By Ben of The Sabbatical Guide
One of the luxuries afforded to professional travel writers is having a proof-reader iron out any mistakes in their writing before it goes to print. Proofreading is the final quality check ahead of a work being published and can include everything from checking over spelling and grammatical errors to consistency of styling and page numbering.
As a travel blogger you are unlikely to have access to a professional proof-reader and instead will need to use other skills and tools at your disposal to help produce well written blog posts.
Proofreading your own work can be very difficult for a number of reasons: you might be in a hurry to get your work published, not be in the right environment, or your brain can trick you into overlooking even the simplest of errors.
Whatever it is, these 16 tips, across two parts should help you improve your ability to proofread your blog posts and produce content that is more accurate, professional and less distracting for your readers.
I promise there will be at least one tip in here that will help you improve your ability to proofread blog posts.
Proofreading Blog Posts (Part 1)
1. Cut Out Distractions
Constant distractions have more of an impact on your work that you might think. It’s not just the time away from the task that you lose, but the quality of your work is also reduced. Research has shown that even if you dedicate the same amount of time to your work as you would have done if not distracted you will not hit the same standard of output.
In fact, re-focusing can take anything up to 25 minutes according to Gloria Monk who studies Digital Distraction at the University of California. It’s not just the time lost to being distracted it’s the mental effort that’s required to get you back on track again.
Proofreading blog posts is detailed work and requires potentially even more of a distraction- free environment than writing them in the first place. So what can you do to help? Well I have to have almost monasterial conditions to get any work done at all, so here are a few tips to help you.
- Put your phone out of arm’s reach and on ‘do not disturb’. Shut down any unused applications on your computer and turn off notifications. This will allow you to focus on the task at hand.
- Find a quiet environment to work in, but if you can’t find one then create one. I have found the Rhythmz Harmony 3 headphones to be really useful. They have a similar impact to earplugs, with three different sizes of earbud that go a long way to blocking out external sound. I also use the YouTube video ‘Gentle Rain’ to play in the background if I am in a particularly noisy place such as a café or train.
- Build in ‘distraction breaks’. Cal Newport author of Deep Work says “instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.”
- I use the website e.ggtimer.com to set a countdown for the time period I want to work and then give myself a break to do whatever I want before getting straight back to it.
- The Pomodoro Technique of 25 working minutes followed by 5 minutes of break for 2 hours works for me, but play around until you find a good
Tip 2. Read Out Loud
Reading your blog post out loud can help you pick out mistakes in grammar, sentence structure and readability.
Experienced bloggers such as Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com use this technique all the time. Pat says “[when reading out loud] you’ll be able to hear the flow of your post. Maybe it makes sense in your head, but when you read it out loud it might not sound right or things might need to be rearranged at little”.
Reading out loud will help you to uncover things you wouldn’t notice when silent reading. It is such a simple change to make when proofreading blog posts but will have a big effect on the quality of your articles. So don’t be shy, give it a go after your next blog post is finished and see how it helps!
Tip 3. Take a Break Between Writing and Proofreading
It’s important to build in some time between writing your post and proofreading it so that you can look at it objectively. It is tempting to push on — you’re excited about your latest piece and you want to set it free into the world — but your credibility can take a real hit if you don’t give yourself the chance to proofread it properly.
Ideally you would leave the post for a few days before coming back to proofread it, but at the very least, build in a break to allow you to come back to it fresh. In that time get yourself away from your computer and try to do something completely unrelated: go for a run, read a magazine, listen to a podcast, switch the stereo all the way up and bellow out the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s 1980 classic ‘Hungry Heart’ (OK that might just be me!). Whatever you do just take your mind off of your writing.
When you get back your focus should be purely on objectively error-checking your post to get it ready to publish.
Tip 4. Print Your Post
There have been a number of studies on the benefits of reading from paper rather than screens. Whilst they conclude that the speed and accuracy of reading is generally not reduced, they do show that fatigue is increased and other factors such as screen size, display resolution and scrolling text mean our eyes can fail to notice mistakes that they would pick out on paper.
For proof-readers printed documents have the added benefit of allowing them to use additional physical aids to help: whether that’s using another piece of paper to cover up lines and prevent reading ahead or just being able to scribble all over the text in coloured pens.
If you are making errors whilst proofreading blog posts on a screen, then printing the document off might be an ideal solution to help you improve your accuracy and produce more professional content.
Tip 5. Get Some Help
Getting someone else to help with proofreading your blog posts is a brilliant way to improve their accuracy and readability. Not only will it help pick up mistakes, but I also find it helps eliminate those sentences that made perfect sense in my head but don’t for other people!
With the technology available now this it is really easy to get someone to help you proofread your posts quickly. My personal preference is to use Google Docs when writing an article and then give my proof-reader (thanks Mum!) access to the document.
When this is done you can easily go into the file menu and choose ‘Version History’ to see the edits that have been made. If you want some more information, read this fantastic post on the Spinweb blog ‘Your Guide to Collaborative Document Editing With Google Docs’.
Tip 6. Read Your Post in Reverse
Read this piece of text.
Now read it again in reverse.
Did you notice any differences? Hopefully!
Reading in reverse is useful for spotting issues with your writing that you wouldn’t pick up when reading it normally. It takes the fun element out of reading and makes it into a much more functional task. It forces you to read in a slower more systematic way and stops your brain from rushing ahead and filling in the blanks. This will allow you to spot spelling mistakes, duplicated words and punctuation errors which are less likely to be found when reading forwards.
Tip 7. Get Professional Help
Just because you aren’t a professional travel writer does not mean you don’t have access to proof-readers, it just means you will have to pay for them yourself. If you’ve got a really important piece of work that you are about to publish and you think it might get some attention, then it might be worth using a professional.
There are many professional services online that will proofread your blog posts. I have personally only used Scribendi in the past. Their pricing structure is based on word count and turnaround time.
There are lots of different services available. Here are the most popular:
I also really like ServiceScape’s system which allows you to browse proofreading freelancers and choose one based on their rating and price. It’s a really useful service that has been running for over 17 years now. Check them out at ServiceScape.com.
Tip 8. Keep an Error List and Hunt Them Down
When you’ve been proofreading your blog posts for a while you start to notice common errors and patterns in your writing. These are often related to the way you type as much as your writing ability.
As an example I regularly type ‘you’ instead of ‘your’ or ‘it’s’ when I mean ‘its’. These are simple to make and hard to pick up. They will often be overlooked by electronic tools and are easily missed when checking by eye.
One solution I’ve come up with is keeping a list of the common errors I know I make and then use the ‘find/replace’’ function to hunt them down. This means I can check each instance of my common errors and ensure it reads correctly in context.
Check out this article for some hints and tips of how to use ‘find/replace’ in Google Docs.
The End of Part One
This is the end of part one of this article.
There is lots to get on and action in the above, so pick a few tips to work through before coming back to read part two.
You can find a link to the next post here:
More about Ben:
Ben is the blogger behind The Sabbatical Guide, a site designed to give people the information, tools and inspiration they need to make their sabbatical dreams a reality.
Ben caught the bug for travel at an early age when his dad moved out to South Africa, and now builds regular ‘mini-retirements’ into his career, in which he sees the world with his wife, Becca.