Proofreading Skills Development – The Potent Ingredient for Online Marketing Success
Quality contents are crucial for online marketing of businesses. Companies also publish useful contents on 3rd party online resources like blogs, guest posts, article directories, news release sites, etc, to reach out to maximum targeted audiences. Therefore, rapid content publishing had become the need of the hour.
You may think of getting your contents published for NOW, and maybe fix the errors LATER. Small businesses, who do not get much website traffic, can perhaps escape with this kind of approach. Big brands cannot afford to publish poor quality contents because it will impact their credibility. Moreover, it will ruin the SEO effect of the valuable content.
Significance of Proofreading
Pre-publication proofreading is vital for marketing and promotions of all kind of businesses. A single mistake can detract the overall impression of your readers.
- Mistakes and imperfections suggest carelessness in the work. It will make your readers become apprehensive about doing business with your company.
- Content or reading material, ridden with errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling, is hard to read and understand. The purpose is lost right there. It also damages the integrity and influence that you had possibly earned, by working the hard way.
- Proofreading can increase business credibility, enhance consumer loyalty, and of course, increase sales.
Proofreading is an exercise that is performed to decrease inconsistencies, discrepancies, and errors in a write-up. Obviously, it is difficult to avoid mistakes, when you are writing, especially if you are in a good flow…
You will find it hard to believe that there is no piece of writing that is flawless and error-free. Even the dictionaries contain mistakes that slipped through the editorial team.
Even if you take a lot of care while writing a piece, you should make it a point not to skimp on proofreading. Studies have shown that readers mostly SCAN the text instead of READING.
Besides, readers are comparatively slower at reading text on computer screens, than on prints. Internet has indeed become the ocean of information, so the readers will not be at a loss, even if they miss reading your write-ups. Hence, it becomes necessary to convey proper information to your readers. Make it crisp and up to the point, as they might not have long attention spans.
How proofreading works?
You become a little too familiar with your article in the process of writing. That slips in a bit of complacency in you while proofreading. Therefore, while proofreading you will need to completely get disengaged from the work you wrote, and view it from a different angle.
You are familiar with your own writing work. So while proofreading, you see only what you expect to see, and even the typos in plain sight become invisible.
According to some experts, human biology is to be blamed for this weakness of poor proofreading of your own articles. Whenever your brain receives the stimulus that matches with the one it has experienced earlier, it uses that stored familiarity to anticipate the additional stimuli that will possibly follow.
For example, if you use word like ‘thorough’, the chances that you will continue to interpret it as ‘thorough’ increases. Even if the spelling is misspelled as ‘through’, your brain expects correct spelling and makes you miss that error easily.
Rule of the Thumb – Always Run Spell-Check on Your Works
How to proofread?
You become immune to finding mistakes in your own work, because it has already been read by you for a number of times. Hence, fresh pair of reading eyes will have more chances of catching the errors that you missed.
In general, it is not easy to detect faults in your own script, but it is easier to do so, on the works of other writers!
If you are not comfortable with someone else proofreading your works or if you wish to hone your proofreading skills, then here are some helpful tips and techniques.
Tips and techniques to develop proofreading skills
Read it loudly – Read the piece of writing loudly (if alone) or in the mind (if in public). If the script includes dialogues, then give them voices or articulate them, according to the different characters or personalities. If it is a speech, then read it aloud like you are addressing an audience.
The key is to dramatize, and strive for accuracy. Automatically, your mind becomes more alert towards typos and errors in sentence structures.
Reading aloud helps you get the feel, rhythm, and pacing of words. It helps you see if the punctuations are used correctly, if the sentences are very long, if the words are spelt correctly, detect missing or duplicate information, etc.
Print first and then read – Lengthy posts or written assignments must be printed out to be read. While reading, you can mark the errors with blue or red coloured ball-pen. You will be able to decide if the post is to be approved, or if it still needs to be worked on. This method will allow you to uncover plenty of typos.
Change the internal format – If you are not comfortable with reading loudly, or if you don’t have a printer, then proofreading can be conducted on-screen.
For this you will have to modify the internal format of the piece.
Split your piece – For better clarity, split your writing piece into 3 to 4 parts. Too lengthy paragraphs have the tendency to overload your short-term memory. At the end of the paragraph, you may end up not recalling the beginning part. After concluding the proofreading, each of the segmented section can be replaced, to give back its original format.
Change font size – Find out what font size you are comfortable with. It will be helpful to you in the long run too. If you don’t like to change font size, then you can opt to zoom in too.
- Change space settings – The line spacing of your writing piece can be increased, because it will be easier for your eyes. Spaces can have a significant influence on your reading.
- Leave the work aside – If you feel too overwhelmed or overworked, keep away from that writing piece for a day or two. Work on a different project and totally disengage yourself from this work. Now, when you re-read it, the words will sound a little unfamiliar, and you will catch more errors.
- Don’t completely trust the spellchecker – Spellcheckers are okay but remember it cannot distinguish the contexts. For example, they will not be able to differentiate the homophones (Same sounding words but spell differently like ‘team’ and ‘teem’ or ‘too’ and ‘two’). Spellcheckers do not spot correctly spelt words that are used incorrectly in the sentences.
“My father’s memory has not been god over the past few years”
It should actually read –
“My father’s memory has not been good over the past few years”
Just like the traffic lights, the word-processors are tools with limitations, and are bound to make errors. So give your write-up piece a re-read, and it is always best to give it a second re-re-read, before publishing.
General proofreading tips –
- Always copy (Ctrl C) the difficult word (or phrase) that is used frequently in the write-up, so that you can paste it in the next instant, if needed. It will help you minimise the typos.
- While checking for corrections, you will come across some words that have several synonyms, so make sure that the chosen words suit the context.
- Proofreading MUST be performed after the editing process. Otherwise it will be completely FUTILE.
- You have the opportunity to find small typos and errors, until it goes for printing or publication. In the case of books, you can rectify the typos in subsequent edition, but online publishing allows you to fix it up almost immediately.
- When you have to check some tricky doubts, then do it with at least 2 dictionaries. If they tell different things, then you might have to make a subjective choice, but you can search online for more inputs. Use the dictionary that is considered as the best in your publishing circles.
- If you are proofreading for another writer (client), they may argue on some changes made by you, or on the grammar rules. You can discuss more in it, before coming up with the final copy. Ultimately, it is the writer’s (client’s) name that will be on the published post. The customer is always right 🙂
- Repeated reading allows you to catch a number of typos. In each cycle check a particular problem and overlook the rest. Eventually, you will get them all correct.
For example, you can adopt a simple routine of various checks –
- Check 2 to 3 letter words, which can be missed sometimes like ‘is’, ‘of’, ‘be’, ‘for’, ‘and’, ‘to’, ‘the’ and more.
- Check for capitalization
- Check subject-verb agreement like has or have
- Check for the notorious letter ‘s’, which often gets missed in tenses and plurals
- Check uneven spacing and punctuations
- Check if quotes (brackets or parenthesis you open) are closed
- Check for consistency, if you use a particular formatting style
- Make sure the Figures you include are numbered right like Fig 1.1, Fig 1.2 and more.
- Check, check and re-check everything!
The above information gives you the basic techniques to be used in proofreading. If you desire to go deep, here are some areas for you to look into.
Problem areas that need Eye-For-Detail:
The fact is that the common typos are found in short words. Below is a list of usual mistakes every English speaking person makes, while writing, or chatting.
Handling contractions – Lots of them experience issues in dealing with short forms like –
- Its, it’s
- Were, we’re
- Your, you’re
- Whose, who’s
For example, according to language rules, ‘your’ is possessive (means something belonging to you) like ‘your bag’ or ‘your house’, but [‘you’re] is short form for ‘you are’.
Tips – If this is an issue you commonly experience then stay away from short forms and write the full thing, like ‘it is’ for it’s or ‘you are’ for you’re, and so on. Continue this habit until you improve your skills to use apostrophes perfectly.
Dealing with I or me – Should it be, ‘The teacher and I?’ or is it, ‘The teacher and me?’ Usage of ‘I’ or ‘me’ can be tricky at times. If you use it wrong, don’t feel embarrassed, but it is important to learn the rule.
Here are to sentences to help you understand.
- John has invited you and I to a bachelor party. – WRONG
- John has invited you and me to a bachelor party. – RIGHT
In general, ‘I’ is employed, when it is subject, and ‘me’ is applied when it is object. So the second sentence is correct.
Another example –
‘You and I must go to John’s bachelor party’. In this sentence ‘I’ is subject and ‘John’ is object.
Pronouns – Similar pronouns who and whom are used to join 2 phrases or sentences, but they work differently. ‘Who’ refers to subject and ‘Whom’ refers to object of the sentence.
- The old lady, who is sitting in the first row, is a rich lady.
- This is Don, whom I know from childhood.
Homophones – Words that sound very close but are spelled differently like –
- An, and
- To, too
- Made, maid
- Weather, whether
- For, four
Tip – These close sounding words can be caught, if you are lucky. Well, there is no magic wand to resolve this issue. However, you can do special check solely for homophone words.
Conjunctions – Conjunctions like ‘unless’, ‘though’ and ‘although’ connect two sentences. ‘Unless’ determines if an event or statement is true, on the basis of a given condition. If the stipulation is fulfilled, then the announcement is not valid.
- Unless you have good grades, you will not get the job. – correct
- Unless you have good grades, you will get the job. – incorrect
Popular mistakes made using ‘though’ and ‘although’ is human habit of including ‘but’ in the sentence.
- Although you had performed best, but you are still powerless to become a finalist. -incorrect
- Although you had performed best, you are still powerless to become a finalist. – correct
Favourite errors – These group goes by unnoticed even if they do not sound same. Moreover, they carry completely different meaning, but are seen to be misused on many occasions, in too many places. Spell check cannot detect this error either. Grammar check might give you the error indication underline, but not always.
- Then, than
- Form, from
- Lose, loose
- Bought, brought
- Angle, angel
- Practice, practise
- Principle, principal
Tips – To catch these typo errors you will need to read the paragraphs at a slower pace. This will help you to identify if a letter in the word, is used more, or if it is missing.
Repeated letters in a word – The probabilities to easily miss words that carry two or more same letters is more on –
Never assume that the given facts are correct – A good proof-reader always assumes that the piece of writing has errors. They never skip on checking the facts about person name, place, contact number, or site link.
British versus American spelling –
Even if English is a common language, the spellings of certain words are used differently in different countries. For example,
British spellings –
- Colour, neighbour, favourite, honour, humour
American spellings –
- Color, neighbor, favorite, honor, humor
You must have noticed that letter ‘u’ is missing in American spelling. The reason for the difference in this ’21st alphabet letter usage’ between American and British spelling is unknown.
- Curious and viscous are spelled with ‘u’ but curiosity and viscosity do not include ‘u’
- Fourth and four include ‘u’ but forty has no ‘u’
- Superfluous, strenuous, and arduous. include two ‘u’
In the US language, words like ‘catalogue’ and ‘dialogue’ are sniped to ‘catalog’ and ‘dialog’. In the British style spellings, -re is preferred (litre, centre, fibre), in contrast to American favoured -er (liter, center, fiber).
Tip – If you find it confusing, simply change the language of your Spelling/Grammar checker to match the language of your reader audience.
Follow rules – There are certain rules that you will need to follow for the usage of 3 vowels together. Look at the two set of words –
- Hierarchy, fiery, pier – ‘i’ comes before ‘e’
- perceive, receive, conceive, deceive – ‘e’ comes before ‘i’ [If there is a ‘c’, you can change the rule to ‘i’ after ‘e’, instead of the other way round]
The issue arises with words like –
- height, weird, their, weight, foreign
- relief, believe, mischief, piety
Rules are made and broken, as usage of grammar evolves. You will come across many exceptions to the rules in English grammar. Sentences are started with conjunctions and ended with prepositions. Therefore, try not to be too fussy, while proofreading.
After you develop the skill of proofreading, there are chances of you seeing mistakes in every blog, mails, brochure, shop signage, etc.
Refrain from making an attempt to correct everything, because there are some things that regular readers don’t really notice, so proofreaders must ensure that their proofreading technicalities don’t destroy a worth of telling a good story. Remember that proofreading has to enhance the post, and not ruin or impede it.
Importance of proofreading in different sectors
- According to legal professionals, proofreading is vital because mistakes in written works lead to misunderstandings, change in intent or meaning, and possibly cost your business money.
- Law firms lose customers, when typos are detected in legal documents. The complete reputation of a company possibly changes because of lack of proofreading.
- Students get better grades, if they proofread their academic papers. Professors get distracted if the thesis paper (are lengthy) includes loads of errors. The papers content may be incredible, but mistakes create disarray in their minds, while grading. There is even a possibility of them turning down your thesis paper.
- A mis-spelt word or non-grammatical sentence certainly spoils the reading flow, and gives an odd impression about the writer or the business. No one likes to attract that kind of impression from others.
- Especially in promotional materials and advertising, wrong phrases or typos convey unprofessional business image in the eyes of your probable consumers. So it is vital to proofread the contents thoroughly before publishing. Your readers must get the exact meaning of your message.
- When the employer or an employee communicates outside or within the company via letters, e-mails, reports, proposals and other documents, it reflects your business professionalism. Poorly written correspondence can mar your business reputation. Therefore proofreading should never be compromised.
- When documents and audio files get translated, accuracy in proofreading is necessary, because the expressions and contexts will also vary in different languages. It helps to reduce misunderstandings.
- People accept that they are not good at spellings, but they don’t put in the efforts to look for words in a dictionary. Actually, ‘Good Spellers’ are not born. They develop from regular practice.
Even if you are confident about your write-up, it will never hurt you to get a professional opinion, because professional proofreading will surely add value to your script.