14 Foolproof Proofreading Tips for Bloggers

14 Foolproof Proofreading Tips for Bloggers

Reader Comments (138)

  1. A professional proofer told me to read my work from the end to the beginning. Concentrating on each word removes the propensity to read what you meant, rather than what you wrote.

  2. I read every word of this post which is something I rarely do any more. Kudos!

    My mom was the editor of our local newspaper for ten years so she passed on her proofreading abilities to me. I worked there as well for many years so I’m a bit of a proofreading freak now. I can’t count how many times I proofread my posts before I hit “Publish”.

    I still manage to let a few errors squeak by, but I’ve always thought that proofreading was an extremely important part of blogging. I think a blogger shows a slight lack of respect for their readers when they don’t take any time to make sure their post has less than 50 typos.

  3. Great post, and I agree with GoingLikeSixty. If you don’t have someone easily available to proofread for you, try reading the content backward. It can be easier to catch errors in spelling, added words, or punctuation, because your mind isn’t filling in the details for you in the flow of each sentence.

  4. @ GoingLikeSixty: I used to think reading backward sounded silly, until I tried it that is. Very effective indeed. I was going to include that, but my list was getting long, so I’ll have to include that in the next guest post.

    @Robert: Thanks. As long as you are not crowned, it’s not official and you can change that 🙂

    @fluffy cat: Thanks, and I agree. Your blog is you. Dress up!

    @Cassie: So true. What did you think of the word MahSteaK?

  5. Thanks, that article was very insightful. It will certainly help me with my blog. It has made me very paranoid about making mistakes. I even wanted to spell check this comment.

  6. I’m convinced the majority of bloggers avoid proofreading altogether. As a former professional proofreader, perhaps I’m more alert to errors in spelling, punctuation, and usage, but when I run across them, it distracts me from receiving the blogger’s message.

    I’m wondering, when we see these errors, should we notify the writer?

  7. Great tips! I have spent a lot of time proof reading and find that I still miss things.

    Finding someone else to proof read for me has been my trick. We exchange, I email her my copy and she sends me hers.

    Sheila

  8. @Sarah: I agree. There was one word in this post that I didn’t catch three times until I read it in reverse.

    @ibscom: Try writing a copyblogger guest post about proofreading. Talk about paranoid! 🙂

    @15 minutes: I would guess they don’t forget; they just equate it to the joys of doing taxes.

  9. I preach about this every day. And just yesterday a blogger told me that he is a blogger, not a writer. That’s the wrong mindset, especially if you’re earning money off your blog.

  10. I use a step #15 “get up and walk away”. When proofing my own stuff I tend to get lost in thought and forget others may read and absorb my informational post differently. So I have to remember to get up and away from the screen. I distract myself and then come back and reread it.

    Like starting from a clean slate again. It is easy to fix my errors when I make that space in time to reread my post.

    @elizabethhannan

  11. Kudos,

    I have found myself writing my blog – reading it publishing it and then catching some problems – how embarrassing is that!

    Thanks for some sound advice.

  12. Thank you for the insightful article — great advice, to say the least.

    Unfortunately, I have to constantly fight the tendency to use a passive voice. When proofreading, too, Ockham’s Razor is your friend.

  13. @Mihla: Yes, I believe you should contact the bloggers in question (Tip #5). Offer them the corrections, and make sure you let them know you are doing so as a favor and don’t expect anything back. You should build some meaningful relationships this way.

    @sheila: Thanks. I challenge you to have no more errors! Deal? 😉

    @joy: That’s too funny. Ask that blogger if he uses letters and remind him that writers use these same things. 😉

    @Elizabeth: Walking away is so important. I try to tell my wife this when I put the dishes in the sink instead of the dish washer. I tell her that I don’t want to do it all at once or I might miss a spot. 🙂

    @Scott: Thanks buddy. Did I get you at the beginning? I’m dying to know how many people became proofers at that moment.

    @Pamela: Thanks. Don’t do that with a proofreading article. 🙂

    @SumOfPrimes: Thanks. The passive voice “is hated by me.” 🙂 Seriously, I’m a big foe of the passive voice.

  14. I thought this was a really useful post. Proofreading has been something which I really need to put more attention to. I sometimes type and press submit faster than I read what I typed. Thank you.

  15. Raw, unpolished content turns me off. I’ll admit I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to proofreading and editing. And heaven knows I make and sometimes miss blunders.

    Well-written, well-edited content always jumps off the screen at me because it’s pretty rare… even from folks who get paid to write.

    When I come across an extremely “messy? post or article, the author’s credibility takes a nose dive. If the author doesn’t feel his message merits the time or effort needed to make it as clear and appealing to me as possible, why should I see the material as read-worthy?

    Thanks for this important reminder and your helpful tips, Shane.

  16. VERY useful post – and it came at just the right time for me, as I am beginning to get more active on the company blog. I would say the one that works best for me is the “read aloud” tip.

    Not only does it help you catch spelling and grammar, but you are able to get a feel for how your work flows. If you stumble over a sentence, chances are others will as well and it’s probably in your best interest to rewrite it.

  17. This is another example of your excellent and practical articles that help me write better. As a former magazine editor, I used many of your tips (and ones others suggested) to try and catch every last error.
    I found a simple system that catches any that might squeeze through. Since I normally work in a sans serif font, I highlight the entire article (Ctrl-A) and change the font to a serif style. The words look different enough that I’m able to catch errors that slipped through.

  18. @MaryAnne: You’re welcome. I love that term read-worthy. Proofing shows that you care about the reader’s time.

    @Ashley: Agreed. My wife got a kick out of me reading this post aloud at 3/4-speed (at least the first and second time).

    @Paula: I like that tip. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

    @Shaun: Got ya!

    @James: Like mayo on my sandwiches, I go heavy on the commas. I’m currently tinkering with Thesis Theme and WordPress on my local machine. Should have something shortly.

  19. What a fantastic article! I’ve already started casting a critical eye over some of my earlier blog entries as an exercise. I would certainly re-write some of them if I had written them today.

    It’s definitely important to step away and revisit a piece with fresh eyes. Trouble is, I’m sometimes keen to get a piece out to coincide with some news, and I don’t want it to get stale. I have been guilty of a) hitting the “Publish” button, then re-reading, finding an error along the way; b) not realizing that the passive voice was used 😉

  20. Shane,

    I love the “walk away”.. For me it is probably more like a number #2 if they were in order relating to my writing actions. I don’t think I can accurately perform the other proofreading actions if I don’t detach.
    Like the dishwasher analogy! Great point!

  21. It’s always the “I don’t have to get anyone else to see it because it’s fine” mentality that kills me.

    Thanks for the reminder. Have others look at your work.

  22. Heh Heh

    QUOTE: ..and most importantly, inspecting every word instead of scanning.

    Scan
    Function:
    verb
    Inflected Form(s):
    scanned; scan·ning
    “to investigate thoroughly by checking point by point and often repeatedly”

    Sorry, I found it too difficult to resist!

    Regards.

  23. The best tip is $6 to write and run away. You need to give yourself space between the time you finish writing and the time you look at it again. You will pick up more mistakes and have a different mindset if you leave it alone for awhile.

  24. @Graham: Thanks. Glad you’re going back and looking over your posts. I’m curious as to how many people are going to practice Proof–Love with other bloggers.

    @Lawton: Agreed. I should have added tip #15: Imagine you’re writing a copyblogger guest post. Nobody would think it’s just fine without proofing then.

    @Elliott: I couldn’t resist laughing at that one. Good one sir. 🙂

    @Craig: Agreed. It’s unwise to do everything at once.

  25. Outstanding article! I’m a chronic passive voice-r, so I now have a LOT of searching to do.

    Also, I’ll sometimes read sections of problematic text backwards to help catch spelling errors. It’s a little time-consuming, and shouldn’t be done aloud (unless you want to confuse the people around you).

  26. Decent summary. I would add to that list “remember that nothing will ever be perfect… the final 1% of changes probably requires 20% of the overall effort”. That effort could be better spent on other productive tasks.

    It is amazing what you can find in the press with regards to mistakes. I am a self-admitted “hack” in spelling, grammar and the like, and if I can see it… yikes.

  27. @Shane: “I’m curious as to how many people are going to practice Proof–Love with other bloggers.”

    We’re all here because we’d like to improve our blogs, right? So perhaps I may ask here:

    Is there anyone who would like to practice Proof-Love with me? My contact details are available at my blog: http://http://englishmannj.blogspot.com/

  28. Hey Shane, thanks for posting this … now if you could just create a WP plugin that forced me to agree with each point before I published a post, you’d be my hero 🙂

  29. @Dave: Thanks buddy. But, if you read in reverse out loud on the metro, nobody will sit next to you and you will have more space for your books.

    @Ryland: I agree about the press.

    @Christopher: That’s a good idea. Have a plugin that plays an instant sound file with screeching breaks and a prompt asking you if you are sure you want to drive off a cliff without proofing. I like.

  30. Proofreaders are the unsung heroes in the world of words. They are rarely given the credit they deserve. Thanks for the article Copyblogger. My fellow wielders of the red ink salute you.

  31. @Graham – Are you really, really, sure?

    I mean as an Englishman in the US?

    I mean, if you flip your kit into the boot you confuse the hell out of everyone on this side of the pond!

    You can post leave your away colours in the trunk, but who would know?

    Or writing that walking the subway to queue for tube would cause a major diplomatic incident!

    I have to apologize to all. My sense of humour has been waxing today 🙂

  32. Fantastic article, Shane! Every point you made resonates with my experience as a copywriter. I love proofreading, so if you ever get more work than you can handle, drop me a line! Best regards, P. 🙂

  33. Be dyslexic, proof reading is not what I enjoy or am good at. I need all the help I can get. When I can I get someone else to read it.

    One trick I do is to paste the copy into another program, another format so when I reread it is as if I reading a different post.

  34. Great job Shane.

    Maybe you should do a 14 Foolproof Tips series of guest posts out in the ‘sphere.

    I’d be honored for you to volunteer next over at my crib.

    If Brian doesn’t sign you to a book, video and VP deal 😉

    He’s been known to scarf up talent like a Dyson on steroids !

  35. Well said Shane. Enjoyed your thoughts very much. Another thing I find with proofreading (I edit for a university) is that once you get you’re eye in, you can even ‘scan’ for typos. You know what you’re scanning for, and they stand out. Many thanks for the post.

  36. I really like this post and as a professional copywriter who works for a design company, I have to answer to a potentially unpleasant quality process!

    But I love having the proofreaders there and enjoy working with them. They’re brilliant at their jobs and have a real passion for ‘getting it right’.

    And I think that ‘getting it right’ is something you need to be passionate about when blogging. The odd mistake is fine and likely inevitable. But it’s important not to keep making the same errors over and over again.

    Readers notice these things!

  37. Bernard, thanks for the tip on “Speakonia”, I like it.

    I’m the world’s worst speller and I know it. When spell check doesn’t recognize what you’re trying to spell, you KNOW it’s bad.

    I’m always looking for ways to improve my spelling and after more than three years of blogging, it has gotten MUCH better. I also use many of the tips written here, but I think the most valuable for me is coming back (mostly the next morning) to re read what I wrote.

    Not only will I find misspelled words, but often reword entire sentences and paragraphs the really bring my message home.

    I take great pride in producing valuable content for my readers and that certainly includes proper spelling.

  38. Doug

    The problem with waiting the next day, is in a blog you need to be current.

    What are you going to do, publish Barack Obama becoming president tomorrow? If I wait till the next day your readers’ loose interest or even worse they may think you are just doing a cut and paste.

    I have another problem, I have a blogger that keeps copying me and then accuses me of plagiarism.

  39. @Owen: That’s an interesting technique. I may have to try that.

    @Greg: Made me smile with that one. Thanks.

    @Simple Mike: My first post for simplenomics: 14 foolproof ways Mike has made me laugh for over two years. I’ll see what I can do.

    @adamrave: I agree. I’ve gotten to the point where I can combine my “passes” and look for multiple problems at once, but it really takes a lot of practice to be able to do this without missing anything.

    @Iain: Passion is the word. I have a passion for error free books, and I can’t stand seeing books with errors. I don’t think I can remember one published book that I’ve read that didn’t have errors.

    @bernard: I may have to install that program. Reminds me of youtube’s speak your comments functionality. Thanks.

  40. @Sonia: That surprises me. Your posts that I’ve read have been pretty damn’d clean. You’ve handled that which bothers you quite well. 🙂

    @Doug: I would say you should imagine that you are no longer the world’s worst speller. Set your self perception high and you will automatically aim for it my friend. Regards.

    RE: @Bernard: Even if the break is for 5 minutes, that’s all it takes sometimes. At times, I’ll get a drink of water and splash some water on my face. That’s enough to clear the mind clutter.

  41. Shane,

    I am the queen of picky proofers, so when you challenged me to come on over and proofread, I couldn’t resist.

    Of course, no typos. Brilliant betting us, though. You got me! While I had my stickler’s hat on, I thought I’d mention that you use the word “just”…

    Just way too frequently. It jumped out at me because it’s one I have to watch for myself.

    Sorry, but we were supposed to look critically, right? 🙂

    I loved every tip. This is a definite print-and-keeper. Thanks.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  42. Fantastic summary of proofreading tips. I use methods like these regularly and enjoy proofreading. I usually do these steps: wait until later to proofread, read it out loud, and sometimes I read it backwards.

    For when it counts, I think having someone else read one’s own writing is essential. That’s not feasible for every blog post of course, so there will be inevitable errors and I think a few errors here and there are fine on a blog. Blogs are conversational, not novels.

    By the way, I caught one error in your post: Merriam-Webster link goes to the wrong site.

    Thanks again!

  43. Proofreading is something that needs time. If I write some article then I give it some break and do something that free my mind and then I’m doing the proofreading. I think Proofreading is a must for every blogger.

  44. In the first sentence of this post I challenged you to find 25 misspelled words (I lied; there aren’t any).

    Up to this point, you were reading differently than you normally read weren’t you?

    Haha, brilliant! Yes, you’re right, I was. Great article, thank you.

    Kx

  45. @Kelly, I agree with you about the “just” usage. I’ll sit there sometimes and debate whether or not I should leave it in. Do I stick to the rules or try and make the sentence sound like someone would talk it? I usually try to leave a few in. Thanks fellow proofer. 😉

    @Van: Thanks buddy. That faulty link should redirect to the right page shortly.

    @BlogBooze: Agreed. Proofreading is like wine, no!

    @Kathleen: Got ya!!!! Thanks. 🙂

  46. Good advice. Typos are often unavoidable, even if you are the best speller in the country. Therefore, it is always beneficial to review your post a few times prior to posting.

  47. The word “work” is ambiguous in the first sentence of tip #3. Will it function or does it have to do with your employment?

    It’s a testament to your first two tips that I caught it! Thanks for the help. I never thought of the proofing mindset differently.

  48. Great post. I love the tip about reading the content backwards. What a brilliant idea!

    When people first come to our blog, they’ll pretty much judge the entire site (and us) based upon the first post they happen to read. If it’s sloppy and lazy, they won’t leave with a very good impression of us, and they might not give us a second chance.

    Each post should be treated as though it were the only post we’ll ever be judged by – because it just may be. Thanks for the reminder!

  49. @MySolutionSpot: Thanks and I agree.

    @Website Design: You made me laugh with that one! 🙂

    @Aaron: I had the same discussion about that with one of my buddies who read the post. He thought the same thing; I thought considering the line with the title included would make it a pass. But, I concede the point. I should have said, “Sounds too simple and unrelated to work properly, but it does.” Regards.

    @Joi: Thanks and I agree with you. First impressions are everything.

  50. Hello Shane,

    I agree with the others. Fabulous post! Thank you. Your tips are right on the money.

    While proofreading forms a huge part of what I do professionally for others every day, when it boils down to editing my own content, it’s much more difficult to review my own work objectively – a natural blind spot inevitably occurs.

    Great tips from you and everyone!

    Karen

  51. I agree with James C. about the lack of commas.

    For example, take the sentence “Who really wants to do 25 pushups right?” With no comma after “pushups”, it reads like the blogger is asking whether there is a reader willing to correctly perform the exercise.

    You definitely need a comma there.

    (I’m no expert, though, so feel free to critique my commentary. I can take criticism and try to learn from it.)

  52. @MS: You’re, right! 🙂
    I can see where someone might read it that way. I thought comma-phobia meant I was afraid not to use so many commas, as I normally do. I see now it was the other way around.

  53. > If you hate to write, write about something you hate. If you hate to read, read about something you love.
    That is one sweet and ironic epiphany.

  54. Hello Shane,

    Many thanks for a great post!
    I have really enjoyed reading.
    We (bloggers) are to proof-LOVE each other! Let’s make our blogosphere a pleasant place to spend time, learn and enjoy the process.

    N.B. I’d be thankful to every collegue who is willing to check out my “Russian” English. I am ready to help you proofreading your “English” Russian (if any… ))

  55. @Karen: Thanks, and I agree about the blind spot. Regards

    @J.D.: Thanks buddy. It’s also better than shouting at the television about something you hate. 🙂

  56. Shane, that’s a great post and I loved the game you played at the start, I fell for it completely!

    Since the subject matter is proofreading, I hate to be pedantic but isn’t ‘slower’ an adjective, not an adverb? So ‘read more slowly’ rather than ‘read slower’. He he.

    Lots of fantastic tips though, I hate it when something goes out .. then … you … spot … the … typo … aaagh!

  57. @PingBackers: Thanks for the pingbacks folks. Hey Renegade Writers, you ladies are awesome! 🙂

    @vadim: Awesome. Proof-love as much as you can.

    @Marcela: Thanks. It must be tougher to proof and translate at the same time.

    @Robin: I had a hell-of-a time with that sentence: “You were progressing slower and more deliberately.” More slowly, or slower? More deliberate or more deliberately. I went back and forth here, but you’re right. More slowly would have sounded better. Don’t be a pedantic-ite! Embrace your pendantic self. I love that quality. 😉

  58. @Ujjwal: You write about making people smile. I’m not sure to smile or frown at your comment. I use MS Word’s spell checker. I just don’t depend on it. I let it do the light work.

    @Marcela: I for sure laughed at this one. 🙂

  59. Prufreeding? I HATE prufreeding- and I refuese to due it. But mayb if I treid it, it may mak a differense in my postes on mi blogg. Not surr, bit eye will treye it. I gess eye culd hire sumone. This is a HOT post! Luved it! Now…about that prufreeding…

  60. I once wrote newsletter and included a few errors with a challenge, who ever found the most errors would receive a gift certificate for a free massage. I was shocked when a teacher found three times the errors I intentionally put in it. I’m still working on catching my typos, but it is a neverending battle.

  61. So much great information, I’m still reeling! I’m fairly new at this blogging thing, but I’m trying to get out of the dark ages, and reading your blog and the delicious comments is a giant step forward. I especially want to start reading my blogs backwards. When I post a blog on my site, I just know I’ve missed something no matter how many times I’ve checked it. Don’t ever count on MS Word spell checker – I like MS, but that doesn’t hack it. I’ll send my book about “how to write mother memoir” free to the 1st 20 people who find errors on my blog.

  62. @The Story Woman You are wise not to trust MSWord. At least the Spanish version, it is rubbish. Back in the ’90s when I used to write for a paper magazine (oh, those were the times), no matter how careful I was, some changes misteriously happened — to worse, of course. The reason was that someone at the magazine was checking my articles with MSWord and all they did was spoil them.

  63. Thanks for you comment. Now I know I didn’t get lost in cyerspace, and people do care! It’s funny, because “people feeling lost” in the vastness of life, is one of the reasons I encourage people to write bio-vignettes about their mothers.

  64. This is a wondeful but real article.
    I’m dealing with these problems every day when I make a new post on my Blog.
    So, also because I’m 100% Italian, I will take care about your tips and considerations.
    Thanks and keep up the good work !

  65. Terrific post! Great tips. An outside set of eyes never, ever hurts. I recommend seeking for grammar and writing support and excellent proofreading and editing services as they are key in any writing work. Very useful. Thanks!

  66. Excellent advice Shane. It’s important to me since I write my own sale pages and other marketing material. I get some help from professional copywriters though (not always).

    Franck

  67. I think proofreading is the best way to submit thesis especially for international students. It helps a lot to develop a standard for English communications.

  68. As an experienced proof reader, I highly recommend reading arrythmically.

    Good writing has a distinct, almost poetic rhythm. It flows. It sweeps us along with its undulating musicality. As a proof reader, good writing is a positive liability. Great writing is practically fatal. As you are pulled along, you will begin to overlook errors that will seem blindingly obvious to those who spot them later (your much-valued readership).

    To counteract the effect of tempo and cadence, use a small piece of card or paper (I use my own business card) to conceal everything but a maximum of six words on a line. This will interrupt the natural flow of the sentence, undoing the author’s valiant efforts to create an effortless but vibrant reading experience.

    Many experienced proof readers are able to read arrhythmically without the help of a ‘shield’, but, I freely admit, I’m not one of them. The business card works just fine for me.

  69. Great article. I have just started working for a copywriting and marketing company and obviously one of our services is proofreading – so I’m just doing a bit of background research into the field.

    You’re so spot on about the way you read things. When trying to proofread you have to read differently than if you were just trying to get information from the article or text or reading for pleasure.

    We have an independant proofreader to take a look over every piece of work we do so that a set of unbiased eyes might be able to see what the person that wrote it could not.

  70. One, what is MahSteak? Ohhh. haha. I guess I just had to write it down for it to hit me.

    Two, unofficial sheriff, I’ve noticed this lately:

    Independent clause, and that blah blah blah.

    Is it just me or should the comma before the “and” not be there because the following “that” indicates a dependent clause. What do you (guys) think?

  71. I’m not sure where you are referring to. If it’s this:

    Take a break, and then come back with your well-rested proofreader mindset.

    It’s been so long since I wrote this, but as I look at it now, I’d rewrite it without the and. 😉

    Regards,
    Shane

  72. I like tip #10 (Avoid the passive voice). I
    constantly need to revise my writing to get rid of the
    passive voice. Using a word processor to search for
    passive voice words sounds like a great idea to help catch
    these instances.

  73. Hello. I am in the process of starting my own proofreading business and googled your website. I’m jealous! Yours is very well done. The tips are excellent. I wish I could say that was MY work! My compliments to the writer. Would you have any tips for how to attract those bloggers who constantly misspell words, make other typos, and then hit “print,” with nary a second glance? My website is not up yet, but hope that will be happening very soon. Thanks!

  74. @Louise,

    1. Follow bloggers on twitter that you wish to proofread.
    2. Send them dms of any errors you find on their posts. (This builds the relationship and proves your worth)
    3. Read their free ebooks pdfs and send them unsolicited proofs, stating you just want to get on their radar.
    4. Be aware that no all bloggers are willing to pay for proofreading (but, they do barter some of their cool stuff in exchange for favors.)
    5. Rinse, repeat.

  75. I’ll take issue with the passive voice rule. That’s a dated and not very helpful rule. You should write in a way that sounds best for your style and what you are trying to say. The passive voice works beautifully in many instances. Sometimes the active voice is best. It’s too circumstantial to be a tip or a rule. More of something to be aware of. my after the deadline plugin flags passive voice all the time and the suggested rewrites are hilarious. Sometimes, changing from passive to active can obliterate the greater meaning. Sometimes it clarifies it.

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