In the age of online video and image consumption it's easy to forget that there is still a vast amount of written content out there on the web and in our day to day home and work lives. Whether it's that mailing to promote your service, your new website or a proposal you've put together to present to your boss - getting your written message across clearly and credibly is crucial.
We've all done it, that important but time precious report or piece of marketing material has been compiled in a pressurized office environment where you are also dealing with a dozen other things. You have to keep breaking off to deal with a 'sudden crisis'. Then when you finally complete your written masterpiece, there is no one available to proofread your work!
An all too often solution is to just do your own proofreading or editing. You justify this approach because 'you must get the document out' and besides 'it will be fine as you wrote it so you know the document inside out'. A short time later and voila! Your content project is not only finished but you've proofread and edited it all by yourself too.
You press 'publish' and the moment you do... BAM!!! - in your face like an ice cold snowball. There it is staring defiantly - a typo in the copy!! A typo on your page that you wrote and checked and it was fine then, wasn't it? Oh crumbs! You feel sick. Or worst still - someone else spots it for you! Argh!!! Now you are actually sick.
All is not lost though and if you've spotted the error in time before it's published then great, you've had a lucky escape. But if not, then the cost, embarrassment and extra work is costly for everyone involved. Don't put yourself through that agony again. It's very easy to miss your own mistakes as your eyes get used to seeing the same text you've just written. So how can you avoid this in the future?
1. Hire a Professional Proofreader and Copy-editor
The best way to avoid errors is to try to get someone else to proofread your work.
You could hire a freelance proofreader who can review your work for you. A proofreader will review your work with a critical and impartial keen pair of eyes. Working to your brief they will make sure your style and content is consistent and error free. What's more, when you consider the checking that is done, they also represent great value against the cost of not getting something right. Prices can also vary based on the level of proofreading that you require. Choosing this method can give you assurance that your work has had a thorough check and review whilst also allowing you or your team to focus on other areas of work.
2. DIY Proofreading
Not everyone has the budget for a proofreader but that does not change how important it is to proofread. Here are 3 simple and cost effective steps to help you when proofreading your own work. These methods can work on anything from your own personal CV to your latest corporate press release or website page:
Try to proofread your work in a different format to what you have created it in. PDF is often a good layout to proofread in if you have produced the document in Microsoft Word. The slightly different look means it's often easier to spot errors on this different format.
You could also print your work out and check the printed copy. You can mark your corrections as you go through and read the document. I use this method all the time when typing up detailed notes from meetings for example. For me it's a great way to check over large amounts of copy. It's also a great way to copy-edit too (you can read about that in my next blog).
A great one (if you've time) is to give yourself a decent break between when you have finished writing the copy and when you proofread the text. It isn't always practical to do this but if you can do it then you definitely should. Coming back to your work refreshed will increase the chances of you spotting something you didn't when you were writing it.
These simple steps are by no means an exhaustive list of proofreading tips and they can't ever replace hiring a qualified and experienced proofreader. But if you are short on time and money then these steps can help you improve your final publication.