A Beginner’s Guide To Online Proofreading (And Why It Matters)

by Dean Evans

Guess who didn't spend five minutes proofreading their copy...

Online proofreading is a necessary part of the web content writing and publishing process. And there’s more to it than running a spell check.

Not checking your articles for spelling errors, grammatical howlers and factual accuracy BEFORE you publish is akin to going out on the town with a crumpled shirt.

You won’t look good.

Poorly written copy will adversely affect how people view your website (and whether they will ever come back).

What is proofreading?

According to Wikipedia, proofreading is: “the reading of a galley proof or computer monitor to detect and correct production-errors of text or art. Proofreaders are expected to be consistently accurate by default because they occupy the last stage of typographic production before publication.”

So how good is your online proofreading? Try this short text excerpt on for size and see if you can spot the eight mistakes in it:

“When Apple Corps launched their first iPhone in 2008, it didn’t dissappoint. In fact, it immediately captured the collective imagination with a geeky allure driven by Apples slick design, the phone’s smart flexibilty and it’s inovative multi-touch approach.”

How did you do? There’s a combination of factual errors, poor spelling and grammatical flaws to find. Click here to see the proofreading test answers.

With the above example in mind, proofreading is essentially ‘copy checking’. It shouldn’t be confused with copy editing.

Proofreading vs copy editing

Copy editing and proofing are important (and often overlooked) steps in the publishing process. Each has its own role to play.

Copy editing is about checking and improving content, looking at the sentence structure, rewriting and applying good web writing guidelines where necessary. It’s where you’ll make the most changes to an article.

Proofing is a little more basic, but no less important. It’s about checking for spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, tense and tone errors. Not to mention, double-checking names, links, facts and figures to ensure they are correct.

You might not catch every error before you press the ‘publish’ button. But you should aim to be 99.9% correct. That extra 0.1% can always be corrected later. That’s the beauty of writing for the web.

How to improve your online proofreading skills

There are two ways to develop your typo-spotting skills. The first is to systematise the process of proof reading. Be methodical. Use our free proofreading exercises to check your draft articles for errors that a spellchecker won’t pick up.

Or you can get some outside help. Many companies offer proofreading services (as do we), where you submit your copy and a professional editor checks it for you. This is often a good option if you’re a business working with print materials or have a lengthy report or book to proof.

Another option is to use an automated tool like Grammarly, which promises to “instantly proofread your text and correct over 150 types of errors.”

Or you could try the Ginger Proof Reader, downloadable software (and an online tool) that claims to be the “most advanced proofreading service available.”

If you’re running a WordPress blog, there’s also a spelling and grammar plugin you can try called After The Deadline. It’s handy, but far from perfect. It’s also no substitute for DIY proofreading.

5 quick tips for proofreading your articles

  1. Leave what you’ve written for half-an-hour (or longer) and then go back to re-read it
  2. Print out your article and go through it pointing at and checking each word with the proofreader’s best weapon – a red biro
  3. As above, but check your article by reading it backwards. This helps you concentrate on how the words are spelt and not what the words/sentences say
  4. Read your article aloud to help you get a rhythm for the sentences and to reveal any spelling or grammar problems
  5. Pay particular attention to words that are spelt correctly but don’t make sense within the context of your article. ‘There’ and ‘their’ is a classic mistake

Creative Commons License photo credit: rick

Want more proofreading information?

You’ll find more proofreading information like this in our book ‘Don’t Trust Your Spell Check’. It’s packed with pro proofreading tactics, looks at why we make mistakes, why we’re bad at spotting them and wraps up with 25+ challenging proofreading tests for you to try.

You can find it on the Amazon (US) store here and on the Amazon (UK) store here. For all other Amazon regions, simply search for ‘Don’t Trust Your Spell Check’.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

PATRICK APPLETON September 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Are you shore Proof reefing is necessary after all their is a good spell shocker hear that I’m using that will can help prevent my from making spelling mistakes at the click of them mouse and its corrected is in seconds!


Tom Slaiter January 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Nice post, the pics funny too :-p I like the quick tips near the end, certainly made me a think a bit more!

Thanks for the post


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