Communications campaigns must be bulletproof.
One mistake, and readers will discount you or make fun of you online. No pressure, right?
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to head off errors before they are published. Here are 10 tips to get your proofreading skills up to speed:
1. Don’t proofread right away.
Once you’ve written your copy, let it sit before you review it. A few hours’ time is good; a few days would be even better. Having fresh eyes makes it easier to spot errors.
2. Check for one type of error at a time.
Trying to fix every mistake in your copy in one read-through won’t work. You can’t focus if you proofread this way. Instead, pick one type of error—such as spelling mistakes—and look for those first.
3. Read it out loud.
Although you might get some odd looks in the office, this tip works. You will hear how it sounds to readers and pick up on any errors that you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.
4. Ask a colleague to read over your writing.
Another set of eyes is always a good idea. Some writers are too close to their work to see certain errors. Another person can pick up on things you might have missed.
5. Use a hard copy.
Print out your work, and proofread that copy. Note corrections on the paper as you spot errors.
6. Use online tools.
Whether it’s from a computer program or writing service, you can find plenty of assistance online. Here are a few resources worth nothing:
Slick Write: This tool uses data to show how you should improve.
White Smoke: This proofreading tool can be downloaded right into your device.
Business Essay: Use this tool if you want a professional writer to give you an opinion.
Proofread Bot: This tool gives instant feedback on your writing.
Custom Writing: Send your work to be edited by the pros at this service, which can save time and effort.
7. Don’t trust spellcheck to catch everything.
Spellcheck is a fantastic invention, but you shouldn’t trust it to catch every error. It’s not a human and can’t pick up on subtler mistakes, such as incorrect usage.
8. Check your facts.
Any facts you include—such as names and dates—must be checked before publication. Take time to double-check everything.
9. Learn from your most commonly made mistakes.
Note your most frequent errors. Become familiar with your tendencies. Each time you edit, look specifically for repeat offenders.
10. Practice, practice, practice.
Proofreading will get easier as your writing skills improve. Practice both writing and editing.