proofreading


Books are beasts. Huge and often unwieldy. Novellas can range from 25,000 to 70,000 words; novels from 70,000 to north of 120,000 words. So there’s plenty of scope for missing mistakes when you write and self-publish one.

The bigger the word count, the greater the chance that you’ve made (and missed) errors such as misspelled words, missing words, duplicated words, inconsistencies and wayward formatting.

If you plan to self-publish a book on Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, CreateSpace or any other platform, you might not have the luxury of working with an editor who can bang your manuscript into shape. You might not have the cash to hire a professional proofreader to give it a final polish. You’ll probably be doing all this yourself.

And that’s OK. You CAN do it yourself. Here are some of the ways that I’ve found to stamp out screw-ups in a book before you publish it. Maybe they can work for you…

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In the rush to publish, nobody noticed that the headline should have read 'Bradbury'.
When blogging or writing for the web, speedy content publishing is often critical.

So much so that it’s easy for bloggers and web writers to abandon proofreading to work with a ‘publish now, fix errors later’ strategy.

But it’s not ideal. You can get away with this approach if your website/blog is small and you don’t get much traffic.

But bigger brands and businesses demand more attention to detail. They can’t afford to have poor spelling and wayward grammar ruining the impact of valuable content.

You can improve the accuracy and effectiveness of your content by understanding why mistakes creep in and why you don’t spot them. See if any of these sound familiar…

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Spell check fail as news channel writes Prince of 'Whales'.

Word processors like Microsoft Word and OpenOffice have certainly made writing easier.

But they’ve also made writers lazier. Traditional proofreading is often an afterthought in a world of intelligent auto corrections and real-time grammar checking.

Consequently, it’s tempting to leave error-hunting to a spell checker. But effective proofreading isn’t as simple as a spell check, and running a spell check shouldn’t be a replacement for spending some time carefully re-reading text before you print or publish it.

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If you’ve already tried our first proofreading challenge, you might be looking for some more proofreading tests to give your mistake-spotting skills a workout.

No problem. Here are two more quick tests to see whether you have a proofreader’s eye for editorial detail. See how many errors you can find…

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Shop Closed Due to Spelling Errors

Oh dear…

Did you know that there are 7 writing mistakes that a spell checker won’t spot?

It won’t catch correctly spelled words that are used incorrectly in a sentence.

It can’t query facts, dates or events and it will often struggle with the spelling of people and places.

A spell checker also doesn’t know whether a hyperlink works or even points to the right page.

These things require a human eye. A proofreader’s eye. Preferably two.

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What's wrong with this sign?

This is a different kind of proofreading test.

The challenge is this: can proofreading software provide an effective shortcut to good text checking?

Of the five options I’ve chosen, four are digital tools that claim they can help you with proof reading/checking your copy.

They are Grammarly, Ginger, After The Deadline and the built-in grammar and spellchecking talents of Microsoft Word 2010.

The fifth option is my wife, Kate. She obviously doesn’t like to be referred to as a ‘proofreading system’. But she is a trained magazine production editor who dissects raw copy for a living. Often brutally. She plays the part of a proofreading service for hire.

Read on to see the results.

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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.

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How good is your proofreading?

Why should you try our proofreading test? Because the importance of spellchecking, copy-editing and proofreading your content shouldn’t be underestimated.

Creating good content is about more than just publishing good information. It’s also about making sure that the information is ACCURATELY conveyed.

So how good are your proofreading skills*? In the process of writing extra sales page copy for The Good Content Code, I put together this quick proofreading test. How many mistakes can you spot in the text below?

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No Technology in Brighton

Does bad spelling make you look stupid? In certain circumstances, yes...

You don’t have to be a good writer to produce good content. You don’t need to have a beautifully designed website either.

But what you write has to be spelt correctly, the information should be correct, the links need to work, the facts should be checked and the headline needs to deliver on what it promises.

It’s important to check what you’ve written. Accuracy matters.

The most efficient approach is to write everything down into a rough first draft. Then go through it with an editor’s hat on, applying the core elements of web writing – tightening up the sentences and paragraphs, obliterating unnecessary words, cutting out the fluff and formatting for skim-reading by using subheadings.

If you have the luxury of time, leave what you’ve written for a few hours (or a day) and come back to it with a fresh eye. You can often spot mistakes after letting your brain switch off or think of extra information that you want to add.

It often helps to print an article out so you can check it on paper rather than onscreen. You can also try reading it aloud to get a feel for the pacing and the rhythm of the words, sentences and your article’s general flow. You could even have your computer read it out aloud for you – both Windows and Mac OS X feature Text To Speech functionality.

Finally, do all of your editing and structural tweaking BEFORE you run a spellcheck. That way you can catch any lingering errors.

Next: Good content writing tips: “Try to be timely”

Creative Commons License photo credit: Sammy0716

Hornsey Road

Poorly written or edited copy will adversely affect how people view your content. Original copy can be undermined by poor spelling, wayward grammar and inconsistent style elements.

Put it this way: mistakes like these can seriously knock any professionalism you’re trying to project and quickly extinguish any authority that you’ve built.

Proofreading practice makes perfect…

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