5 basic proofreading tips to make your writing better
Writing great copy is a skill unto itself. It takes many years of practice and dedication to master but no one gets it right on the first try. Being able to proofread effectively can take your writing to the next level.
When I first started as a copywriter, I rarely made it beyond a first draft. At the time, I thought that the work was finished once I’d reached the word count or completed my argument. Often, the piece would find its way back to me with a plethora of errors and an impatient look from my boss.
I realised that those errors were reflecting badly on me and taking away from my writing. Even if you’ve written a fantastic piece of copy, a single error can take away all of its weight. This is why proofreading is such an important skill.
Proofreading isn’t easy, though. Like writing, it takes a long time to master it and find a process that works for you. It’s also important to recognise that proofreading isn’t a 1-man mission. You’re going to need a second, or even third, pair of eyes to make sure everything is accounted for.
With that in mind, I thought I’d note down a few tips and tricks that can help you get started on your journey to becoming a pro at proofreading!
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Use a reliable spelling & grammar checker
Once you’ve finished a draft of your copy, run it through a reliable spellchecker. I use Grammarly, which is a great tool for giving your copy a once-over.
It’ll help you catch any common mistakes like repeated words, spelling errors, and simple grammatical problems, such as incorrect punctuation.
Spell checkers aren’t infallible, though. They can be wrong so keep on your toes when you’re using them! You’ll need other tools at your disposal to catch errors that are more difficult to spot.
Take some time away from the copy
Writing a piece of copy can take a long time, depending on what you’re working on. After you’ve finished a draft, it can be tempting to jump straight into proofreading. Give yourself a bit of time away from it first!
When you’re working on a piece of copy for many hours at a time, it’s natural to become blind to what you’re writing. With some time away, you can view your work with more objective eyes and proofread it to a higher standard.
Read the text aloud
It’s not always feasible to read your text aloud when you’re in an office setting, but it’s worth finding a way to do it. When you read copy aloud, you can identify areas that sound odd or don’t read well.
If you’re just reading copy in your head, it’s easy to gloss over poor punctuation or run-on sentences as you don’t need to worry about natural reading limitations like breathing or pausing.
Have someone else proofread your copy
A fresh pair of eyes on your copy can make an enormous difference. When reading our own copy, we have a natural tendency to view it through the lens of the article we wanted to write rather than the one we produced.
By asking someone else to proofread our work, we gain an objective viewpoint that can provide feedback we would normally struggle to get. Even someone that isn’t a copywriter themself will provide valuable feedback.
It can be tempting to get a group of people to proofread your work, but try and limit it to between 1 and 3 people. Too many opinions and too much feedback can lead to contradictions and confusion.
Ensure all facts and figures are correct
One of the most important stages of proofreading is ensuring that any facts and figures are correct. Double-check your sources and make sure that you’ve referenced them clearly.
Vet your sources thoroughly before posting any content. There’s nothing worse than finding out later that one of your sources is disreputable or has a history of spreading misinformation.