Whether it’s your precise role within a business to write and edit all the marketing copy, or you’re a one-man-band juggling everything at once, it can be easy to push proofreading tasks to the bottom of your to-do list.
After all, it’s time consuming and quite frankly, unexciting! That said, it is completely and utterly necessary.
That’s why we’ve written this post and accompanying downloadable checklist.
Why is proofreading so important?
The fact of the matter is sloppy errors can create a bad feeling and impact on how your business is perceived by potential customers.
A 2019 study revealed that 39% of consumers feel annoyed when branded content is poorly written. Even if it’s not exactly a requirement of your industry to have superb writing skills, the impression created about your business is one of carelessness and impaired quality.
Not really the image you want to project, hey?
Fortunately for you lucky lot, our Content & Creative department has produced a comprehensive, step by step guide to proofreading your own copy.
Read on below to discover top tips, tricks and advice for making the proofreading process as painless as possible, whilst helping you to create crisp, clean and accurate copy that customers will lap up.
What is proofreading?
What is the difference between editing and proofreading?
First things first, it’s important to clarify what proofreading is, what it entails and how it differs from editing.
Proofreading is the practice of carefully checking copy written for your website, or any other marketing channel, for errors before it is shared with your intended audience.
It involves meticulously checking documents for spelling and punctuation mistakes, typos, inaccuracies, formatting issues and inconsistencies. Proofreading is the process of perfecting writing that is already good.
Editing is the step prior to this that ensures the copy is up to the highest standard. It focuses on improving the overall quality and clarity of a piece of writing. It also looks at enhancing language use and will often include substantial rewrites or reorganisation of the entire copy. Often, multiple attempts at improvement may be required to assure quality.
So, now that we’ve clarified the differences between proofreading and editing, let’s move on to the first step involved in proofreading your own copy…
Step 1: Get in the right mindset
Before any reading even occurs, rid yourself of any distractions – that means making sure that you have any Facebook, Twitter and Slack tabs closed!
Also, make sure you play to your strengths. If you know that you’re generally more motivated, focused and alert in the mornings, prioritise proofreading at this time of day.
If you work better in silence or with headphones, get comfortable in your workspace before you proceed.
Step 2: Spell check your copy
- Use the spell check feature when using Microsoft products. To do this go to ‘Review’ > ‘Check Document’. Whilst it’s not fool proof, it will flag any glaringly obvious mistakes
- Ensure you have selected the correct language version. Typically, US English will be automatically selected. To do this go to ‘Review’ > ‘Check Document’ > ‘Settings’ > ‘Language’
- Google Docs, Sheets and Slides also have an internal spell check feature. To use this, go to ‘Tools’ > ‘Spelling’ > ‘Spell check’
- Follow up by utilising the free proofreading software Grammarly. It can be used for emails and messages (Outlook, Gmail etc.), documents (Microsoft Word, Google Docs etc.) and even on social platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc.)
- A paid version of Grammarly is also available. This premium version is slightly more advanced in that it can offer style suggestions for word usage and sentence structure. It also has a built-in plagiarism checker
Step 3: Pay Attention to Formatting and Presentation
Grammarly and other spell check tools won’t necessarily help you with formatting and presentation.
As such, you’ll need to pay particular attention to the consistency of:
- Page breaking
- Copy and line spacing
- Use of colour
- Numbering and dates
- Font size and type
- Internal brand guidelines
Step 4: SEO Proofreading
You might produce marketing copy in various formats and for different platforms and channels (leaflets, flyers, social updates, emails).
If your copy is intended for your website then, naturally, you’ll want it to rank well on Google’s SERPs.
Google tends to reward well written, error-free and accurate content. Here are some basic things you can check to make sure your web copy is shipshape for both your users and for Google:
- Confirm internal and external links work and are relevant/up to date
- Utilise relevant, descriptive alt tags on all images
- Modify meta descriptions and titles that are too lengthy or too short. You can use tools such as SEOmofo to help with this
- Make sure the web copy features the intended target keyword
- Alter URL’s that feature unnecessary words or are too long
- Insert headings into lengthy text to break it up and improve readability
- Ensure webpages are not too slow to load. You can check this by using tools such as PageSpeed Insights
Step 5: A final Read of the Copy
Proofreading techniques, tips & tricks
- Print your work out and go through it with a highlighter. We recommend that proofreading a printed document versus on screen is more effective
- Read your work out loud. This is especially important when it comes to content optimisation and proofreading for SEO. This allows you to check if the copy reads naturally and that any keywords you’ve included don’t sound forced. There is also a ‘Read Aloud’ feature available in Microsoft Office products. To use this, go to ‘Review’ > ‘Read Aloud’
- Read the content backwards. Reading documents in reverse can help you see your words differently and make errors stand out
- If time allows, revisit the content in a few hours. Better yet, revisit the content the next day
- Curate common mistakes you repeatedly make, or come across when reading colleagues work, and formulate a checklist. Refer to this checklist, in addition to your own, each time you proofread work
- Use the search function within a document, or use Ctrl+F, to actively seek mistakes you’re likely to make. For instance, if you often confuse ‘its’ and ‘it’s’, intentionally search for this mistake
- Look for, and focus on, one thing at a time. For instance, proof your content multiple times for various reasons. Initially, you might simply want to check that the content reads well. Secondly, you could note down any errors or grammatical issues. Finally, you could check for any brand guidelines and tone of voice issues
- Ask yourself the following, final questions before signing off and approving the copy to be published:
-Does it read well and is it presented well?
-Does it adhere to your business’ brand guidelines and tone of voice?
-Is there anything that remains unclear or lacks clarity?
Proofreading Blogs, Tools and Resources
Obviously, now that you’ve discovered this guide, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a proofreading pro!
However, if you’d like to increase your learning and understanding of proofreading best practice, we recommend the following blogs, tools and resources:
- Hemingway is a tool that can not only help with spelling and grammar but also makes recommendations for optimising content for better engagement. The errors are colour coded, breaking down problem areas in a visual way.
- Writing copy for niche industries, unless you are an expert, can involve plenty of research. Unintentionally plagiarising copy is a real possibility and can lead to Google penalising a website. Copyscape ensures that any content that you produce is as original as possible.
- These are some helpful proofreading resources:
So there you have it, the ultimate guide to proofreading your own copy!
Do you have any tips or tricks for proofreading that we haven’t included? Why not leave a comment below or tweet us @SiteVisibility?
Alternatively, if you’ve found this blog post useful, why not download our proofreading checklist.