8 proofreading strategies for polished copy

We all make mistakes sometimes. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. But some mistakes are more costly (and downright humiliating) than others.

What if you accidentally email an employee and ask him to pick up another shit (typo for “shift”) next week because you’re short-staffed? You may feel mortified when you discover your mistake a few hours later. But it’s unlikely that it will cause any long-term problems.

On the other hand, if typos pop up on the sales page for your product or in one of the marketing emails for your online course, you have a bigger problem on your hand.

You see, you can include all the right words and ideas in your copy. But if it contains typos or grammar errors, your audience will start to question your credibility. After all, if this is the level of care that you put into something when you’re trying to get someone to buy from you, what are you going to be like once your audience has committed to you and there’s no way for them to back out? Are you going to be sloppy and careless? You may not be. But that’s what typos and grammar errors can make your audience believe.

 

 

A computer displaying a website

 

Typos hurt your bottom line

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Do people really pay THAT much attention to typos in copy and content?” Yup.

Consumer surveys show that people rank “poor spelling and grammar” as the #1 problem that would damage their impression of a brand. And 59% of people say they wouldn’t hire a company that had spelling mistakes on their website or marketing materials.

Where does having polished, error-free copy and content get you? A study conducted at NYU found that hotels with error-free reviews on TripAdvisor were more in demand. Similarly, Zappos found that their revenue skyrocketed when they hired people to fix spelling mistakes in customer reviews. And lastly, when a UK brand that sells tights fixed a major typo on a product page, their conversions increased by a whopping 80%!

So whether you’re creating a sales page, drafting a marketing email, or getting ready to publish a new blog post, there’s one thing you absolutely need to do. You’ve gotta proofread that copy or content.

How do you do it? Keep reading below for my 8 favourite proofreading strategies for polished copy and content.

 

 

Need help making some final tweaks to boost the persuasive impact of your copy or content?
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1. Use an automatic spell checker

I know this seems super obvious. But you’d be amazed by the number of people who write a product page or throw together a blog post and don’t even bother to run their spell check. If you have time to draft a sales page or write a marketing email, I promise you that you have time to use the spell check feature in your work processor. (No, really, you do.)

Remember that even though spell check can pick up lots of typos and grammar errors, it doesn’t catch everything. For example, spell checkers are known for missing incorrect homophones (e.g., “their” instead of “there”). And they’re notorious for glossing right over typos that form other actual words (e.g., “morality” instead of “mortality”).

But before you start hating on spell check, remember that it helps you quickly spot and correct obvious typos and spelling mistakes, basic grammar errors, and even typographical issues (e.g., extra spaces between words). That’s why I suggest running it on your final draft. The more errors you can find and fix at this stage, the easier it’ll be to implement the more rigorous strategies below.

 

 

person typing on a laptop

 

2. Take a break

You may feel tempted to proofread your landing page or ebook right after you finish drafting and editing it. But there’s a reason why you shouldn’t: When you’ve been working on copy or content for hours, it becomes etched in your mind. And as a result, your brain ends up automatically correcting many of your errors each time you read it. The result? You won’t even notice them.

How do you beat your brain at its own game? If you have the luxury of time, set your copy or content aside for a few hours or even overnight. When you return to it, you’ll be able to read it with “fresh” eyes. And you’ll be more likely to spot mistakes you completely skipped over before.

Bonus tip: When proofreading your copy or content, read it at a slower pace than you normally would. This will help you focus on individual words and punctuation marks so you can spot errors effectively.

Related: 13 practical tips for writing insanely powerful website copy + free checklist

3. Read it out loud

You don’t need to grab a mic and belt out your sales page copy like it’s a power ballad. But reading your copy and content out loud (even in a quiet voice) is a great way to catch typos when proofreading on your own. When you read words out loud, you have to give yourself time to actually pronounce them. And your brain hears them. This makes it easier to pick up on typos and errors you may have missed before.

 

 

Need help making some final tweaks to boost the persuasive impact of your copy or content?
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4. Read it on paper

I don’t hate trees—I promise! But this is a proofreading strategy I absolutely swear by. Why does it make a difference to print your copy or content so you can read it on paper? It puts your copy in a different form (paper vs. screen). And as a result, your brain is less likely to perform its helpful-but-not-helpful autocorrect stunt.

Bonus tip: To help you focus on individual words and punctuation marks, point to each word as you read it. Alternatively, use other pieces of paper to cover up all the lines of printed text except the one you’re reading.

Related: 7 characteristics that make your website copy persuasive + free checklist

 

 

woman comparing printout to info on a screen

 

5. Read it backwards

I know this sounds crazy, my friends. But trust me on this proofreading strategy because it works. When you read your copy or content backwards, you’re more likely to focus on individual words rather than sets of words or entire sentences. Without the context that comes with reading sentences normally, your brain is less likely to autocorrect mistakes. You also tend to read more slowly when you read backwards. And just like in life, it’s always good to slooow things down every once in a while.

 

6. Ask someone else to read it

The goal of reading your copy or content after a break, out loud, on paper, or backwards is to help you approach it with fresh eyes. But the reality is that if you’ve spent a lot of time writing a sales page or a marketing email, it’ll never be completely fresh to you again.

What’s another proofreading strategy you can use to make sure you’ve found every typo and error lurking in your copy or content? Have someone else read it. This can be a colleague, friend, or even a family member. Just make sure you choose someone who’s proficient in the language you’re writing in and has solid grasp of grammar (because that’s kind of important).

 

 

Need help making some final tweaks to boost the persuasive impact of your copy or content?
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7. Pair up

If you can find a willing partner, proofreading in pairs is another great strategy. How does it work? Make sure you and your partner have separate copies of your copy or content. Then choose one person to be the “reader” and the other person to be the “listener.” The reader reads the copy or content out loud to the other person. As the reader does this, the listener follows along and points out typos, grammar errors, and even awkward sentences. This proofreading strategy can take time (and some work to coordinate schedules). But you know what they say: teamwork makes the dream work.

Related: How to cut the flab and write tight copy that sells + free landing page copy template & example

 

Two men having a meeting

 

8. Hire a copyeditor or proofreader

If you’re creating copy for something super important (for example, a course launch or sales funnel resource), you probably want to be at least 99% sure that what you’re putting out into the world is error free. In this case, the best proofreading strategy to bank on is to hire a copyeditor or proofreader to review your work. It’s great to get a colleague or friend to review your draft. But they probably don’t have the same expertise and experience as a professional copyeditor or proofreader does. And they may not have the time to review your copy or content as thoroughly.

When you hire a reputable copyeditor or proofreader, you can be confident that your copy or content is being reviewed by someone who knows what they’re doing and is motivated to do a good job. So if you’re writing a particularly important piece of copy or you just don’t feel confident about your own grammar skills, hiring a copyeditor or proofreader can be a god send.

 

Choose your favourite proofreading strategies

Do you need to use all of the proofreading strategies I shared above the next time you create copy or content? No! You’re a busy bee. And I know you don’t have time for that.

So what do I recommend? For most pieces of copy or content, run an automatic spell checker (Strategy #1) and then use one of the other 7 strategies listed above. When the stakes are higher, add one or more additional strategies to the mix. And don’t be afraid to hire a professional copyeditor or proofreader. Remember, in the eyes of your audience, your credibility is priceless.

 

 

Need help making some final tweaks to boost the persuasive impact of your copy or content?
Download my free list of 476 power words.

Send me the list




 

 

8 proofreading strategies for copy and content

8 proofreading tricks to nix typos from your copy and content + free list of 476 power words
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2 thoughts on “8 proofreading tricks to nix typos from your copy and content + free list of 476 power words

  • February 7, 2019 at 3:03 am
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    Hey, Nadia. Thanks for this — it’s great.

    I was particularly pleased to see point number 7 about pairing up. Peer editing and peer proofreading are incredibly powerful tools that too many bloggers and writers simply ignore.

    I’m going to direct my readers to your post, as it reinforces the advice I’ve given them about effective proofreading as a means of maintaining credibility. Thanks again!

    Steve

    Reply
    • February 7, 2019 at 9:55 am
      Permalink

      Hi Steve.

      I agree! Going solo can seem easier, but there’s so much you can miss when you don’t have the benefit of working with someone who can bring a fresh perspective (and fresh eyes!).

      I hope your readers find this to be just as valuable as you do.

      Reply

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