Proofreading is an essential tool in all PR pros’ toolboxes. Not only can it save you from embarrassing faux pas, it also ensures your message is communicated clearly, effectively and professionally. While spelling and grammar checkers are valuable back-ups, it’s important that you’re also thoroughly reviewing each piece of written content yourself with a discerning eye and close attention to detail. Below are several tips for becoming a better proofreader.
Read it out loud.
Actually reading written content out loud can be immensely beneficial in the proofreading process. Hearing the words can help you find missing or misspelled words and remind you to double check for homonyms.
Switch it up.
Re-reading the same content on the same platform over and over would make anyone’s eyes glaze over. Try printing out the document, or conversely, open it on your desktop. Maybe even change the font or the color of the text. Visually altering the copy can make you aware of mistakes you weren’t catching before.
Review different elements one at a time.
Read the draft through multiple times, looking for different components each time. For example, start by looking for overall flow, then double check facts and proper names, then review grammar and punctuation and so on. By splitting up what you’re looking for, it’s easier to focus in on each individual aspect for a thorough proofread, rather than looking for everything all at once.
Identify key repeat phrases or words, and then search for them.
Especially true for longer documents, there are often certain words or phrases repeated throughout the copy. For example, entity names, event names, program titles or department groups. Make a list of these terms as you’re writing, and take note of the preferred formatting – do you always spell out the full name, or just on the first reference in a section? Once you’ve finished writing, run a search (Ctrl-F) for the phrases, and check for consistent use.
Look with fresh eyes.
Take a break between proofreading rounds. While it’s definitely helpful to switch tasks in between, giving yourself at least 24 hours before reading again is even better. This will take advanced planning to be sure you meet deadlines, but having some time off is usually worth it. Alternatively, it’s always a good idea to ask a colleague, with completely fresh eyes, to review your content for any errors or edits.
Make a personal proofreading checklist.
Whether a physical or mental list, it’s smart to keep track of mistakes you commonly make, and then triple check your content for them. On top of general grammar mistakes, many clients have specific formatting rules that can be easy to forget. Having a readily available list that you can reference of words that need to be capitalized, preferred abbreviations and more, will guarantee you deliver your clients the best content, exactly to their specifications.
Thorough proofreading is the difference between average and excellent content. Taking the steps outlined above will ensure you present clients and colleagues with error-free work.