When it comes to writing for your business, proofreading like a pro is essential.
Unfortunately for us humans, we aren’t machines. Our brains don’t flash up wiggly red lines each time we make a spelling mistake (although we wish they did!), nor do they catch every typo when we’re rushing to get something on the page.
In fact, 93% of people make regular mistakes in work emails and other professional communications, including social media and blog posts. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a grammatical error like using the wrong ‘your/you’re’ or an embarrassing typo that completely changes the meaning of the message (‘bog’ instead of ‘blog’ springs to mind!), we’ve all felt that hot flush of humiliation upon realising our mistake.
Most of the time, they’re easy to correct, can be laughed off, or by some miracle we catch them before the email is sent or blog published, but regular typos or misspellings when you’re running a business can be detrimental to your credibility.
Take this for example – a study carried out by Website Planet found that bounce rate increased by 85% on a landing page with several spelling and grammar mistakes, compared to one completely free of errors. When people are checking out your business for the first time, they’re on high alert for anything that doesn’t seem quite right. If your blogs, social media and website are littered with small errors, it could give the impression of carelessness.
While this most likely isn’t the case, the aforementioned study proves that for many people, it’s a dealbreaker.
But why do we make so many typos even when checking and double checking our work? And how can we up our proofreading skills to avoid future spelling and grammar blunders?
The Psychology of Typos
Writing is a difficult task. While it may seem like simply putting some words on a page, our brains are actually dealing with multiple complex functions all at once. We’re thinking about individual words, linking those words together to form sentences, connecting those sentences to form paragraphs and an overall cohesive message… the list goes on! Because writing is so taxing, our brains have little capacity left for things like noticing small spelling errors – hence a piece full of typos!
It’s only afterwards when we take a step back to read what we’ve written that our brains allow us to spot errors – and even then, it’s not always the case! By the time we’ve finished writing, the piece is familiar to us. When reading it back, our brains will skip over errors and fill them in with the correct version that we’ve assumed we’ve written, lulling us into a false sense of security that all is well!
This happens to even the most professional of proofreaders and can be a real source of frustration when you’re trying to put out clear messaging for your business. You’ll likely have read and reread the piece before putting it out into the world, only to notice a sneaky typo that’s slipped through the net after it’s been published.
So, unfortunately for us, typos, spelling errors and grammar mistakes will always be a thing – but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of catching them before you hit publish…
Our Top Tips for Proofreading like a Pro
Leave it Alone
One of the best things you can do when checking a piece of text is to leave it well alone and come back to it later on with fresh eyes and a clear mind.
Like we mentioned earlier, our brains have a crafty way of skipping over errors when we’re overly familiar with a text. Taking a break and coming back to it later on creates some distance between you and the text and allows you to be more thorough when proofreading.
You’ll be much more likely to catch typos after some time away – trust us! Leaving it overnight and coming back to it in the morning is best, but if you’re pushed for time, an hour should do the trick.
Use Microsoft Word
Although it may seem obvious, paying attention to spellcheck functions on programmes like Microsoft Word can be incredibly beneficial. We all correct words when we spot a wiggly red line, but paying attention to flagged up grammatical errors too can make a huge difference to the flow of the text overall.
Microsoft Word is also great for checking short pieces of text like social media posts that haven’t necessarily been written out in document format. There’s no guarantee that the social media platform you’re using will have a spellcheck function, so it’s always best to copy the text into Microsoft Word first to double check for errors.
A Word (see what we did there?) of warning though – programmes like Microsoft Word will only pick up obvious spelling and grammar errors. For example, if you’ve typed the word ‘out’ instead of ‘our’, it won’t be flagged as a misspelling so be extra vigilant when on the lookout for tiny typos.
Grammarly is essentially Microsoft spellcheck, but better! It’s far more advanced with its sole purpose being to leave you with error free, grammatically correct text that flows nicely. Not only will it pick up on obvious spelling and grammar mistakes, but it’ll also weed out those tiny typos that Microsoft Word may miss.
It’ll also let you know when something doesn’t make sense – a perfect opportunity to check your messaging and ensure its clarity isn’t being impacted by any mistakes.
Print it Off
Changing the physical form of the content you’re proofreading can help massively when it comes to catching typos.
How many times have you proofread on screen, printed off the final document and then immediately spotted a typo suddenly illuminated by the physical paper in your hand? If you’re anything like us, it will have happened to you one too many times!
When we’re reading a piece of text on a screen, we become familiar with the layout and format of it. So much so, in fact, that our brains will hop, skip and jump over typos. Printing the document off disrupts that familiarity, making your brain slow down and increase focus, which is why those typos you previously missed are so much easier to spot.
So, the next time you need to proofread a piece of work, fire up the printer, grab a highlighter and scour a physical copy for any hidden mistakes.
Edit line by line
When faced with pages and pages full of writing to proofread, it’s natural to feel a little daunted and, in your panic, you may miss things like typos, grammatical errors or clunky writing.
If time allows, one way to combat this is to edit your text line by line. Use a folded piece of paper to place under the line you’re focusing on, covering the rest of the text. This will allow you to focus on a single line and ensure it’s 100% correct and well written before moving onto the next.
This type of thorough read through is vital for longer texts.
Invest in an Actual Proofreading Pro
Even after implementing the above tips and tricks, you may still feel frustrated by proofreading and its time-consuming nature. To avoid rushing and potentially missing typos and errors, it maybe worthwhile for you to invest in a professional.
Professional proofreaders give your writing their full attention and spend time meticulously combing through it to catch even the smallest of typos. You’ll be left with plenty of time on your hands to focus on other aspects of your business, as well as content that is 100% accurate.
For more information about how we can support you with your content, please do not hesitate to get in touch.