There’s a tedious but necessary final step before hitting “publish”: proofreading. If you’re anything like me, proofreading is the antithesis of writing, cruelly shunting you from an intuitive, creative flow to the much-less-fulfilling world of misplaced commas and accidental their/there/they’re confusion.
Still, it’s gotta be done; an error dulls the shine from the most sparkling prose, and even personal, stream-of-consciousness posts benefit from good copyediting. Try these three steps to become your own best editor:
- Check for accuracy. Is everything you’ve written correct? This is critical if what you’re writing includes things like dates, contact information, or data — it’s easy for our eyes to skip over a street address we’ve seen a hundred times, so take a minute to focus on these details. Accuracy is about more than just verifying the spelling of an email address, though. If you’re offering instructions, are they clear and comprehensive? Is anything open to misinterpretation? Be your own devil’s advocate and give your writing a once-over from a reader’s perspective.
- Be merciless with nips and tucks. Editing is as important as writing; your first draft is just that — a draft. Heck, even the second and third drafts may be works-in-progress. Once you’ve got all your ideas down clearly and accurately and you think you’re happy, take a figurative x-acto knife to your words. Is each word necessary? Is each word as strong as it can be? Does each word advance your point? Be hard on yourself. (Don’t cut out words or ideas just for editing’s sake, though — going too far can undermine your message and damage the flow of a post.)
- Double-check spelling and grammar. Last but not least, comb through your post for spelling errors, grammar missteps, and typos. You’ve got a proofreading tool built right into the post editor: click on the “ABC” icon to activate it, and get spelling and grammar fixes along with style suggestions. A caveat, though: we’ve all seen mistakes in computer-checked documents, so do a final read yourself. If you’re like me, a quick reader and prone to missing mistakes, reading your post out loud is a great way to catch lingering gaffes — you’ll hear the mistake (along with any clunky sentences that snuck past your x-acto knife). Having a friend with fresh eyes do a final review can also be a lifesaver.
If you can take a quick breather between each step, all the better; taking a break from your words makes it more likely that you can evaluate them critically on your return. If you don’t have time, no big deal. Simply paying more attention to each element of proofreading and copyediting will lead you toward stronger writing.
Do you have any tricks for tightening your writing and catching mistakes? Share, please!