Editing and proofreading are a crucial part of the writing process. No matter what kind of content you’re creating – an email, a blog post, or an ebook – you should read it over and over again until you’re sure it’s impeccable.
Crafting content with grammar, spelling or punctuation errors suggests that you don’t pay attention to the details. Such an approach may cost you a lot! If you’re a blogger, you certainly don’t want to annoy your readers with articles and email campaigns which are not polished to perfection. Furthermore, if you’re working as a writer or a copywriter, providing your clients with flawless content should be among your top priorities.
But what’s the secret to the effective editing and proofreading? Today I’ll give you some useful tips on editing and proofreading your content like a pro.
This article may contain affiliate links, for more information, read the Disclaimer. If you click on any of them, I might get a tiny commission. I’ve tried all of the mentioned products and services, and my opinion is sincere.
Stick to the style guide
Especially if you’re writing a book, a manuscript or another type of content with thousands of words, you have to use the same rules throughout the whole text. You can’t start writing in American English, switching to British English halfway.
The best way to solve this issue is to choose a style guide beforehand. In case you’re writing for a client, ask them whether they can provide you with one developed for their brand.
Once you’ve got the style guide, be consistent in applying the necessary rules regarding apostrophes, hyphens, capital letters, citations, names, etc. Don’t forget the tone of voice and the formatting of the text!
Start with a creative draft
Divide your writing process into stages – creating a draft, editing, proofreading. If you want to boost your productivity and creativity, forget about all the rules and just get into the flow during the draft phase.
Allow your brain to reveal its potential without burdening it with commas and subject-verb agreements. Dive into the topic and perform your best writing.
When you’re done, take a short break and apply the following editing and proofreading tips.
If you need captivating images for your flawless texts, check out my article 20 Websites With Beautiful Free Stock Photos!
Go through the facts
After you’ve finished the first draft (and you’ve taken a break!), check whether the facts you provide in the text are accurate. Pay attention to names, addresses, numbers, locations, dates. If you have any doubt, double check the information using a trustworthy source.
Factual errors are among the most fierce enemies of your content. Misleading your readers can destroy your reliability as an author in the long term. Make sure that what you’ve written is valid before going to the next stage of the editing and proofreading process.
A mistake never comes alone
Whenever you find a mistake in your writing, you have to check whether it’s the only one of this type. For example, if you notice a line where you’ve used “then” instead of “than”, go through your text and fix all the sentences where this has happened.
You can press “Ctrl + F” to find where “then” and “than” stand in the text. Check all the lines one by one to make sure there’s no other error like this.
Create an error list
Do you struggle with the same grammar or spelling rule over and over again? Save yourself some time and create an error list with the most common mistakes you make.
Every time you find a repetitive blunder in your text, add it to the list. Once you start with editing and proofreading your draft, search for the words and phrases from the list using “Ctrl + F” and make sure they’re written correctly. This will help you improve your writing as well as be more aware of its quality.
You can also use the editing and proofreading checklist I made for you. It’s printable and free!
Morning is wiser than evening
Sticking to this Bulgarian proverb has helped me a lot throughout my life. Making significant decisions late in the evening is never a good idea. But how does it apply to the writing topic?
After working hard on a piece of content and finishing it, don’t send or publish it yet. Go to sleep, have a good night rest, and read it once again in the morning.
You’ll be surprised how such simple advice can give you a completely different perspective to your work. You might find some leftover errors or, even better – new ideas might visit you all of a sudden!
Change the font
You already know what you’ve written which makes it more difficult to spot any errors. Change the font and see whether you can locate anything wrong in your writing.
Use Caps Lock
Copy your text and paste it into an online tool like ConvertCase. This website allows you to transform the letters as if they were written with “Caps Lock” on.
Thanks to this unpopular trick, your brain gets one more possibility to see the words from a different perspective. Therefore, you instantly increase your chances for efficient editing and proofreading.
Print your text
As you’re most probably using a computer for writing, you see the text on your screen. But the way you consume the words as a source of information is not the same when reading it on paper.
Print your text to reset the comprehension process. Read the whole piece from the beginning and use the good old red pen for marking your errors or writing down any ideas for improvement.
Four eyes see more than two
Are you tired of staring at your own writing? Ask a friend to read your text and provide you with feedback.
I have to warn you though. This advice can be a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, many people are illiterate. Not your friends, of course not! But still… Following random advice can affect negatively your style and even your self-confidence. Furthermore, they can also say “It’s perfect!” when it’s not.
Find an editing buddy
This tip is closely related to the previous one. Think about sending your content to somebody who’s working in the industry or at least is passionate about words. They’ll enrich your content thanks to the fact that they have a completely different point of view.
You can offer to do the same for them. Editing and proofreading other people’s content is an excellent opportunity for gaining some additional experience. The more you do it, the faster and more efficient you’ll be. Until you start editing and proofreading like a pro!
When I started writing, the spell-checkers were utterly useless. The suggestions they were making were ridiculous, and my texts were better off without them. But last year I discovered Grammarly – a free AI-powered online editor which detects critical grammar and spelling mistakes in your writing in English. Something like an online editing buddy, available 24/7!
Another free tool provided by Grammarly is the browser extension for Chrome, Safari, Edge, and Firefox that allows you to correct critical errors on the go. It doesn’t matter if you’re creating an important email using Gmail, or you’re uploading a social media post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Tumblr – you can improve your writing instantly.
For longer texts like articles or ebooks, it’s recommended to copy and paste them in the Grammarly’s online editor.
In the article The Freelancer’s Guide to Surviving Christmas I advised you to buy yourself a present as a reward for working hard in the past 12 months. And as I practice what I preach, I got myself the Premium version of Grammarly. Once I tried it, I could only wonder why I haven’t done this sooner! The paid upgrade offers plenty of cool features like:
- advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure
- vocabulary enhancement suggestions
- genre-specific writing style checks
- instant access to definitions and synonyms of any word
For me, this is more than a spell-checker. Of course, it helps me create error-free content which is easy to read and serves my purpose. But it also provides me with an explanation about every suggested correction. This way I can make an informed decision whether to apply it or not. Moreover, I become aware of the most common mistakes I’m making and my weakest spots as a copywriter.
See for yourself – sign up for the free version now! Click here to access Grammarly (affiliate link). You’ll discover an entire world of useful features which will help you create error-free and high-quality content.
Read it out loud
When you’re reading inaudibly, your eyes are scanning the page instead of going through the content word by word. One of the last steps of the editing process is reading the text out loud.
Imagine there’s somebody in the room, and you want them to hear what you’ve written. Don’t mumble and don’t say the words too quickly. Instead, read with the appropriate intonation and take into consideration the punctuation.
This is my favourite technique for improving my articles. It allows me to hear when something’s unclear or sounds weird. It also helps me find out which sentences need improvement and what’s the overall tone of voice. Confusing sentences, missing words – you’ll spot them all!
Forget about multitasking
Making the editing and proofreading process effective requires uninterrupted concentration. Therefore you have to limit any potential distractions until you’re ready with this task.
If you check your phone or email while you’re trying to improve your writing, you’ll have to regain your focus once your attention is back to the text. Such routine destroys your productivity and can also be exhausting. Multitasking is a brain drain; a no-go when dealing with something so slippery as words.
Enrich your language skills
Literature is among the most sophisticated applications of language. Reading quality books can help you enrich your language skills on different levels. You’ll expand your vocabulary and develop a sense of syntax.
The ability to make a distinction between the nuances of different sentences is crucial for creating engaging content which stands out. Nourish this talent and you’ll skyrocket your writing career.
Even though this advice is a bit obvious, I have to mention it. The reason for this is simple: many people experience issues to delegate part of their work. If you’re a perfectionist, you’re most probably one of them. And you’re trapped in a vicious circle.
You want your content to be impeccable. You spend hours and hours in editing and proofreading, but you keep on having the feeling there are flaws beyond your competence. At the same time, you don’t want to trust anybody else because you think they can never do it good enough.
This thinking pattern is poisonous and costs you a lot of effort and stress. There are niches in each industry for a reason – no one can be the best in everything. You can be a great author when it comes to ideas or style. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that you never make grammar mistakes.
I can think of at least two ways out of this situation.
Work with me! I was an Editor-in-Chief of a large website (500k monthly visitors) for more than 4 years. I had to edit and proofread every single article before publishing it. This makes hundreds of pieces per month! Furthermore, I have experience in editing and proofreading books. And as I said, working with other people’s text develops one’s editing and proofreading abilities like nothing else.
Use Google Docs
Using Google Docs will drastically improve your working routine. It looks like a “normal” text editor, but it offers a set of features which make it irreplaceable.
As it’s connected to your Gmail, it stores all of your files in Google Drive. This means that you can access them from any device – you should just sign in your Gmail account. You can also share your files with other collaborators or even with your clients. No more uploading text files to USB sticks or sending them to your own email in order to access them on the go.
Even if you don’t have access to the Internet, you still can add information to your files. The only thing you have to do is to synchronise Google Drive with all of your devices so that it has permission to save offline changes.
Read the text from the end to the beginning
Sounds weird but it works! This proofreading trick has helped me in a lot of situations when my brain just refuses to focus on the text anymore.
Reverse reading gives you the opportunity to perceive the written information differently. Start from the end and read the text sentence by sentence. You’ll most probably find at least one tiny mistake that has escaped your previous checks.
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