Make Your Content Shine: Three Professional Tricks to Proofread Your Own Work

As solopreneurs and small business owners, we have an amazing ability to connect with customers, simply by publishing our own content on the Internet. It’s almost a “superpower” if you think about it because we can literally reach millions of people – single-handedly!

The better our online content, the better chance we’ll be seen as leaders in our chosen fields. This means it’s worthwhile to allow ourselves a little extra time to edit and proofread things before we press the “publish” button.

But proofreading our own work can be a lot like looking for our car keys when we’re in a hurry to leave the house. We repeatedly walk right past the keys before we find them. And when we do find them, we can swear we’ve already looked in that spot a dozen times.

The same thing happens when we try to find the mistakes and typos in our own writing. We know what we mean to say and how it’s supposed to read. Consequently, that’s what our minds will see on the page or screen when we edit and do a final proofreading of things ourselves.

Here’s a list of tricks that professional writers, editors, & proofreaders use to help with this problem. If you’re not able to have someone else review your work, these tricks will help you proofread your own content. You can use them one at a time, or mix them together – whatever works best for you.

Print & Go
Print the piece you’re working on and take it out of your normal writing environment. Sit down and, ideally, read it out loud. Reading it out loud – especially in a slightly different context than what you’re used to – can help you slow down and notice more of what’s on the page. A different environment can also help you stay more alert, which helps you stay focused on what you’re reading.


Manuscript by Seth Sawyers

Fun with Fonts
Just like the car key example, when we look at something over and over we start to lose our attention to detail. Ditto when we’ve been looking at the same MS Word document again and again.

A way to help with this is to simply change fonts when you’re ready to proofread. It can be even more effective when you change the font size, and even the font color. Although it’s the same content you’re reading, your brain will see the words on the page (or screen) in a very new way. You’ll be more likely to see the mistakes that you had previously overlooked because you’ll have changed what your eye has gotten used to seeing.

Hyper-focus
When we read normally, our eyes are moving through sentences in a fluid and quick pace. But when we proofread, it’s best to slow down and look at things one…word…at…a…time. This technique involves physically directing where your eyes are focused.

You can do this by placing a straightedge below the sentence you’re focusing on. A ruler works well for this – especially when it’s turned face down against the page so you’re seeing the nice, clean (numberless) back side. You can also use a finger and literally point at each word you’re reading to insure that both your eyes and your attention stay focused on each single word.

This hyper-focus technique works best with a printout, but it’s manageable on a computer screen as well.

Bonus Technique
This one is sure to become a favorite. If at all possible, set your work aside and come back to it later. This alone will give you better clarity to spot your mistakes. But if it’s not possible, then step away from your work for at least a few minutes, go make yourself a cup of coffee or your favorite tea, and come back ready to sit and enjoy going over what you’ve written.

Changing your pace like this helps keep you refreshed and alert, making it much easier to catch any mistakes or typos. Always good to have a bonus!

A Mini Lesson in Quality
If you think about it, this approach to the simple act of proofreading is a mini lesson in how to deliver quality to our customers: Things become clear when we step back and get a fresh perspective.

It’s a good idea to slow down and take good care of ourselves so we can stay focused on what we’re doing. And when we care about something it’s worthwhile spending a little extra time to make sure what we’re offering to the world is our absolute best.

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Lauren ForestLauren Forest is an entrepreneur, writer, editor, and workshop leader. She has specialized in business writing and editing, web-based marketing & information design, and online content management for nearly 20 years. Her work helps clients establish presence and personality in the marketplace, get more business, make more sales, and be more successful. Learn about how she can help your business: www.WordPerfectionist.com. Lauren also teaches women entrepreneurs how to achieve a Genius Effect in their businesses and lives. She shows them how to solve problems, overcome obstacles, and step out of self-limiting thoughts & beliefs by shifting into their own personal Genius.

Comments

  1. Hyper-focus and reading out loud are great techniques. However, nothing beats having friend(s) watching your back, or letting you know when your writing has become a “kick-me!” sign.

    • Hi Manuel,
      I’m glad you like some of the techniques.
      You’re absolutely right, ideally we have help. Having another person proofread is ideal, but not always possible.
      Thanks for commenting!
      -Lauren

  2. Love the idea of changing the font or color- great tips! Thank you :)

  3. Great tips–simple but very effective. I love how your pointers are all things I can start utilizing right away. Thank you, Lauren Forest.

  4. I’ve been guilty of just skimming when I’m proofreading but I love your tip of printing and then taking it with you and reading the document in a new environment. I’ll have to give that a shot the next time I’m at Starbucks =) Thanks for the great article!

    • Hi Ella!
      Yep…printing the draft and taking it to a new environment has some nice “side effects.” Definitely love the Starbucks idea.
      What better way to enjoy working on the projects you love!
      Thanks for commenting!
      -Lauren

  5. I do 2 out of 4 (if you include the bonus)… I read my writing aloud. Helps me proofread for spelling and grammar – I can find the natural pauses & run-on sentences better that way. And when I’m not really feeling something that I wrote – I walk away and come back to it. Gives my mind time to detach from it a little bit.

    Great tips Lauren – great guest post.

    • Hi Joyce!
      I’m glad you like the article.
      It’s amazing how reading aloud can have such a big impact. You really can notice a difference when you hear things spoken aloud.
      Thanks for your comments Joyce :-)
      -Lauren

  6. Excellent tips that can be put to use today. A great post!

  7. Fantastic tips Lauren.

    Never tried changing the fonts but I have to try that now. Proofreading your own writing can be such a chore. I find the more times I read something, the more times I find little “errors”. Even days/weeks later. The worst is when I have already hit the publish button. But I try not to beat myself up about it too much.

    If it is client copy, I have used professional proofreading services a few times. It really saved me a lot of time.

    But for my own sites/newsletters/articles, I usually read it out loud and set it aside and come back to it a few times. That has helped me tremendously lately.

    Thanks again for the advice Lauren.

    -Alicia-Joy