Whether you need to proofread your writing or someone else’s masterpiece, time is rarely on your side if you work full-time. So, it makes sense to use a proven method to increase your proofreading speed and effectiveness.
At MPH Copywriting, we have created our own tick list and tricks, which are a blend of experience and tried and tested Chartered Institute of Marketing techniques.
Proofreading for style
Firstly, ask yourself about the style of writing. There’s no point getting stuck into proofreading the words if at first glance the content is generally off the mark.
To check style, mark ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to these questions:
○ Can you get the point of the content in six seconds? Title and first paragraph.
○ Do you want to read on or fall asleep?
○ Can you scan and jump to relevant sections?
○ Are the title and subheaders making different points about the overall topic?
○ Does the tone of voice match the company?
○ Are there any compliance red flags? All quotes and data must be referenced/linked and claims substantiated.
○ Would the target reader find this interesting at top-level (subheaders)?
○ Does the content use the attention, interest, decision, and action (AIDA) technique?
If you’ve answered ‘no’ to any of the above, do not bother proofreading any further. Place the piece into revision until the top points are all ‘yes’. Senior stakeholders will pick this up very quickly and will not read on, even if it’s a grammatical masterpiece.
Secondly, and once you’re happy with the style, you can move on to proofreading at paragraph level.
Try scanning the content in full and look only at the paragraphs. Ensure that:
○ Each paragraph marks a change in speaker, event, or action.
○ The language used within the piece demonstrates knowledge and builds on the subheader.
○ The order of each idea moves the readers on from one idea to the next naturally.
Proofreading at sentence level
Now that you’re confident that the content is flowing, you can get down to the nitty-gritty of sentence structure.
Assess each sentence for:
○ Fluency: natural, smooth, and expressive.
○ Grammar and syntax: the ability to structure a sentence that makes sense (commas in the correct place). A good piece of software like Grammarly will pick sentence structure issues up if you’re not confident. Alternatively, an excellent way to do this is to read a questionable sentence out loud.
○ Clarity: the message should be clear and avoid wordiness or jargon.
○ Brevity: saying more by using less.
○ An active voice.
Proofreading at word level
Finally, you can proofread at a word level, which is essential to catch those typos that have alluded the spell checkers. This requires a single full read of the content after all of the revisions above have been done. You won’t mind this so much if you deal with the obvious issues first.
Professional proofreaders read a document forwards and then backwards. However, that takes time. So, my advice is to copy the content into Word, and select Review> Read Aloud. You will pick up even the smallest errors doing this.
You can download and use this document internally for free.