value and engaging with audiences on social media.