Nifty Proofreading Tricks

Weeding out errors in your content can be surprisingly difficult. Typos in newspapers or in blogs may leap off the page at you. But the blemishes in your own work may remain hidden. Until you see it in print or online and see a rogue apostrophe shining from the page like a beacon.

Why is it so hard to spot errors in our content?

The trouble is, we’re too familiar with our own work. Other people’s work is fresher, so it’s easier to be alert to errors in language. Whereas when we’re working on our own content, we have a certain emotional attachment to it, so it’s hard to be objective. Also, when we’re reading, we skip over a lot of words because we don’t need to read every word to grasp the meaning of a sentence.

If we want to edit our web content, brochures or press releases more effectively, we need to break out of the cycle of familiarity. Here’s a few nifty tips used by professional writers, editors and proofreaders.

  • Type more carefully – It may seem obvious, but most errors can be stamped out during the typing process.
  • Spellcheck – Do a cosmetic edit with Spellcheck when you’re finished typing. If you’re short of time, it’ll weed out the most obvious errors.
  • Edit offline as well as online. It’s harder to read online, which means it’s harder to spot typos. Be kind to your eyes and print out a copy. You’ll weed out errors you wouldn’t have spotted on screen.
  • Read aloud: Reading your content out loud is good for spotting grammatical errors as well as typos. Listening to the rhythm of your voice will help you weed out awkwardly-constructed sentences.
  • Let it sit: If you have time, let a few hours or a full day pass before returning to your content. You’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes.
  • Read backwards: This is an old trick employed by book proofreaders. It’s the best way of breaking your emotional attachment to your words and errors of all kinds become clearer. It’s also the closest guarantee of error-free content, but it is time-consuming. If you’re short of time, the other tips should still serve you well.

The secret of good content is presentation. Accurate proofreading will give your content a professional sheen.


2 thoughts on “Nifty Proofreading Tricks

  1. Hi Derbhile,
    I hear you on this one. When writing (as in creative writing) in particular I always print off my story, as I find it impossible to edit it on screen.
    You’re also right about become too familiar with our own work. Sometimes, I don’t spot mistakes, as I’ve become familiar with them!


  2. What great advice! You’re totally right about us being too familiar with our own work to edit it. As a writer, I have zero difficulty writing copy in praise of someone else–but when it came time to create my own Web site, I rewrote the entire thing three times!


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