7 proofreading tips to conquer your content

“YOUR WORDS ARE JUST AS POWERFUL AS XENA’S MIGHTY AIR-KICKS.”

7 proofreading tips to conquer your content

I’ve been hanging out in the late ‘90s since last October. Xena: Warrior Princess and her quest to fight for good has had me enthralled for six series. I was committed to that box set relationship – I couldn’t cheat on it with any other show. The Xena year has been dramatic, powerful, escapist fun, and I’d given so much time and emotion that the finale punched me right in the heart.

We watch different media for different reasons. The same way that you might write for pleasure, education, to promote ourselves, or because your line manager needs the client report by 3pm tomorrow. Each reason comes with its own expense of input. Does the adrenaline pump or do you freeze in the face of a deadline?

MAYBE YOUR CREATIVE WRITING IS A CATHARTIC RELEASE, YOU’RE DRAINED FROM BULLET-POINTING YOUR WORTH FOR A CV OR ARE TIRED FROM NIGHTS RESEARCHING YOUR DISSERTATION.

Now the show’s finished, questions keep popping up – there are storylines to explore, character queries and episodes to re-watch. I could just press play but, right now, I can’t. I poured too much of myself into those 132 episodes.

How do you feel when you’ve finished your work? You’ve typed the last full stop, re-read it to catch those inevitable typos and you’re so close to the relief of pressing send, publish or print. One click and you can take a breath then focus elsewhere. But… your words are just as powerful as Xena’s mighty air-kicks and you want to be sure your audience won’t run away in horror or the fear of what else is to come.

Do you ever go back to content you’ve published or emails you’ve sent just for another look? You’re proud of your work and want to see it live or maybe you’ve not had the engagement or response you’d expected. Then you see it. A typo – autocorrect had changed it to a correctly typed but incorrect word. Perhaps the message isn’t a smooth as you thought – if only you could change that clunky phrasing. And you’d checked it thoroughly! But our brains like to make things easy for us and we end up with the odd oversight. Sometimes it’s too late to charge in and conquer. So, instead? Be strategic in advance.

HERE ARE 7 PROOFREADING TACTICS TO AVOID A WAR WITH YOUR WRITING:

GIVE YOURSELF TIME:

It’s not easy with the need for immediacy and deadlines, but time to return to it will give you the advantage of a different headspace.

CREATE DISTANCE:

Like time, it allows you to become less familiar with your text. Create it immediately by asking someone else to take an objective look.

PRINT IT OUT:

I hate suggesting this but find it so valuable. And recycle!

READ EACH SYLLABLE:

As the writer, you know what’s next. Read each syllable separately to stop yourself reading ahead. It can take some getting used to but it’s my favourite method.

READ ALOUD:

This method is extremely useful for punctuation and flow. I do this when I need to copy-edit convoluted or lengthy sections of text.

USE SOFTWARE:

But don’t expect spelling and grammar software to catch everything. They don’t always pick up on correctly typed words that are used incorrectly. They may not account for UK English rules, the flexibility of language or our own writing style. Some offer premium versions at a cost too, so the freebies won’t flag all the issues.

DON’T FORGET FONTS:

These should be consistent so the text is easy to read and follow. Check you’re using the same styles, size and colours throughout.

I’m using the time and distance approach with Xena. I’m giving it a whole seven series before I go back. I’m on the rebound with Buffy!

If real-life means that you still don’t have the time to put these proofreading tips into use, then try out these tips to use your time more productively. Or I can focus on proofreading your writing for you. Buffy can be paused in a click.

Do you have your own proofreading techniques that work best for you (or know of any other good ‘90s box sets…)?