Hands up if you’ve ever uttered, “How did I miss that?” Yeah, we see you…and we’ve been there, too. Whether it was an email, a tweet or a press release, there’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling after noticing an error in your writing (especially when spotted approximately three seconds after pressing ‘send’).
The importance of proofreading cannot be understated. The most brilliant piece of written material can instantly lose its impact because of a misplaced comma or typo. Not only this, seemingly innocuous errors can also call your credibility into question. Let’s be real…some workplaces may not have the luxury of having scrupulous editors on hand; and even robots (aka spellcheck, Grammarly or the like) fail us from time to time. So, fellow writers, the onus is on us to protect our words (and egos) from unnecessary bruising. To help you out, Forward Level Marketing’s content team has offered up their 8 best proofreading tips and tricks:
- Is your content ready to be proofread?: It’s amazing how many people will ask a colleague to proof their work but then cease the process because a new idea has suddenly popped into their mind. There’s no point in editing at a structural level if your thoughts have not yet been concretely organized on paper.
- Set aside time: When are mistakes most likely to happen? When you’re in a rush. Proofreading is not a cursory task; you need time and focus to do it correctly. Sure, deadlines are unavoidable, but it’s paramount to budget proofreading time and make it part of your writing process.
- Put it down: It might sound basic, but seriously…put it down. Don’t try to edit your work as soon as you’ve typed the last word. After writing, your brain is highly connected to what it just produced. Disconnect it. Move on to something else; walk to Tim Horton’s for a coffee, play a round of Candy Crush and re-visit your content later – preferably when you know you’ll be most ‘fresh.’
- Slow down: Use a blank sheet of paper to cover up your work and read it out loud – one line at a time. This will help control the pace at which you read, pumping the brakes on your natural proclivity to skip ahead.
- Look for one type of problem at a time: Don’t overwhelm your brain. Check it first for grammar, then read it again for spelling. Read it a third time for vocabulary. Focusing on one thing at a time will prevent you from feeling overcome. Simply put, if you approach it from too many angles simultaneously, you’re going to miss things.
- Read your content backward: Our brains have the ability to predict what comes next, which is why we can ‘skim’ information so easily. Unfortunately, this skill can work against us when proofreading. To illustrate this point, see how you fare reading the following:
Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae.
Yes, we admit it’s a bit tedious, but reading your work backward is a sure-fire way to weed out typos. This activity removes all context from what you’re reading; obliging you to isolate and scrutinize each word.
- Get a second set of eyes: When it’s your own work, you already know what you’re trying to say. We highly recommend having at least one other person to read your work. For the best result, have your proofing partner read your work back to you so you can hear exactly how it sounds and observe how they’re interpreting it.
- Identify your bad habits: Take notice of your mistakes and think critically about why you’re making them. Were you rushed? Overwhelmed? Daydreaming? Will one of the 7 steps listed above help you to address the problem?
To conclude, comrades, taking steps to becoming a better proofreader will not only prevent those agonizing ‘facepalm’ moments but also instill confidence in your written work — and you as a professional. So go on with your bad self and get ruthless. Protect the power of your words by ensuring they come across as your brain intended.
Discussion: What’s your most cringe-worthy proofreading gaffe? Tell us on Twitter: @forwardlevel #WorstTypoEver