This is how to be a better proofreader in 3 easy steps

We’ve all been there. Your shiny, new publication has come in from the printers. You worked so hard on the copy – writing and rewriting for weeks on end. You’re finally ready to let the world see your baby.

But you open it up and… there.

Right there.

There’s a typo staring back at you.

Your stomach drops. How did you miss it?! You read that page so many times, you practically know the text by heart.

But you did miss it. You missed just one typo, one duplicate word, one misplaced apostrophe, and you’ve cost your company a chunk of money and a stack of customers.

You see, according to Global Lingo, 74% of people notice when a company has spelling or grammatical errors on its website or marketing materials. To make matters worse, 60% say they wouldn’t trust this company to deliver a high-quality service.

Mistakes matter. They make you seem amateur – even when you’re not. And amateur isn’t a good look when you’re trying to get customers to trust you. As soon as they spot your mistake, they stop trusting your ability and professionalism.

That’s why proofreading is a crucial part of the writing process. If something has text (also known as copy), it needs to be proofed before publication.

In fact, if you’re working with designers, you need to proof your work at least three times: (1) before it goes to the designer; (2) once it comes back from the designer; and (3) after printing but before you start distributing.

I proof every single one of my client’s work multiple times before sending it over to them. As a writer and editor, they’re paying me to provide word perfect material that’s free of errors and mistakes. Terrifying – I know – but I have an entire system to make sure I manage this properly.

Today, I’m letting you in on my three-step proofing process. Feel free to share it with anyone who writes in your office, whether they’re writing financial reports, social media posts, or brochures.

1. Let it sit for a day

Once I’ve finished writing something, I put it down and I don’t go back to it until the next day.

My writing process is separate to my editing process. If I went straight into editing, there’s no way I’d be able to spot typos and errors. I’m way too close to the work, which means my eyes will see what they want to see, as opposed to what’s actually on the page.

Give yourself a break between writing and proofreading. Ideally, a whole day – but when that’s not possible, even just a few hours can help. Switch up your task and work on something else instead. When you’ve had some time away from it, you can go back and start proofreading with a fresh pair of eyes.

If you’re on a tight deadline and you don’t have time for a quick break, another handy trick is to print your work. Seeing it on paper is very different to seeing it on a screen, and running a pen under each line as you read will help you focus on each individual word.

2. Use the Read Aloud feature

This is my favourite tip.

If you’re using Microsoft Word, there’s an amazing tool called Read Aloud under the Review tab. Highlight the text you want to proof, then hit the Read Aloud button, and listen as the text-to-speech feature reads your words out to you.

The narrator says your words in a robot-like voice that makes it impossible for you to miss typos and errors – because it reads exactly what you’ve typed. I can’t tell you the amount of times this narrator (sometimes Australian, sometimes British, sometimes male, sometimes female) has highlighted a missing word for me.

Using this always makes me confident that my work is free of errors. Try it once, and you’ll never go back.

3. Get someone else to read it

I love the Microsoft Word robot, but a human touch is always helpful too. If you can, get someone else to read your work. This goes back to us being too close to our own writing. We know what we meant to write, so that’s what we see when we read it. A lot of the time, we can’t actually spot what’s on the page.

I rely on my virtual assistant to proof all my posts before I hit publish. That way, I know my writing has gone through at least one other person before everyone else sees it too.

If you don’t have a colleague or friend who can read over your work, consider hiring a professional proofreader or editor, especially for big, one-time projects. Stop thinking about how much it costs, and start thinking about how much you’ll save by hiring one.

4. Good ol’ spell check

This tool’s been around forever, but it’s still not used enough. Don’t ignore all those squiggly lines. Spell check is your friend! It only takes two minutes to use, so you might as well make good use of it. After all, you have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

Over to you

What proofing tips do you have to share? Let us in on your secrets and comment below! And if you found this post helpful, don’t forget to hit the share button.


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Eman Ismail is a UK-based copywriter and the founder of InkHouse. She works with businesses and non-profits across the world, writing marketing materials and content that increases their exposure and attracts their ideal audience. When she's not writing or delivering copywriting workshops, you'll find her glued to a podcast in the corner of a cosy cafe.

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