things to look for when proofreading

12 Things To Look for When Proofreading

What Is One Thing To Look For When Proofreading? 

To help you know what is required in proofreading, we asked business and thought leaders this question for their best insights. From consistency with British or American English to correct sentence structure, there are several things to look for in any text you are proofreading to help you come out with a well-polished written document.

Here Are 12 Things To Look For When Proofreading:

  • Consistency With British Or American English
  • Correct Rendering of Names
  • Accidental Plagiarism
  • Right Tone and Voice as Well as Spelling and Grammar
  • Proper Formatting
  • How Engaging The Text Is
  • Correct Context
  • Up-To-Date Numbers and Figures
  • Correct Use of Homophones
  • Clarity and Concision
  • Boring Repetition
  • Correct Sentence Structure

Consistency With British Or American English

Sometimes it may be clear whether you’re writing for a British or American audience, and in that case, it’s quite straightforward to stick to either British or American English. But more and more businesses now find themselves writing for an international audience and working with team members based all over the world.

If your writer uses British English but your editor is used to American formatting, you can end up with inconsistencies that will stand out to some readers.

The best way to overcome this is by having clear guidelines for your entire publishing team. Then, proofreaders can check that spelling, vocabulary and punctuation styles are consistent across everything you publish.

Amanda Napitu, Improving Your English

Correct Rendering of Names

If you’re a reporter and you misspell a person’s name, it sabotages the entire article. If you give a presentation and your PowerPoint misidentifies a person critical to the story, it will negatively affect the presentation’s impact. Avoid those credibility-killers and double check every name to make sure they’re spelled correctly.

Much of your fact-checking should be devoted to making sure the names of people, places, and agencies are spelled properly. At the very least, misspelled names are distracting. At the very worst, it can sink the entire project.

Joel Jackson, Lifeforce

Accidental Plagiarism

Check for accidental plagiarism by using online plagiarism checkers. A blog post or an academic paper might seem perfect and grammatically correct, but all that goes out the window if there are any cases of accidental plagiarism.

Even if the error is purely incidental, accusations of plagiarism can do serious damage to a student’s or a company’s reputation. For that reason, it’s always a good idea to run a Scribbr plagiarism search, or use one of the free online checkers, before you send a paper to your professor or hit a post on your blog entry.

Rob Bartlett, WTFast

Right Tone and Voice as Well as Spelling and Grammar

Proofreading should always include an evaluation of tone and voice in addition to the classic checks for spelling and grammatical errors. Especially in branding, tone and voice make all the difference in your messaging and should be carefully considered in both the writing and proofreading process.

For example, if your brand’s target audience is young, progressive, and approachable, your messaging shouldn’t say something like, “Welcome to the world of (brand.) Our elegant fine jewelry awaits.”

A good proofreader would recognize an inconsistency in tone and instead write something like, “Hey friends! Headed to a friend’s wedding this season? We’ve got just the thing.” While this type of proofreading is certainly a bit more complex than simply double-checking spelling and grammar, it’s definitely essential to delivering accurate and on-brand messages to your audience, regardless of the medium.

Reece Kresser, Zizi

Proper Formatting

Formatting. This is the worst thing you can overlook when proofreading. So always check for common formatting mistakes to eliminate them. Too wide margins? Smaller fond followed by a bit bigger one?

Double spaces between paragraphs? Don’t allow yourself to make such obvious mistakes. Consistent formatting is as important as good tone, logical flow, or even grammar. But don’t go too crazy. Overuse of italics or bold is also a mistake.

Agata Szczepanek, MyPerfectResume

How Engaging The Text Is

Ensure you are using an active voice in your writing. An active voice brings readers into the moment of action, generating a stronger emotional connection. It’s a writing technique that is vital in journalism. When earning my degree, many of my assignments came back with comments from professors stating that using an active voice, rather than a passive one, makes a story, and a headline sound current and compelling.

For example, “The bill is being signed into law by the president” is a passive voice that emphasizes the person or object that experiences an action rather than who or what performs the action. “The president signs the bill into law” is an active voice that says what the president is doing, making the story more captivating for audiences.

Many passive voice checkers are available online, such as the Hemingway app and Grammarly. Using these tools can help to improve your proofreading skills while making your writing stronger.

Maria Shriver, MOSH

Correct Context

When proofreading for copy or PR, always double-check to make sure you address the reporter’s or publication’s query directly. Grammatical errors can be embarrassing but are common mistakes; however, missing the question entirely is unproductive for you and your collaborators.

It’s easy to get caught up in your own train of thought when trying to answer a complicated or nuanced question about your business.

When you double-check your work for logistical errors, don’t forget to read your answers for comprehension to ensure you are getting the right message across. Keep your language simple and reread your pitches for ease of flow. If what you’re trying to say isn’t easy to understand, maybe there’s a better way to address the question.

Tom Mohr, Tom Mohr

Up-To-Date Numbers and Figures

Make sure all numbers and figures are up to date. Numbers, in all fields but particularly in fintech and finance, can fluctuate rapidly, and sometimes in the course of time in drafting a blog or report, any numbers included can become outdated. For that reason, it’s important to do a quick check-in the proofreading stage just before you publish your post.

Alex Wang, Ember Fund

Correct Use of Homophones

Look for homophones. Homophones are words that have the same sound but different meanings, and they sneak up on you. Especially if you’re working quickly, homophones will slip through the cracks and make your writing look sloppy and unprofessional.

Make sure to do a homophone scan when proofreading, and then a second for good measure. Publishing content with basic spelling and grammar errors can put your readers off and make it harder to earn their trust. If you do a homophone scan in your proofreading, you catch many common errors that slip through during the writing process.

Tony Staehelin, Benable

Clarity and Concision

I seek simplicity and clarity when proofreading. The minimization of errors is an obvious aim in editing and proofreading, but I like to minimize the language to its clearest form as well.

Ideas are too often presented in flowery, decorative language, and when a concept is metaphysical rather than physical, the idea can get lost with language or sentence structures that complicate its articulation. Creative flourishes are a great bonus if a zesty word or poetic phrase fits into a body of writing with reasoning and motivation, but fun words must come second to a clear focus of communication.

Thomas Yuan, Sanebox

Boring Repetition

Repetitious words and phrases can drag down the overall quality of any written piece. It’s not uncommon to notice the same words or phrases appearing frequently in a single work.  When proofreading a body of text, especially when it’s long-form, it takes time to evaluate whether or not the piece suffers from a monotonous writing style.

If you notice a lot of repeat wording in the text you’re proofreading, it’s a good idea to use some clever synonyms to diversify the sound of the read. Just be careful not to go too big on the fancy words. It’s always best to try and match the reading level of the content. Your goal should be to add linguistic diversity without alienating the readers with injecting overly complex terminology.

Alex Chavarry, Cool Links

Correct Sentence Structure

Sentence structure is one of the most important things to look for when proofreading. Clear run-on sentences by making them shorter— the simpler the sentence, the easier it is for the reader to comprehend.

Additionally, break sentences that use too many semicolons. Begin by stating the subject and avoid passive voice. A structured sentence is clear, concise, and doesn’t join too many ideas together or express partial thoughts.

Ray Leon, Pet Insurance Review

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