In the age of the internet, seemingly endless amounts of content are available at our fingertips. If there’s any doubt in your mind, just search for “How to boil water” on the web browser of your choice. Approximately 88,600,000 results will magically appear before your eyes, including videos, articles, and recipes – yes, people have actually uploaded recipes – on just how to boil water.
If the world wide web has taught us anything, it’s that everyone seems to have a perspective or opinion, and they’re willing to share it with the world even if 88,000,000 other people have already put in their two cents. But with so much information available today, what separates good content from bad content, or better yet, good content from great content? At Keyhole Marketing, we believe the answer is threefold: proofreading, proofreading, and proofreading.
Does that word intimidate you? Don’t worry! We’ll provide some basic principles so you know how to proofread, but before we jump into the nitty gritty details, let’s define what proofreading actually is. Unlike editing, which focuses on structure and flow, proofreading should be the final step of your writing process and deals with surface errors like misspellings, word choice, and punctuation. In other words, if your blog or article were a car, proofreading would be the wax job that makes it shine for all to see.
So, now that you’ve kickstarted your writing, how do you take your writing from good to great? Here are five simple but incredibly effective tips on how to proofread and make your work shine:
Wait, that can’t be right. Doesn’t proofreading require me to tirelessly pore over every word, phrase, and paragraph on the page? Well, in many ways, yes, proofreading is going to take concentration and a dedication to details, but in order to establish that dedication, you need to walk away first. Take a stroll outside, grab dinner with a friend, or watch a movie with the family. Just fill your head with anything other than the draft you’ve been crafting. Once you’ve cleared your head, you can return to your work with fresh eyes and a rested mind, ready to invest the energy necessary to perfect your work.
In the digital age, nearly everything we read and write is on a screen, not a physical piece of paper, but studies are beginning to reveal that we tend to read less accurately and have lower comprehension rates when reading digital content versus hard copies. Give your eyes a break by printing off your draft and reading every sentence carefully. You may be surprised at how many errors become visible simply by rereading your work in a different format.
Some people are incredibly gifted at multitasking, but for most of us, our brains are most efficient when focusing on one task at a time. In the world of proofreading, focusing on too many revision categories can start to exhaust your brain, causing you to skim or miss certain errors. After all, it’s easier to catch grammar mistakes if you aren’t simultaneously checking punctuation and spelling.
In addition, some of the techniques used to catch one kind of error won’t necessarily be helpful for catching others. To make the most of your proofreading, read through your text several times, concentrating first on sentence structure, then word choice, then spelling, and concluding with punctuation. As the saying goes, if you’re looking for trouble, you’ll likely find it.
If you’ve ever been to a writing center in college, the tutor likely had you read your draft out loud. While this experience may be incredibly traumatic for some, reading every word slowly and intentionally will allow your ears to proofread the text for you as you hear how your words sound together. Even better, you may ask a friend or colleague to read your work to you so you can focus only on listening to potential problems that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.
While this may sound like a cumbersome process, reading your text backwards removes the safety net of context and allows you to focus purely on content. Start with the last word on the last page of your draft and work your way to the beginning. Because punctuation and grammar will no longer make sense, your focus will be entirely on the spelling of each word. You can also read backwards sentence by sentence in order to check grammar and word choice without being distracted by structure and flow of thought.
If you’re ready to take your content from good to great, Keyhole Marketing is here to help! Contact us today so we can help take your blogs, articles, and writing to the next level.