As an editor, writer and public relations specialist a significant part of my role involves proofreading and editing. More and more of us are creating articles and content for use online, whether it’s a social media blog post or a website. So what’s the most accurate and most time-efficient way to proofread an online document?
Here are some tips for success:
1. Take an initial run through and correct anything which leaps out at you – this might be grammar, incorrect spelling, incorrect capitalisation, anything which is really obvious.
2. Once you’ve got rid of the obvious (which can distract you from the detail) you can move on.
3. Start to read the piece line by line. You’ll soon get to know whether the author’s work can be improved by enhancing their sentence structure, whether they’re using punctuation correctly, whether they are unnecessarily wordy, and so on.
4. How does the piece flow? Do you need to move ideas sentences or paragraphs around to improve the run of ideas?
5. Is there a ‘favourite word’ or phrase? Many authors tend to over use one particular word or words within a piece, try and spot theirs and introduce some synonyms.
6. Is there consistency across the piece in terms of the voice being first person or third person?
7. If your role also involves presentation of the piece, think about breaking long paragraphs up into short ones, variety of length of sentence and structure, introducing sub heads and bullet points.
8. Can you introduce some images, infographics or screenshots to illustrate the piece?
9. Look down the left-hand side of the piece, do you have a paragraph followed by another paragraph starting with the same word or phrase? If so, replace it with something else.
10. The article will very likely include links to various websites, blogs etc. Check these are accurate and check that they go to the correct page, for example if a blog post is being cited make sure that the link goes direct to that blog post not just to the homepage of the blog.
11. If you’re having to make decisions about how to write a particular word, such as Website vs website or web site, or ebook vs e-book or Ebook, then you need to start your own style guide for future reference, or to add to an existing one. This will ensure consistency within the piece itself and also across the whole site or publication. It will also ensure that you are not constantly having to spend time making this type of decision.
12. Some pieces require much more editing than others. For those which are problematic I would recommend taking them from your online publishing medium and putting them into a different one, whether it is a Word document or a PDF. Looking at them in a different format will help you to spot errors and opportunities for enhancement. If it is a long form article then moving it to a different medium will also help you to have a better look at the piece overall, in terms of readability and the way that the piece is broken up into reader-friendly segments.
13. Still not totally happy with the piece? Try to take some time away from it. Going back to it with fresh eyes will help you to see it more clearly. And if you’re still not sure, reading it in reverse order, i.e. from the end of the document to the beginning will help to make sure you don’t skip past any errors.
14. If you’ve made more than minor edits, it’s good practice to run the revised piece past the author to check that they are happy with your alterations.
Author: Catherine Dhanjal, TheAnswer Ltd Tel: 0794 166 9925
If you’d like some help proofing or editing your documents, Catherine is based between Bristol and Bath, and works with clients across the UK and overseas, just get in touch with her!