Why Professional Proofreading Means Successful Writing
Could professional proofreading enhance your writing? In today’s fast, digital age, people publish content more frequently than ever before, and typos of all kinds seem to sneak through in even the most professional publications. Even The New York Times has a dedicated corrections page – and it has multiple entries for every single day.
I began my career as a copywriter for a prominent radio station. My very first job was writing radio ads for a handful of clients, selling women’s shoes, dog food and roofing services.
I found that I really enjoyed the job, despite having some “difficult clients” that would practically want to write their own copy themselves. In a 30 second ad, they’d insist on having their phone number and business name in at least twice, and often the web and email address as well. In short, there was very little room left for any creativity.
In my current role as a Content Strategist for a large online education company, I work with a host of freelance writers and journalists from all over the world. Everyone can write – it’s one of the first skills we learn in school – but many people think they are more proficient writers than they are. Some of us need just a bit more help than we realise, particularly with proofreading and checking of documents.
It’s difficult to effectively proofread your own work
An insight I came to quite early on in my career is that it’s extremely difficult – if not impossible – to effectively proofread your own work. Our eyes tend to see what we “believe” to be there, or what we “intended” to be there, rather than what is “really there”, so small mistakes often slip through. Sometimes you’ll catch one error, and be so pleased with that, that you might miss a glaring necessary correction in the very next line.
Some techniques to proofread your copy: do they work?
In my decades as a writer, I have heard many techniques to proofread your own work, whether you’re composing an article, essay, report, presentation or even a simple email.
#1: Print out your copy
I am a hard-copy gal when it comes to proofreading properly. I use a large font, double spaced and a red pen. I write manually, then transfer my notes to the typed document. This is not very time-effective, and I don’t have the time to do this for all my work.
#2: Read your work backwards
A trick I learned from my old manager, I found this doesn’t really work for me, yet others swear by it. Reading copy backwards might assist with catching things like doubled-up words but on the whole, I don’t find that it really helps much.
#3: Use “fresh eyes”
This is probably the only “trick” that works for me. Put your document down and come back to it in an hour, or better yet – the next morning. This might work if you have days to prepare but won’t be a proofreading tactic you can use all the time
#4: Know your most frequent errors
For me, I have a terrible habit of writing ‘juts’ instead of ‘just’ because I am a lousy typist. Some spellchecks pick this up but many programs don’t, as juts is a word (the rock juts out of the cliff face). I once submitted a press release to my boss with the word ‘manger’ (as in ‘away in a manger’) in it 5 times, instead of the word ‘manager’. I don’t think I kept that job for long.
#5: Use a professional proofreading service
Today, I always use a professional proofreading service. Usually, these are quite reasonable, and as I work with a range of different writers each month with very different styles, I find the cost well worth it. A professional proofreader will pick up things you may have missed, and may also be able to advise on things such as document formatting and copyediting as well.
Many freelancers who work online at reasonable rates. Using a professional can be preferable to having a friend or colleague review your work as people we know can often be overly harsh or critical in non-constructive ways, which might in turn shatter your confidence.
Ready to take your writing to the next level?
Using a professional service for important documents is often an effective way to make your writing more top-notch. Often seeing the edits of a professional proofreader will even give us clues as to how our writing can be improved in the future. Consider professional proofreading as part of your personal development plans.
What’s the biggest typo you’ve ever made and what repercussions did it have? Tell me in the comments below!