Proofing Your Process: How to Be a Better Proofreader

February 16, 2016 | by BatesMeron

As a copywriter at BatesMeron—and, well, anywhere—there are some essential components that come along with the job. 1. You concept. 2. You brainstorm. 3. You write. 4. You proofread.

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While the first three steps are obviously the more creative and glamorous part of the writing biz, I would argue that proofreading is the most important. Whatever you’re writing—whether it be a brochure, an ad or an email—it doesn’t matter how beautiful the prose is if it’s chock-full of errors. A misspelled word, and you’ve distracted your audience and hurt your credibility. A misplaced comma, and you may have jeopardized the entire meaning of what was supposed to be a powerful statement.

Aside from the more serious arguments for proofing mentioned above, sending off a piece of writing filled with mistakes is just plain embarrassing. I know first-hand, because I used to be an awful proofreader. But with some time and effort, I eventually improved, then devised a few simple practices that have helped me ward off error-filled writing for good so can be providing the best proofreading service now. (okay, most of the time.)

Do not trust spellcheck.

I repeat, do not trust spellcheck. Those red squiggly lines, once considered my best friends, are now things of my nightmares. I think it’s safe to say that everyone has at one time or another placed too much faith in spellcheck, only to have it miss a misused word. Do you and your work a favor—when you’re done writing, read through it. Twice.

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Say it loud, say it proud.

After staring at a word document all day, your eyes start to play tricks on you. Read what you’ve written out loud. Your ears will catch the mistakes that your eyes have glossed over.

Recognize your flaws.

There, they’re and their have always been one of my weaknesses. I understand the differences, but in the frenzy of writing, I always seem to misuse one of the forms at least once. Now, when proofing, I’ve trained myself to briefly stop when I see one of the three and double-check that it’s been used correctly. Knowing your personal challenges when proofing is important, and having a system in place to guarantee that they don’t get the better of you is essential.

Consistency is key.

Once everything else is in order, do a quick consistency check. If you’ve been following a format, make sure you’ve followed it all the way through. For example, if your bullet points don’t have periods at the end, double-check that one didn’t sneak its way in. If you’re using a word that can be spelled in two ways, like healthcare or health care, make sure that every time you reference the word it’s used the same way. Uniformity is the final professional touch that brings everything together.

These are just a few of the many strategies you can use to better your proofreading. Experiment and find the steps that work best for you and you’ll be a proofreading extraordinaire in no time. Or, at the very least, grandma will be safe. And everyone loves grandma!

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