A quick guide to proofreading
How much content does your business produce in a given week or month?
Between marketing emails, blog posts, white papers, social media posts, and more being created constantly, it can be tempting to just churn out content to move ahead with your marketing strategy or other business components. Writing and publishing as fast as you can, should be good for business, right?
Speed is nice in achieving business goals, but when you write too quickly, you risk making errors that can undermine the effectiveness of your business writing. You misspell words, use the wrong punctuation, and even make factual errors that can cause people to trust you less and cost you business.
Proofreading is an essential step in making sure every piece of writing you create is in tip-top shape. It’s exactly what you need to prove your business is the top-of-the-line choice in your field.
What is proofreading?
- 1. Proofreading definition
- 2. Proofreading example
- 3. Why is it important to proofread a document?
- 4. What does a proofreader do?
- 5. Skills and qualities any proofreader must have
1. Proofreading definition
You might know proofreading as simply going over your work before you hit send. You might also know that it’s not making dramatic changes to your work. While that gives you a rough idea, that doesn’t perfectly explain what it means to proofread your document.
Proofreading is the act of reviewing and fixing errors within the final draft of your writing to make sure the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and format are consistent and accurate. You can either decide to proofread the copy yourself or to hire a professional proofreader.
2. Proofreading example
You may employ the best writers in the business however, copywriters often have an entire concept in their heads and know exactly how they intend their work to sound. This can lead to overlooking simple mistakes or leaving gaps in logic, leading to confusion or misunderstanding by the reader.
Considering the amount of money spent on ad spend, printing costs, and even email platforms, can you afford to be misunderstood? Having a proofreader means catching those mistakes, and ensuring that all of your business copy is pristine and clear before you submit it. Here below you can see an example of a proofread work.
3. Why is it important to proofread a document?
Having your copy professionally proofread is important because:
- It eliminates spelling, grammatical, capitalization, and numbering errors that look unprofessional
- It cleans up punctuation mistakes
- It fixes formatting inconsistencies
- it improves word choices and sentence structure
But that’s not all. In addition to ensuring that your copy is completely free of errors, there are other reasons why proofreading is essential for your business:
- It ensures clarity of brand message. You already know the message you want to convey to your audience, but that doesn’t mean it will automatically translate to your readers. Confusing wording or grammar errors can lead to a misunderstanding or a lack of interest. Proofreaders clear up misunderstandings, ensuring that your message is clear and consistent. They eliminate confusion and bring your brand message front and center.
- It gives a positive image of your business. As mentioned earlier, there are some mistakes that just make your writing feel unprofessional and almost rude. Having a proofreader review every piece of work published under your business name eliminates every unprofessional mistake. Having a polished piece of writing reassures your audience that you are, in fact, the expert in your business. After all, if your writing is professionally on point, you must be professionally on point as well.
- It saves your business time and money. Do you know how many times you should be proofreading your document? The answer is multiple. According to UnearthlyTales, even seven times isn’t enough. You could go through your document over and over and still miss little inconsistencies a third-party proofreader will catch. In addition to saving you time, you can save yourself thousands by ensuring simple errors are avoided. Think we’re exaggerating? This typo cost the NYC Department of Education $1.4 million dollars.
4. What does a proofreader do?
Fixing errors is the main action a professional proofreader takes when proofreading, but there is much more behind a proofreader’s job.
Going into more details a professional proofreader checks your copy for:
- Spelling Typos. Even the best writers make the occasional spelling mistake. When writing business copy, the focus is predominantly on the brand message and voice, leaving plenty of room for a misspelled word to slip in. Alternatively, a writer might spell a word correctly, but it’s the wrong form for the context (such as your, you’re, and yore). This can cause an unprofessional appearance or even a poor interpretation of your meaning, depending on how egregious the mistake is.
- Grammar Errors. Grammar errors are the fastest way to discredit yourself to your reader, which can hurt your chance of being viewed as an authority in your industry. Like spelling errors, these are difficult to catch when you’re so focused on conveying your broader meaning. A good proofreader will find your sentence fragments, dangling modifiers, and vague references. They’ll take those issues and turn them around to make shiny new sentences that have a clear meaning, eliminating confusion for your readers and prospective customers.
- Punctuation Mistakes. Want to know the number one enemy in punctuation? It’s the comma. There seem to be a thousand rules when it comes to comma placement. The truth is, comma rules change drastically depending on the style guide you’re using. Comma splices aren’t the only punctuation mistakes you might overlook. It’s pretty easy to second guess a colon (:) or semicolon (;) especially if you don’t use them in your everyday writing. A proofreader will make sure that your punctuation is in the right spot, conveys the right tone, and plays by all the guideline rules it needs to.
- Incorrect Word Usage. There are many commonly misused words and phrases. Sometimes, it’s a matter of focusing on the big picture instead of the individual word. Other times, it’s a matter of simply not knowing the difference. Having the wrong word can change the meaning drastically and can make it unclear to your audience exactly what product or service you’re trying to sell. Let your proofreader make sure your work has the right word every time.
- Inconsistent brand style and voice. Imagine reading a children’s book about sorcerers and wizards. All of a sudden, in the middle of chapter five, there’s a paragraph about doing your taxes. Feels out of place, right? That’s how it feels for your reader when your writing switches style mid-project. Your brand has a style and a voice. It can be conversational, formal, or many things in-between. Regardless of your brand’s voice, it’s important to be consistent. With time your audience will grow to know your voice as an authority in the industry that they can trust and turn to. Proofreaders look for places this voice changes and help create a more cohesive experience for your readers.
- Hyphenation and capitalization errors. We all know you should capitalize the first word of every sentence, but capitalization isn’t always straightforward. Do you know when you should capitalize Lieutenant? Do you know if you’re supposed to capitalize dog breeds? What about monument names? Do you know when to use hyphens? Should someone go to the sign-in page? Or, should they go to the sign-in page? Both capital letters and hyphens can get confusing at times, and they’ll confuse your readers too. Make it easy on yourself and your readers and hire a professional proofreader.
- Verb tenses. Do you ever saw a sentence where the verb didn’t make sense, now? Was that sentence confusing? It should have been. The verb tenses were all over the place, making the sentence feel awkward and wrong. Verb tense issues are very common, so it’s important to check for their consistency in a final draft. A proofreader is a lot like Las Vegas: they help the past stay in the past. They make sure your verbs don’t contradict each other, making your writing awkward and clunky. Business writing should be smooth and easy to read, and proofreaders help make it so.
- Formatting. Formatting your writing is just as important as the words themselves. Don’t believe it? Take a look at this article. Sections are separated by headers so your eyes can easily scan and understand the content. This is even more important when you have a style guide to follow. You want your work to be easy on the eyes of readers by including the right headers and bullet points while avoiding bulky paragraphs. Proofreaders can ensure that each subheading is the right size, the bullet point style is consistent throughout, and the correct font is used before publishing. Poor formatting can lose a reader’s interest before they make it past the introduction, so be sure someone is looking to make your writing as visually polished as possible.
- Idioms. After the day he had, he was ready to hit the hay. Tomorrow’s plans would be up in the air anyway. Figuring it out in the morning would be a piece of cake. Idioms might be fun in your daily conversation, but there’s no need for them in your writing. In fact, idioms might belittle your meaning or make it more confusing, particularly if they’re used incorrectly. Some readers may also find idioms cliche and overused, causing them to lose interest in your business. Proofreaders can help find more original ways to convey your meaning.
- Overall flow. Imagine if Little Red Riding Hood started in the woods, but then she remembered her mom’s warning. Imagine then, that she got to her grandmother’s house and saw the wolf. Then, there was a flashback to a wolf in the forest. That version of the story would be all over the place without a natural flow. You’d get to the end of the story and wonder, “What the heck did I just read?” All writing should have some kind of beginning, middle, and end…and flowing transitions to get you from one place to the next. That overall flow makes your writing easy to read and your meaning easy to follow.
- Sentence structure. There are three main types of mistakes in sentence structure:
- Sentence fragments: These are sentences that are incomplete.
- Run-on sentences: These are two independent clauses that are joined incorrectly. (i.e The dog barked the man called the police)
- Comma splices: These are two independent clauses joined by a comma that shouldn’t be (i.e The dog barked, the man called the police).
Like grammar issues and verb tenses, these leave the reader focusing on making sense of your sentences rather than understanding the point of your content. If they have to work too hard to understand your meaning, they’re likely to give up altogether.
As a fresh set of eyes on a piece of content, proofreaders make sure that whatever writing you’re publishing makes sense to a brand new reader. They’ll tell you if you need more context or explanation to best convey your meaning.
5. Skills and qualities any proofreader must have
If you’re looking to hire a professional proofreader to bring consistency and accuracy to your writing, make sure they:
- Pay extreme attention to detail. A proofreader needs to be in tune with every detail on the page. They need to comb over your writing page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word, and comma by comma. A good proofreader must be a perfectionist so they can catch any mistakes and any misunderstandings.
- Have a strong command of the language. A good proofreader also needs to have a perfect understanding of the language that you want to proofread. Being a native or near-native speaker gives a clear understanding of not only the rules but the flow of writing. Their language knowledge needs to go above and beyond grammar, though. They need to have a solid grasp of voice and style. You’ll want your writing to be as cohesive as possible and only someone with a command will be able to guide it there. If you’re specifically writing in AP or Chicago style you’ll want to ensure that your proofreader has expertise in that format.
- Must be able to communicate well. To make sure a piece of writing communicates a message well, a proofreader needs to be able to communicate well. They should make it crystal clear how and why something isn’t working, and be able to convey it to your writing team so they can rectify it before publishing.
Find a proofreader for hire
Proofreading makes a difference in how you present yourself and your company to your audience. If you’re ready to ensure you’re seen as an authority in your industry without being overlooked for simple errors, then it’s time to hire a proofreader.
The good news is at Ndiwano we’ve already done the hard work of finding great talent for you. Check out our extensive offering of premium proofreading services today to get started.