It is the night before your essay/project is due and you worked hard all night to get it ready. When you get it back from your professor or editing desk there are so many editing marks on it, and you wonder why. She has circled grammar mistakes, comma splices, miss-spelled words, and you keep seeing the comment “unclear” at the end of every other sentence. To top it off at the end of the paper she comments, “very good concepts, but please read aloud before submitting.”
Your editor keeps sending back your copy saying you are not giving them what they ask for; you’re not clear in your delivery or the flow is not consistent. Your editor is looking for the tags or keywords that were assigned to the copy and they are not there.
This happens to writers that do not proofread their work. Professional writers know that no matter how much editing goes on in the developing stage of an article, or book, that the proofreading step must be done by following a process. It is part of the writing process that cannot be skipped.
What is Proofreading?
Proofreading is a final process of pulling together a writing assignment. It could be an essay, book, magazine etc. No document that is written should be released without thorough proofreading. There are no perfect writers.
- Editing/Responding to the assignment: what did the professor/editor require, is the argument clear, are the citations available (if needed), and does it have the proper content. There are learning outcomes for each paper/project that is assigned, have you met them? Have you explained your research and theories? Do you have a thesis statement? Are you addressing your audience?
- Sub-Editing/Structure: is the paper organized correctly, is the style consistent, which includes headings, line spacing and sentence structure. Compound sentences and be difficult when it comes to structure, check for line breaks in the print out. Some documents have to be converted to PDF in order to get a cohesive output. Are your verbs and tenses in agreement, if not this can make for passive reading?
- Errors: spelling, grammar, typos, and the application of page numbers. Work on your weaknesses first. If you know that you use the word “that” too many times, type it into the find section of your software and replace some of the times you have used it. Sometimes called transcription errors, errors on the typed page differ according to the style of the writer. They could come from language barriers, and the writer’s level of grammar skills. Learn your writing style and what characteristics of your writing are affected. We stress this; read your copy aloud.
Sometimes, print out your copy instead of trying to proof it from the screen. Use color paper so that your work is presented as new to your eyes when you read it. Our minds and play tricks on us and make us read what it wants us to read.
Stress and time constraints also play a part in your level of errors.
- Time: If you have a deadline, keep it in mind. A ticking clock can cause undue stress. You do not want to be a late paper/project presenter. Not only will your copy be weak, it will affect your grade or whether you can sell your work.
Writing for the Web
This writing has more implications than for print copy. You have to make sure that the copy is consistent to be viewed on more than one type of screen when developing text for social media. People will be using laptops, phones and desktops; web content must be developed for each of these types of search. Be sure to check each of these platforms before delivering the finished project to your client. If you think print copy is time consuming, this type of mistake can go into days instead of hours to fix; especially if someone has access and has changed something before it gets back to you.When someone arrives to a site, if the first thing they see is copy that jumps all over the page, or miss-spelled words, they leave with a sour taste in their mouths and do not come back. If you don’t get the sites address right, there will be no visitors.The ability to write for SEO (search engine optimization) is a skill that online social media writers have to consider. Headings and word placement will be the difference between whether or not web pages get visits, which is how business grows online. There is keyword generating software that can be used to help with developing good SEO practices. Know the site you are writing for; audience is important. Once you have developed your content, proofread, proofread, proofread.
Get Professional Help
Proofreading you own work is a no-no whether you do it for print of online copy. Get others to do it for you, and a professional is the best option when you are writing for your career.Getting ideas together and laying them out for success is time consuming; before you hit that send button and end up wasting time that can be spent working on the next project, proofread. If you do not know how to proofread, learn. It is a priority skill to have if you are going to be a professional writer.
When you develop the skills to present error-free copy to your professors, or your clients, your reputation grows as a detail-oriented writer that takes the time to make sure the projects you are assigned are as on point as possible.Whether you are writing for school or for a professional career, you want to be sure that when someone picks up your work, it reflects the best you can do. It may be time consuming, that is why you give yourself the time, but it is necessary. Writing is an art form, and as with all art, it takes practice and concentration. The more you write the better you will become. You will soon be able to write copy and pick up your own mistakes before sending to an editor or proofreading stage; do it anyway.