31st August 2018 Claire Hawes

How to proofread your copy

People are less likely to trust businesses whose communications contain grammatical & spelling errors. Follow these tips for proofreading your copy

You can always see your nose. But your mind chooses to ignore it.

It’s a bit like proofreading your own copy, be it an email, report, presentation or marketing copy. No matter how many times you read it through, your mind chooses to ignore blindingly obvious typos.

Worse still, you’re guaranteed to spot grammar and formatting errors the second after you press the publish/send button.

We’ve all done it.

And the reason why is because you’re so intent on getting your meaning and message across, when you proofread your copy you become blind to the words.

So what steps should you take to proofread your copy?

First off, leave a good break before even attempting to proofread your copy. I suggest a minimum of a few hours. Better still a whole day.

Then follow this checklist to help you nail those grammatical gremlins, before you hit the print, publish or send button.

1. List your most common mistakes

If you know you regularly misspell words or miss closing punctuation such as speech marks and full stops, then use your search function in your word processing tool to find these errors.

2. Pay particular attention to the text you’ve written specifically to draw the attention of your reader’s eye

  • Headlines
  • Subheadlines
  • Captions
  • Text boxes
  • Sidebars
  • Pullouts
  • Postscripts

3. Check for homophones

These are two or more words that share the same pronunciation but have different spellings and meanings. For example,  ‘to’,’two’, ‘too’ and ‘pray’ and ‘prey’.

4. Check contractions

By this I mean two words shortened by placing an apostrophe where you’ve omitted letters, such as ‘you’re’, ‘they’re’, and ‘it’s’. It’s easy to misplace an apostrophe accidentally.

5. Check consistency in your editorial style

By editorial style, I mean your use of capitalised words, number style and date formatting. Your copy will be more credible and easy to read if your editorial style is consistent.

Then take note of these proofreading tips given to me by my copywriting community.

Print it out

It’s easier to read from a hard copy. Also, you’re less likely to be distracted by other applications running on your desktop or laptop and notifications that pop up on your screen.

Double the size of your text

If you proof online, view the display of your document at 200%.

Change the font

Trick your mind into thinking it’s reviewing a new document.

Read it forwards, then read it backwards

When you read the text backwards, the unfamiliar word order removes the meaning from the sentence, thus making it easier to spot typos.

I also find reading text backwards helps me to pick up duplicate words, and erroneous punctuation marks.

Change the colour of your text to white. Then copy and paste it onto a dark-grey background

Reviewing white text on a dark background is a tip from website developers who need to proof code.

Put a ruler on your paper and read the text line by line

It’ll stop you from skimming the text.

Use the end of a pencil and pull it along the lines

Once again, this trick forces your eyes to focus on each word.

Read it out loud

Better still, get your computer’s dictation function to read it out loud for you. You’ll pick up missing, misplaced and duplicate words.

To sum up

People are less likely to trust businesses whose communications contain grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

But making these mistakes is easily done.

Proofreading your copy is a lot more than running a spell check over your text.

Of course, the best way to proofread your copy is to get someone else to do it for you.

Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.

And finally

If you would like help proofreading and editing your marketing copy, then drop me a line to get information about pricing.

Claire Hawes, copywriter and owner of The Content BoutiqueAbout Claire Hawes

Claire Hawes is a marketing communications copywriter. She enjoys writing engaging copy that helps businesses to get noticed and attract enquiries. Claire’s experience mainly lies in the business to business sector. Her clients include both businesses and digital marketing agencies.

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