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.
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.
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.
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.