Ben share’s his ultimate guide to proof reading marketing content in ten achieveable steps.
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Focus, focus, focus
You need your wits about you when you proof read, which is why I need complete silence. Those pesky blunders do a great job of hiding in plain sight and if you don’t have your laser-vision goggles on they will be sat there giving you the Vs and laughing at you as your eyes glide over them. This means no distractions. Switch off the phone, and for the love of God, stay away from Twitter.
Print it out
Strange as it sounds, words look different on paper so print out your work and go over it again. You’d be surprised by how many booboos slip the net when you read it on the screen.
Read it out
Read aloud or use the Read Aloud function in Word because your ear might catch errors that your eye may have missed.
Keep a sharp eye
Fine-tooth-comb the whole document for stealthy errors. One of the worst culprits is the homonym – a shifty character – the homonym is the word that shares the same spelling or pronunciation but has different meanings; accept/except or complement/compliment, for example.
Another one that’ll try to slip the net is the contraction. Keep an eye out for their and they’re, its and it’s, your and you’re, etc.
Be punctilious with your punctuation
Pay attention to capitalised words, missing or extra commas, full stops used incorrectly, and so on. Pause at every comma, full stop, apostrophe, quotation mark, etc. to check you’ve used them correctly.
Verify names, dates, places
Check these words too. Google is your best friend here.
UK or US
Because of the many word differences between American and British English, you need to be on the ball; Behavior/Behaviour, color/colour, flavor/flavor will easily be overlooked. There are also a few key grammatical differences between US and UK English so ensure you know these. A significant grammar difference between US and UK English is the punctuation of quotations. In US English the “double quotation” mark is preferred on the outside (with the single quotation mark only used within quotes). In contrast, UK English employs the ‘single quotation’ mark on the outside and double within. There are other minor differences in spelling and grammar and usage; it’s a potential minefield if you don’t know your stuff.
Read it Backwards
When writing we usually become blind to our own mistakes since the brain automatically ‘corrects’ wrong words inside sentences. To break this pattern you can read the text backwards, word by word. It might take a little longer, but it’s worth it for the gleaming piece of writing you’ll have at the end of it.
Get a second pair of eyes
After checking all the previous points, get a second pair of eyes to proofread it for you. Those pesky errors might pass under your radar, but two pairs of eyes will make it a glaring target.
Let it sit
If you have the time, set your piece of work aside for a couple of days and then look at it again. You might catch those naughty errors off guard with their backsides in the air. You’ll also notice other things such as words you overuse, repeated information, sentences you can clarify and paragraphs you can simplify.