As mentioned elsewhere in this checklist package, content that’s riddled with errors doesn’t make a very good impression, it doesn’t project confidence or expertise, and it lowers the value of your content. That’s why you’re going to want to proof your content to eliminate as many errors as possible, and this checklist shows you how to do it.
Set The Content Aside
Trying to proof your content 30 seconds after you’ve finished writing it won’t do you a whole lot of good. That’s because your brain is likely to read the content the way it was “supposed” to be written, rather than the way it actually appears on the page. That’s why you’ll want to set the content aside for at least two or three days (longer is even better), so that you can proof it with “fresh” eyes.
Here’s another idea…
Print It Off
We’re used to looking at our screens when we’re creating content. So if you print off the content, it looks different. And this difference is just enough to enable you to catch more errors. It sounds so simple, but it really works – try it for yourself to see!
Run Spellcheck And Grammar Check
This is one of the most basic first steps in proofing your content – run your word processor’s built in spellcheck and grammar check. But keep in mind that these tools can’t catch every error. Instead, they can only catch obvious errors (like blatant misspellings).
Which brings us to the next point…
Look for Misspellings Not Caught By Spellcheck
Sometimes you spell a word correctly, but you don’t use the correct word. For example, you might use “there” when you meant to say “their.” (E.G., “Where is there phone?” is incorrect, as it should be “Where is their phone?”) Spellcheck won’t catch these sorts of errors – and even the grammar check might miss ‘em-- so you’ll need to hunt them down yourself.
Pay particular attention to these common words that we tend to mix up:
· To, too and two.
· Than and then.
· You and you’re.
· Their, they’re and there.
· Lead and led.
· Accept and except.
· Loose and lose.
· Stationery and stationary.
· Desert and dessert.
· Proceed and precede.
· Compliment and complement.
· Affect and effect.
· Its and it’s.
· Principal and principle.
· Passed and past.
TIP: If you have problems with these sorts of words, use a resource like Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” book, or any number or grammar resources online.
Read It Out Loud
This is a good way to catch parts of your content that are muddled or otherwise difficult to read. Simply read it out loud, and take note of any places where you stumble or hesitate.
Even better? Have someone else read it out loud to you, and take note of where they have problems such as:
· Pausing before reading a passage.
· Furrowing their brow.
· Backing up and re-reading something.
· Muddling up and reading it not as it’s written (i.e., their brain reads it in a way that makes it easier to comprehend).
· Asking you what word is and/or what it means.
Check For Accuracy
Any time that you share any sort of fact or data, you want to be absolutely sure that it is correct. If you get even one fact wrong, your readers will question the credibility of your entire piece.
So here’s how to check for accuracy:
· Fact check using multiple sources. Don’t depend on just one source to get your information – instead, go to multiple sources. In essence, fact-check the fact-checking sites to be sure you’re relaying the right information.
· Use credible sources only. This includes reputable news sites, scholarly articles, university sites, government sites, and authority sites (like WebMD.com, for example).
· Go to the original source whenever possible. If you find a fact on a news site or even in a Wikipedia article, verify that fact by going directly to the original source (such as a scholarly article).
Get Someone Else To Review It
Generally, you’re too close to your own work in order to catch every single error. That’s why you’ll want to get a neutral third-party to review it. Here are some possibilities:
· Ask a friend or relative to do it. This friend should have a good grasp of grammar and spelling. Even better if you have a friend who holds an English degree or other qualification.
· Get beta readers. In some niches, you may be able to select a group of beta readers who can help ferret out the errors for you. This group should be able to not only offer feedback on the content itself, but also on the way it’s written (with respect to proper spelling and grammar).
Where can you find beta readers? You can find them all over, and chances are you’ll have lots of people taking you up on your offer (especially if they’re getting paid products for free in exchange for their feedback). Take these steps to find and recruit beta readers:
- Blog about it.
- Tell your social media followers.
- Drop a note to your newsletter list.
- Ask your colleagues if they’d become beta readers.
- Directly approach people in your niche, such as those who often comment on your forum, blog or social media pages.
TIP: Since you’re likely to get more beta readers than you can handle, you may want to create a short “application” process. This application would come in the form of a quiz to help you assess whether a particular person has the English skills needed to proof your content.
· Hire a professional. Sometimes the best way to be sure your content is polished and ready to roll is by hiring a professional to proof it. You can find a professional on a freelancing site such as UpWork.com or Guru.com. Just be sure to do your due diligence so that you do indeed hire a qualified professional.
Point is, don’t be the only one to lay eyes on your content – get a fresh set of eyes to proof it before you release it!
The bottom line here is that you can make a great impression and boost the value of your content with one simple step: proof your content. And be sure to use this checklist the next time you need to proof something!