There’s nothing worse than hitting the ‘publish’ button on a blog post and realizing that you’ve made a glaring error. It’s much the same when you write a tweet or a status update, where your only option is to delete it and start again. With most blogs, you can go back and edit, but posts are propagated so quickly now that your error could be circulating in cyberspace before you have time to correct it. The solution? Effective proofreading.
Proofreading – What’s Involved?
There’s much more to proofreading than letting your blog editing program or Microsoft Word put squiggly lines under anything questionable. Anyone who’s used Word regularly knows that its spelling dictionary is limited and some of its grammatical ‘rules’ are questionable. (Or is that just me?)
Why You Can’t Rely On The Spell Checker
When checking copy in Word, it sometimes throws up anomalies. An example is failing to understand collective nouns and thinking that the subject-verb agreement is incorrect. In addition, the program can easily be fooled by homonyms, which are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. Any software program without a grammar checker (which is most of them) won’t be able to tell that you wrote ‘their’ when you meant ‘there’ or ‘they’re’ – and you can see how that might cause problems.
Ready, Set, Proofread!
So, what can you do to make sure that your blog posts are error-free? Do your proofreading the old fashioned way. You need to proofread in a place where you can concentrate – the quieter the better.
The Value of Print
Over the years, I’ve learned to proofread on screen, and this works well for short posts. For longer posts, though, I find I’m more likely to catch all the errors if I print them out. Whether you’re reading on screen or on paper, it’s a good idea to check contractions, punctuation and numbers – a missing (or extra) zero makes a big difference to a quoted figure.
Improving Proofreading Success
There are also techniques you can use to improve your success rate. These include:
- reading your post aloud
- using software to read it back to you
- pointing to the words you are reading so you focus on them properly; or
- covering up everything but the line you are reading. This also helps you to focus.
An Unusual Tip
One of the strangest tips I’ve seen is to read the post backwards. This helps you to focus on every word, though it won’t necessarily help you identify problems with meaning – and that’s another important aspect of proofreading. Successful proofreading is not just about avoiding spelling and grammatical errors, but about making sure that your post makes sense and reads well. That’s a less tangible factor, but this is one time when it’s good to get a second opinion. Get a friend to read your post and flag anything that is unclear.
And here’s a bonus tip for all the copywriters out there: according to my sister, a marketing copywriter extraordinaire, reading or viewing writing upside down will help reveal anomalies in layout. 🙂