Plan, research, write, proofread.
Plan, research, write, proofread.
Plan, research, write, proofread.

The process to produce a honed piece of content is hammered into us writers from day one.

Every stage is as vital as the next, deep-rooted so that if one should fall, the entire house would come crashing down. Yet if we’re all completely honest, we know that proofreading often bears the brunt of tight deadlines and demanding schedules. As the final stage in the process, each precursor can eat away into the time left on a project, turning proofing into no more than a quick grammar and spelling check before pinging the piece off to your editor.

Yes, grammar and spelling are the obvious boxes to tick. But what about the larger picture of the context in which the piece sits, its purpose and whether or not it’s an interesting piece to read? These factors are all crucial to content creation, and are as important to your proofing process as the textbook corrections.

Read addfolio’s guide on how to proofread like a pro to polish your piece, and never get called up for miisspelt words and grammatical errors’ again. (See what we did there?)

The finer points

You’ve likely heard many of the tips before, but there are a few nuggets when it comes to proofreading that will always be helpful.

Time

Give yourself plenty of it. After you’ve finished writing, leave yourself enough time to take a step back, ideally a day, before coming back to proof it. You’ll come back to it with a fresh mind and eyes ready to pick out glaring errors that your eyes have skimmed over before.

Print or read aloud

Find what works for you, some like to print out a hard copy and mark changes with a different coloured pen. Others find reading the piece aloud helps, as your tongue will naturally trip over mistakes, forcing you to notice them. Perhaps try emailing it to yourself, walk away from your computer for a few minutes then come back and read it in the email. A new format or structure refreshes the eyes and can make different elements jump off the page.

The small print

It may be obvious, but you must be vigilant with all kinds of grammatical errors, especially ones you often make. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for variant spellings such as colour instead of color. You never can trust a spellcheck.

If little mistakes are starting to slip through, try proofing each line between two pieces of paper so your eyes can’t skim ahead. Also, if you’re unsure about a grammatical rule, it’s definitely worth Googling just to be sure. There is absolutely no shame in sense checking.

Facts and figures

Whenever you come across a fact, figure or proper noun, it’s worthwhile giving it a quick Google to ensure it’s correct (this only really applies if you’re proofing someone else’s work, as you’ll know if what you’ve written is correct!).

Red pen spelling correction on a notepad

The bigger picture

You may be a grammar and spelling whiz, and your content is no doubt spick and span, but that doesn’t make it good. Many a proofer has fallen down by not thinking about the bigger picture, and if your piece is boring, confused and dense, no amount of correctly used semicolons will save it.

Find the goals

Think about the goals of the piece. Why has it been created? Is it for entertaining, informing, spreading the word, or joining a debate? Should it drive sales, build the brand, or engage email sign-ups? Once you’ve thought about where the piece will sit within the context of the strategy, you can critique it to see whether it fulfils those goals.

Keep the thread

Does the piece keep track on its focus, or does the thread of the topic waver around? A little tangent here and there can be interesting and help to keep a piece alive, but too many and your audience will become as confused as the writing is, and you’ll lose them.

Tailor the structure

How is the piece structured? Is it one block of weighty text or is it broken down nicely into meaty paragraphs? If it’s appropriate, relevant headers are a nice way of guiding the reader.

For example with this piece, some readers may have their own grammatical and spelling techniques for proofing set in stone, so they do not need the first section. The handy headers allow them to skip forward to the section they came for, and the bit they really want to read; the bigger picture.

Consider consumption

People spend a lot of time reading and researching online via their mobile phones – where screens are small and heavy blocks of text are not appealing. How users are consuming the content should be considered during the planning phase, but don’t overlook this element during proofing.

Proof as a writer – and then as a reader

Finally, take your writer’s hat off and get in the mind of your readers. Would you read it? Would you share it? If the answer is no then you may need to re-think your approach. It’s so important that content adds value and is shareable, and your opinion on this is as important as anyone else’s.

Use the addfolio proofreading top tips and you’ll soon be on your way to proofreading like a pro. If you’ve got some nuggets that you think we’re missing, let us know – we’re always learning.