Proof, proof and proof again
Having composed a piece of copy, it can be all too tempting to save and send without giving it another moment’s thought. Let’s face it, proofreading is hardly the most exciting of tasks; but we all know that it’s a key part of copywriting – don’t we?!
The arguments for proofreading are relatively obvious. Typos, errors and spelling mistakes can be unprofessional, irritating to read and sometimes quite embarrassing (look no further than here and here if you need convincing of the latter, or a giggle!). More to the point, they can result in a loss of readership and more work (and expense) further down the line when it comes to fixing your mistake – if fixing it is even an option.
All in all, it seems silly to put time and effort into producing a well-informed, creative piece of copy then devalue it with silly errors – but how do you go about avoiding them?
The first thing to point out is that proofreading is definitely something more than giving your writing the “once over”. Especially if you’ve become particularly familiar with your piece, you’re unlikely to notice even the most glaringly obvious of errors from just a quick read-through.
1. Print your copy out and read through it with a pen in hand.
It sounds ridiculously simple, but looking at your copy in a different way definitely makes a difference to what you notice. You might just spot a mistake that you didn’t see when it was on screen – and it reduces the chance of you getting distracted by e-mails too!
2. Change the font and size of your copy during proofreading.
Again, sounds simple, but the less familiar your copy looks to you, the more likely you are to pick up on mistakes that you didn’t see before (and you’ll be surprised how much your copy seems to belong to someone else once it’s in another font!).
3. Read it out loud or – best of all – get someone else to read it for you.
Mistakes and errors in grammar may become obvious when they are spoken aloud; and other people are bound to spot those obvious mistakes that you just can’t see anymore. You can also combine the two and get someone to read it aloud to you as you follow it on the page: that really does catch the errors.
4. Remember to double check the details.
You wouldn’t expect to read a piece of copy that gets crucial bits of information like numbers or people’s names wrong, but these are easy mistakes to make. The best way to avoid them? Double checking – even when you think you’re certain.
There’s not really a secret to the art of proofing…or maybe the secret is that you have to actually do it!
But either way, these tips should help you make sure that all your t’s are crossed and your i’s are dotted before you send that piece of copywriting to a client, your boss or – worst of all – to prent (just kidding! – to print.).