Perfect Your Proofreading Posture with These Five Tips

Woman sitting with a book on her head

Image copyright Milenko Bokan (bokan76) – iStockphoto.com

Not long ago, my proofreading skills apparently took a short vacation. I published one of my how-to articles with several errors in it, and they weren’t completely corrected until a couple of days later.

The errors weren’t of the minor grammatical variety—they were in blocks of code used to create social sharing buttons. If anyone used the incorrect code, the buttons wouldn’t work correctly.

Embarrassing.

This caused me to wonder what I’d done wrong to let those errors get published. Then I remembered my high school typing class (yes, on real typewriters).

The typewriting analogy

If you’ve ever taken a typing class, you probably remember the teacher telling you to sit up straight, bend your elbows at 90 degrees, and keep your wrists off the table. Setting up your body that way is supposed to help you type quickly, accurately, and painlessly for long periods time.

Likewise, you should set up yourself and your environment to proofread as effectively as possible, making sure your posts are perfect before clicking the Publish button. But before we get to my tips, let’s review what’s already out there.

Two proofreading articles you should read first

It seems like blogs have done proofreading to death. I found tons of blog articles with advice on proofing your work. Many of them rehash the same tips over and over again (another post for another day), but there are two posts in particular I want to highlight because they are the most comprehensive.

ProBlogger – 11 Blog Proofreading Tips You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Copyblogger – 14 Foolproof Proofreading Tips for Bloggers

Both of these posts are process-oriented—they focus on proofreading techniques rather than pointing out common writing mistakes. The Copyblogger post is particularly unique because Shane Arthur helps you to get into a good mindset for successful proofreading.

For some of the most common errors to look out for when proofreading, start here and there.

Posture for Proofreading

Now here are five of my own tips I’ve come up with based on my own experience since I started blogging. These aren’t about physical positions per se. They are ways to set up your body and computer so you’ll catch errors more quickly and easily.

1. Use two different environments

Accomplish the ProBlogger tip to “Choose a different font” by proofreading in two different applications. Each application should use a different font. For example, I compose and proof my posts in MS Word. Then, after I’ve copied everything into WordPress, I click the Preview Changes button and take a few more passes proofreading the post.

Since my blog’s theme uses Arial (a sans-serif font), I set Word to use a serif font such as Times New Roman. The post preview looks different enough from the Word version that it helps catch more errors, especially subtle ones like it’s/its, your/you’re, their/there, etc.

2. Make it easy on your eyes

Hopefully, your blog’s content is narrow enough, and your font size large enough to make it easy on your readers’ eyes. Likewise, your editor should also use a large font and relatively narrow width to help facilitate your proofreading.

In Word, I compose in the Web Layout view using an 18pt font, and adjust the window width so the content is slightly narrower than that of my blog’s. This makes sure the amount of words on each line in Word is different from the blog, contributing to the “change of scene” effect that helps pick out errors.

3. Sleep on it

A common tactic to help find errors is to take some time off and come back to your post a few hours to a day later for a final proofread. That won’t do any good if you’re not alert. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep.

4. Slow down

Copyblogger suggests slowing down your pace of reading when looking for errors, but you should also slow down in general. A favorite quote of mine by the late great basketball coach John Wooden is:

“Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

Rushing causes performance and results to suffer. So if you’re scrambling to publish your post before you leave for the Katy Perry concert, don’t. Come back the next morning and finish your edits. Your readers won’t mind a day-late post as much as they will a badly written one.

5. Get rid of distractions

Proofreading takes concentration. Turn off the TV. Don’t check your traffic stats. Quit checking out the hot new barista at Starbucks. If you’re in a distracting environment, try putting on your headphones and listen to a single song over and over again.

Get in the habit

If you’re new to blogging, go through these tips every time before you publish until they become second nature. The odd typo here or there won’t make or break your blog’s credibility, but these habits will help you avoid the kind of lapse I had a few weeks ago.

Even though errors can be found and fixed after you publish your post, keep in mind that email subscribers will see the errors regardless of when, or if, you fix them. So get it right the first time.

Do you have any tips? Add to this list and share with us in the comments.

Article by Bryan Kerr

I love breaking down the techie side of blogging into easy-to-understand tutorials. That's mostly what you'll find here on The Hobby Blogger.

Comments

  1. #3 is definitely my #1. I generally compose on one day and then review on a different day. Usually I edit the article the next day, but if I can wait two or three days my edits are more effective.

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      #3 and #4 are where I usually slip up, and that was the case with my how-to post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nice post Bryan!
    A tip I’ve seen before is to read the post from bottom to top i.e. backwards. Sure it won’t pick up grammar errors but you sure notice spelling mistakes.
    Also, reading aloud can be very effective for checking comprehension.
    Cheers,
    Caylie

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      Nice Caylie. There’s something different about the way the brain hears words versus sees them. I catch a lot of errors that way.

  3. A very useful post, both for blogging and for writing in general. I wish I could get my students to write, sleep on it, edit, etc., as part of an actual writing process!

  4. Great article Bryan! Another proofreader tip I have is, if you have the text on your computer, make it into a larger font than you’re use to. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to spot mistakes.

    • Good call, Will. I just Command-plussed my browser a couple times tonight when proofing my latest post. It really does help. I even caught a mistake tonight in this post.

  5. Brilliant article on proofreading. The tips are very helpful.

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