By Ben of The Sabbatical Guide
I hoped you enjoyed part one of our tips on how to proofread blog posts.
If you missed the first instalment you can find a link to it here:
In it we discussed ways to cut out distractions so you can focus, gave you some ideas of how to read posts differently to pick up errors and also a list of some fantastic companies who can help you if you have an extra special post that needs to be just right.
In part two of the instalment below, we are going to be looking at some electronic tools that can help, using different screen sizes to add a new perspective and exploring how being a bit more child-like might be the help you need!
So without any more delay, here is part two….
Proofreading Blog Posts (Part 2)
Tip 9. Use Electronic Tools….
There are lots of electronic tools available to help with proofreading your blogs posts from the humble spellcheck through to more complicated programs that will check everything from grammar to synonym suggestions when you use repeated words.
My favourite tools for proofreading are below:
I write most of my longer blog posts in Google Docs. One of the most useful features is the ‘add-ons’, a library of additional tools that help you with your document.
LanguageTool is one of my favourites and will check spelling, grammar and even make stylistic comments about your article. I would be lost without it and it regularly picks up errors that other proofreading techniques missed.
The ‘ABC’ button in WordPress does more than just check your spelling. Similarly to LanguageTool it will check for grammar errors, misused words and make stylistic suggestions.
Head into ‘Users’ and edit the settings to make it even more useful. You can activate proofreading functions for double negatives, passive voice, clichés, overly complex phrases and many more. I find this perfect as one last check before publishing especially with shorter posts which I write straight into WordPress.
One last suggestion would be to tick the ‘automatically proofread’ box which will mean the proofread tool will activate when you hit publish, making it impossible for you to forget.
I have used Grammarly in the past, but for WordPress use I found it quite frustrating. The tool itself is absolutely fantastic. The problem is that when it underlines words it feels need changing the hyperlink stops working. This makes for some annoying errors when trying to quickly put together a post. There are workarounds such as switching Grammarly off when writing or working through the highlighted errors regularly, but I didn’t want to keep stopping and starting whilst writing.
Despite the frustrations with WordPress functionality I do still find myself using it, especially if I have been offline and working in a word processor. It’s easy to upload documents via the website or the downloadable program to allow you to proofread when you don’t have an internet connection.
Tip 10. …. But Don’t Rely on Electronic Tools
Electronic tools should not be a substitute for manually proofreading blog posts. They help to pick out problems, but they won’t capture them all.
Tip 11. Slow Down
Publishing a new blog post is exciting! The buzz of creating something new and waiting to see if it creates interest with readers is the reason most people write. This however, makes it easy to rush towards publication before the article is finished.
Proofreading is something best done with at a methodical pace without your hyperactive inner marketeer trying to push you to hit ‘publish’.
The average reading speed in the UK is about 250 words a minute so even the most ambitious of articles shouldn’t take much longer than 45 minutes to proofread. Give yourself the right amount of time to do the job properly and don’t compromise.
One trick I like is to read syllable by syllable like a child. This forces you to slow down and means your brain is less likely to rush ahead and fill in the blanks. This me-thod-i-cal app-roach to read-ing will nat-ur-all-y dis-rupt your nor-mal think-ing patt-ern and all-ow you to pick up more err-ors with your art-i-cle.
Tip 12. Get a Different Perspective
We established earlier in this article that printing a document off might help when proofreading blog posts. A large part is because a printed document gives you different options to minimise distractions, stop you reading ahead and focus on the specific section you are proofreading.
There are some workarounds though that I have found really help when proofreading a document on a screen.
Change the Window Size
This may sound very simple, but it makes a surprising amount of difference. If you think about it, reading an article the full width of a computer screen is not what your eyes are used to. Books have smaller pages which restrict the amount of content and force your eyes to move from line to line quickly.
I have found that just taking the window and making it narrower can help me focus on proofreading a lot better. This is especially true on WordPress where the window will eventually autoformat to mobile view which is much more like reading a book than a website.
Read on a Different Device
Anything you can do to change your environment between the time of writing and proofreading will help you to pick up more errors. The way I do this is to use the WordPress app and then read through my draft post on there. This means I can do it away from my laptop and on a screen that is very different.
Even after I have published posts I will regularly re-read them whilst commuting to work on the train the following day. One of the great things about online media versus the printed press is that it is still fully editable after publication. This gives bloggers an opportunity to go back and correct mistakes days or even weeks later. Hopefully you will have spotted them beforehand, but it’s easy for a few to slip through, so schedule in a re-read to see what you can pick up.
One of the oldest tricks proofreaders use with printed documents is to cover up lines they have not yet read with a piece of paper. They then gradually move the paper down revealing more text as they need it. This stops the brain from reading ahead and forces it to focus in on the line it should be reading, not what is coming up next.
The best way I have found to emulate this on a screen is to zoom in, making the font bigger and then gradually zoom down line by line as you finish the previous one. It can also help to double space the line heights, but this means fiddling with the format of the document itself, so I will only tend to do this if I am reading a large body of text with no images.
Tip 13. Read More
Reading will really help you as a proofreader. Not only will it get you used to taking in large volumes of text without tiring, it will also help you to see common stylistic, punctuation and grammar use in a form that has been professionally proofread and edited.
There are also some books that will help to improve your proofreading skills:
- Troublesome Wordsby Bill Bryson
- New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide
- Don’t Trust Your Spell Checkby Dean Evans
- The Penguin Guide to Grammarby R.L. Trask
- Accidence Will Happen: The Non-Pedantic Guide to English Usageby Oliver Kamm
Tip 14. Be Consistent
Part of proofreading is also to review the style and formatting within a piece or article. There are lots of different ways to do this and some of it is personal choice, but the main thing is to be consistent and ensure the post does what it says it will.
Here are a few things to look out for:
- Is the use of bold, italics and underlining consistent? For example, if you made the first heading bold, are they all bold?
- Are there full stops on captions and bullet points? If you have then stick to them, if not then make sure they are all removed.
- Is the space between images and the next block of text consistent throughout the post?
- Are the hyphens consistently sized throughout the post. Sometimes they will default to being the larger ‘em dash’.
- Do the hyperlinks go to where you think they should?
- Do any passages need highlighting to make the text easier to read? This is especially important in long pieces.
- Is the capitalisation in headers consistent?
Tip 15. Split up the Workload
A great tip for proofreading is to split the process into multiple passes. For example, you might use reverse reading to check for spelling, slow yourself down to focus in on the content and grammar, then finish by putting WordPress into preview mode for one last scan during which you also review the formatting and style.
This makes the task seem a lot more manageable and means your brain and eyes only have to focus in on one element of the proofreading process at a time.
Tip 16. Don’t Make it Worse!
Whilst proofreading blog posts the chances are you will make a lot of edits. When doing so make sure you are meticulous with your typing: you don’t want to fix one problem just to create another. Many of these changes are likely to be your last before publishing so there is no safety net here!
- KateProof.co.uk| Kate Haigh is a professional proofreader and copy-editor with a really interesting blog with a wealth of useful information about proofreading.
- Why Typos and Spelling Mistakes Don’t Really Matter| Lucy Kellaway offers an alternative view on the mistakes that creep into our writing.
- 15 Proofreading Tips from a BioMedical Editor| Making a mistake on a blog post is embarrassing but an error in a medical document could be catastrophic. So when a medical editor gives proofreading tips it’s probably worth listening!
- What is Proofreading?| Guidelines from the ‘Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ covering what to expect when hiring a proofreader.
- Words to Capitalise in Titles and Headings| Lynn Gaertner-Johnston gives some useful guidelines on how best to use capital letters in titles and headings.
- What should you focus on when you’re proofreading?| The Hedera House is run by Rosie Morley and is a fantastic tool for bloggers. In this article she focuses in on the key elements of proofreading and tips for completing them.
- The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens| An interesting article looking into the differences between reading on paper and on a screen.
- How Distractions Take Up More Time Than You Think| Focus is an important tool for blogging and proofreading productivity. This article highlights the sciences behind why it’s so important to minimise distractions whilst you are working.
I hope you have found these articles useful and it has given you some ideas on how to improve your proofreading skills.
These 16 tips have covered some really practical skills and tools that can help you publish more professional content straight away. I would suggest picking a couple to start with and see if they help you and if they don’t then try something different. Just a few of these could make a big difference to your articles so choose the ones that work for you.
I’d love to hear how you get on so feel free to share your favourites in the comments below. If you have any tips of your own then I’d love to hear them.
P.S. I really hope I’ve have followed my own advice here of it could be the the most embarassing article i’ve Ever written!
P.P.S That last sentence was a joke 😉
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.