Proofread Like a Pro: 3 Secrets to Success

In 1962, NASA launched the Mariner 1, an interplanetary probe on its way to Venus. Within minutes after takeoff, the probe exploded due to a single missing hyphen in its code, costing NASA $80 million.

And in 2006, accounting software for the New York City Department of Education misinterpreted a document. An extra letter made the document unreadable, and as a result, the department spent $2.8 million rather than $1.4 million in transportation.

In each of these situations, small typos cost business owners millions of dollars. Naturally, you want to avoid similar mistakes when you prepare any marketing campaign.

With a little proofreading, you can catch typos, spelling errors, and misplaced punctuation before they cost you sales and customers. If you’re not sure where to start, try the following strategies to improve the quality of your text.

1. Don’t Rely Solely on Spellchecker

If you work digitally, you should note that many word processors come with their own spellchecker and grammar checker programs. Microsoft Word, for example, will underline basic errors and let you know if you’ve repeated words.

But this program won’t find everything. Spellchecker might not pick up on homophones (words with same sounds but different spellings), and it won’t help you decide between commonly confused words such as affect and effect.

For best results, you may need to plug your content into multiple programs and checkers. Some of the most popular editing tools such as Grammarly Proofreader, PolishMyWriting, Ginger, and Slick Write will help you find mistakes that your typical word processor might miss.

2. Read It Aloud

Unless you have an audience, you likely don’t read out loud. In fact, you read much faster when you let your eyes, rather than your mouth, do the work. The brain understands familiar words without needing complete input from individual letters, so you can skim quickly and still absorb information.

But when you proofread, take the time to say each word out loud, not just in your head. The auditory input will help your brain detect errors that you would have jumped over otherwise.

Additionally, reading aloud lets you see where pauses occur naturally. If you haven’t taken a breath for a while, you may have a run-on sentence that needs dividing or a particularly long sentence that could use simplification.

Furthermore, when you read out loud, you can quickly spot awkward word placement, repetition, and gaps in information. When you hear your work, you can also get a greater sense of your overall tone, and you can quickly tell whether you are too casual, formal, chatty, or serious.

If you have a smaller article or post, try reading it backwards and it will help you check your wording.

3. Re-Read After Making Corrections

After reading over your project, you’ve likely made a few corrections. You may have crossed out unnecessary phrases or inserted punctuation to make your piece flow more smoothly and feel more natural.

But sometimes your corrections can cause additional problems rather than fix your original mistakes. When you insert a forgotten word, your overall sentence may seem ambiguous. When you remove a troublesome sentence, you might delete essential punctuation along with it. And when you add an explanatory paragraph, the new information may conflict with an earlier statement.

As a general rule, read through your document multiple times and focus on different editing aspects during each session. For example, the first round could emphasize sentence structures. The second round could dissect your word choice and spelling. The third round could double-check facts and figures.

If your deadline allows, give yourself time to set the text aside for a few hours (or days) so you can approach your project with a fresh set of eyes each time. Use all the time you need, put it down and come back in an hour or a day and start fresh.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

When you practice the above techniques and tips, you can find many typos and mistakes you may have missed. However, proofreading your own work proves difficult, and even the most experienced editors might not see problems with their own writing.

Use these techniques for notes, emails, posts, brochures, articles, and everything. Take the time to proofread even the simplest of copy!

Before you print your final copy of your next project, hire an expert (or even ask a close friend, family member, or coworker) to quickly glance over your work. Your piece will look cleaner and more professional as a result.