Are you skipping the most important step of writing?
When you’re developing content – writing – the most important step in the process is not putting words on screen. This remains true no matter what you’re writing about – or for: website content, brochure copy, even social media posts. The most important step in the process is proofreading.
Unfortunately, proofreading is also the step most people skip in the writing process. When that happens, you’re often left with grammatical errors, typographical issues, and sometimes, just plain WRONG information.
Some people find proofreading to be difficult, as they don’t possess an attention to detail that is often needed to proofread something accurately. You don’t have to be a copywriter or editor to catch mistakes, though. We recently completed a major proposal here at the office. Throughout the course of production six different staff members proofed the proposal. And every single person, with his or her fresh eyes on the project, caught something.
How can you improve your proofreading skills?
- Walk away: If at all possible, walk away from your work for several hours – even a day or two. Giving yourself some time away will bring new perspective and you’ll catch more errors than you would have otherwise.
- Minimize distractions: The telephone ringing, e-mail notifications popping up, other people talking to you all distract you. It’s easy to lose your place if you don’t minimize distractions. Try turning off your phone, shutting down e-mail, and even closing your door.
- Look carefully for “typos” that spell check won’t catch: Homophones (to vs. too, your vs. you’re, etc.) and inconsistencies in tense (had vs. have, walk vs. walked, etc.) are two of the most common offenses here. Because they are spelled correctly, spell-checking software generally will not catch them. (Remember, there is a big difference between spell checking and proofreading.)
- Print out: Print out whatever you have written and look over it on paper. This isn’t just to see how the design portion looks – it’s to read over it as well. Studies have shown that more errors are found when you print something off than when you read over it on the screen.
- Have more than one person proof it: The best thing you can do to proofread anything you write is have more than one person look at it. Even if they only find one missing – or extra – apostrophe, it helps. There is, and always will be, a big difference between its and it’s.