There’s alot to be said for proof reading any peace of work you do before it goes to print. In my experience, you can become to close too a piece of work, be that written or design based, and after a point you cease to notice small errors, and sometimes even the big, glaring ones can pass you bye.
Yes, it is no longer enough to rely on the stop and go, red and green squiggly underlines that Word graciously provides us with should we make schoolboy errors; us creatives must take matters into our own hands in order to preserve the sanctity of coherent, flawless work.
It may be the case that each of you have developed your own means for assuring accurate work, I however have a few things that I do religiously when undertaking a new task that I’m going to share with you throughout this blog but first here are the main reasons for proofreading:
- Accuracy of work
- Credibility of source
We all remember getting a piece of work back from the teacher at school and there being notes scribbled in the margin and words or sections scored out. Then there were the rhetorical questions…Did you mean X? and Why didn’t you use Y? When a piece of work is put ‘out there’ its readers automatically become an army of teachers, ready to pounce on any little mistake using it as a reason to doubt the credibility of the source i.e. you, the author, and the publication. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are not the only things that are subject to scrutiny; tense, flow and message are all in the same boat as far as a reader is concerned…
…And then there is Google who acts like a silent ninja in the fight against improper use of language to boost search engine results. You may think you are being clever by inserting keywords left, right and centre but sometimes less can be more. Your piece or statement must make sense and read well, if I was to say “We are Debut Marketing, a marketing agency that offers marketing consultation, will help you market your products and services, and that works with businesses and individuals from market owners to aspiring marketers…” you would probably think that I was trying to reassure myself let alone potential customers!
It shouldn’t matter what kind of piece you are producing, rules are rules. Try using these bullet points as a checklist to keep you on the right track:
- Facts and figures are accurate and up to date
- Does the source need to be accredited and if so, is it?
- Correctly attributed quotes etc.
- Correct spelling of names & places etc.
- Dates, times and locations are right
- Contact information is current
- Spell check (English UK and not English USA)
- Links from the piece are working
- If necessary, permission to use images has been granted
- No blatant overuse of keywords/seo terms
- Tense consistency
- If it’s a story does it have a clear beginning, middle and end?
- Is your message clear?
- Does it cover all you set out for it to do?
But with that said, there are some exceptions to the rule, mainly fictional writing. Here you have creative license and can go wild with names, places and dates. And thank goodness; I don’t suppose Harry Potter would have been such a success if his name was John Smith and he attended Castle Academy?
So what is the best way to put a big, fat tick next to the above points bearing in mind that I said at the beginning of the blog that an author can easily become too close to a piece of work. If you are lucky enough to have an editor at hand (or a super experienced and knowledgeable boss) then great, good for you. Alas, not all of us do and it is in cases like this that I recommend the following tips:
Set out a list of objectives for the piece
This will help you see whether or not you have strayed from the topic in hand, whether you have achieved your goal and what you may need to add to the piece
Read with a ruler
I don’t mean you should sit down with the Queen by your side, but doing this is a great way to check punctuation and spelling. The eye and mind share the habit of reading ahead and presuming what will come next – you need to make sure your text flows
Give it to someone else, a varied mix of people if possible
Make use of a second, a third and even a fourth, pair of eyes. This will not only help pick up any little spelling and grammatical errors but will also let you know whether the piece is clear in its message
Go back to it after a break
If you are unable to share your piece with anyone else before the publication date then it is a good idea to take a break from it once it is finished. Go away and get some air, have a cuppa or take the dog out and then when you return you will be looking at it with fresh eyes
Outsource your work
This gives you the benefit and peace of mind of having a professional do all of the above for you. Contact us if you want to find out more.
How good are your proofreading skills? How many mistakes did you find in the first paragraph? Answers in the comments below.
Next week I want to hear from you. What are your main marketing gripes and moans? Tweet me @carolinefw or @debutmarketing and I can compile a list and hopefully put some issues to bed!