How to Proofread Like a Pro
Why Proofreading is Crucial to Your Success
Nothing takes away from your credibility like a blog post full of grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Even if you've spelled one word incorrectly, you can quickly lose a reader or even a sale. Not cool!
In addition to this, Google's Matt Cutts has even said that grammar and spelling are taken into consideration when ranking websites in Google search. So if you want a high ranking, it's time to clean up some blog posts.
Tools to Get The Job Done
Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone can afford professional proofreading. Luckily, there are awesome tools available to fix mistakes. Check out these tools and tips to keep your readers coming back for more. And, best of all, they're free.
I love PaperRater because they really pack a punch and their online proofreading service is free (who doesn't love 'free'?) With a quick copy and paste job, you can find:
- Spelling mistakes
- Grammatical errors
- Poor word choices
- Your usage of transitional phrases
- Your usage of sophisticated vocabulary
- Whether or not your work has been plagiarized
The plagiarism checker alone makes it worthwhile to use this tool on your older blog posts! In addition to the above services, PaperRater also gives your text an overall grade.
2. Get a Proofreading Buddy
Have another blogger proofread your work. In lieu of payment, proofread her blog! That way you have another set of eyes on your work! You won't only get a list of spelling mistakes, but you'll have someone who can tell you, "Hey, it would be better if you restructure this sentence because it's a little awkward."
3. Define Your Jargon
This isn't really a tool, it's a tip, but please follow it. The other day I was reading a blog post and the writer kept saying stuff like, "I'm so excited for BLYP!" (That's not actually the acronym she used, I can't remember what she said.) I had no idea what she was talking about. Since I felt alienated by her blog post, I clicked off without commenting or checking out her other stuff. If you're excited about BLYP, tell your readers more about it.
You don't have to go too terribly deep into clarifying jargon, but at least breakdown acronyms for your readers. And by the way, for the morbidly curious, BLYP stands for Becke, Lee, Yang, and Parr (it's something that I used in chemistry research.)
Do you have a proofing buddy?
4. Use a Text-to-Speech Service to Hear Your Writing
When it comes to proofreading, you're your own worst enemy. This is because you'll read what you expect to read, not what's actually there. Even the best authors are crummy at proofreading their own work!
Instead of reading to yourself, paste your manuscript into a text-to-speech program like NaturalReader, and have the robot read it to you. If there's a mistake, you'll catch it immediately!
If you don't have access to a text-to-speech program, have a friend read it to you!
5. Review Commonly Confused Words
There are lots of words that people get confused all the time! For example, folks like to combine wary and leery into weary. Weary does NOT mean cautious it means tired. I've seen lots of writers make this mistake and I get it, the words do sound alike!
Below is a list of commonly confused words. Which words do you get confused? Use an online dictionary to look up words that you mix up. It's better to be safe than sorry... you don't want it to negatively affect your blog. Or is it 'effect?'
6. Forget Your Work
Have you ever found an old paper you’ve written and then upon reading it, found a ton of mistakes and obnoxious sentences? I’ve definitely read some of my older stuff and thought, “What was I thinking?!?”
In cases where you’re proofreading your own work, don’t edit it right after it was written. Instead, wait hours, days, months (the longer the better) before you proofread it. With a fresh pair of eyes, you’ll catch mistakes or awkward wording right away. You can really shape up your portfolio by proofreading your oldest blog posts!
7. Edit With Ginger
I love PaperRater, but sometimes it’s annoying or too time-consuming to copy and paste my work into that box. Ginger is a free plug-in you can use to proofread your stuff as you write. Ginger is very similar to PaperRater, but it doesn’t go quite as in-depth.
There is a pro version of Ginger that has a “sentence rephraser”, a tool to help you practice with mistakes you commonly make, and an analysis of your errors at $9.40 a month. That said, I feel that the free versions of Ginger and PaperRater contain everything you need to catch everything.
8. Get Your Readability Score
Google's own Matt Cutts did mention that it would be interesting to see how the readability of a website correlates to quality. There is currently a lot of speculation out there as to whether or not this is currently important to SEO (and a part of Google’s search algorithm.) Nevertheless, Google has implemented a reading level filter in its search results.
Whether or not having a highly readable site helps you with your Google search results placement, it’s still a good idea to target your writing to the reading level of your audience. Try to write in a clear and concise manner and, of course, check your readability score (particularly using the Flesch–Kincaid readability algorithm.)
With these tools, you’ll have your blog post, articles, and your what-have-yous sparkly clean. What-have-yous? Yeah, editing is important, but make sure you’re not getting rid of the quirky styling that makes your blog so very you. Plus, didn’t Shakespeare make up new words all the time?