Proofreading checklist, a comprehensive guide

Proofreading is crucial as it can add power to your work. Without it, your writing has a high chance of containing errors such as grammatical mistakes, poor sentence structure, misspellings, typographical errors, tense confusion, punctuation errors, among others. These errors can really undermine your credibility as a writer, an academic or a blogger. Therefore, no writer should publish, post or submit their work before carefully reviewing, reflecting on it, and revising what they've written, and then rigorously proofreading it.

When done thoroughly and correctly, proofreading can make all the difference between writing which communicates successfully with its intended audience and writing that doesn't. The way your work looks actually affects the way other people judge it, and some careless errors can distract the target readers from its message.

Overall, proofreading effectively is a vital part of making a good impression in any writing. By going that extra mile to make your work shine, you will create a much more impressive and quality finished product. That said, lets now take a look at the advantages of proofreading;

Helps Convey Your Message Clearly and Avoid Misunderstandings

Performing a rigorous proofread of your work gives you the chance to correct any mistakes which may cloud your actual intended meaning. Proofreading enables you to say precisely what you wish to say, in a manner that's suitable for the intended readership. Expressing your exact ideas clearly and concisely does not only strengthen your message, but it also reduces the likelihood of any misunderstandings.

Proofreading Makes Sure Your Work is Error Free

Some seemingly minor errors like misplaced punctuation can change the whole meaning of a sentence. Fortunately, proofreading can help make sure such errors are corrected. Errors like grammar mistakes, misspellings, typos and others, can also be caught and corrected when proofreading.

Proofreading Ensures Professionalism

Every blogger or writer needs to present himself or herself in a professional manner, and having documents, posts or articles which are full of errors can damage your reputation and credibility. By thoroughly proofreading your work, you can ensure it's professionally written and completely error free. When your documents, posts or articles are free of any kind of errors, your clients and customers will have the trust and confidence they require to hire you. Taking time to create clear, concise, well-written texts also demonstrates that you really do care about quality, which in turn increases confidence in your services.

Makes Non-native English Texts Read Like Native English

If you are getting any kind of text translated from another language into English, or if English isn't your native language or 1st language, having that text proofread can help fix any mistakes present, and can ensure it sounds just like native English.

Other advantages of proofreading;
  • Helps you amend phrases or words which the spell checker wouldn't spot, like using “than” instead of “that”.
  • Smooths out differences in style in case there are multiple contributors, authors or writers.
  • Provides peace of mind and the assurance that your work is the best it can be.
  • Proofreading helps you avoid negative feedback, embarrassment, along with the cost and time for correcting errors.

Proofreading Checklist

When proofreading, you should 1st read your work slowly and carefully so as to determine whether it clearly communicates its' intended message. If the introductory paragraph or the title do not clearly convey the intent of the writing or if paragraphs don't flow naturally from the introduction, you should consider rewriting those parts.

Tone

When you are proofing, most of the tone issues should already have been corrected when editing. However, it is possible that some parts might still remain and it is your task to notice and correct them. Any text riddled with unrecognizable words and complicated language will drastically decrease the overall impact of your writing. You should maintain a consistent tone throughput your work.

Flow

Many writers or bloggers focus most of their attention on the small details and tend to forget about the bigger picture; can the target readers logically understand your work? Your work should have a logical flow or structure. Without a good structure or flow, your impeccable grammar and fascinating points will not translate to your target readers. When proofreading, you should ask yourself;

  • Are transitions between the paragraphs smooth?
  • Are the points properly organized?
  • Are the headings and paragraphs organized in a logical order?
  • Can your readers find what they're looking for easily based on your text headings?
  • Should I add numbered lists or bullets to make the ideas more clear?
  • Are the sentences too short or too long?

Check for Sense

What makes sense the writer might not be as clear to the readers. A crucial part of proofreading is ensuring that every single thing makes sense to all the readers, and the meaning doesn't go astray along the way. Well, this does not mean 'dumbing down', it is about making sure that the users can clearly understand your work.

Grammar

Even the very best professional writers can make grammatical mistakes if they do not carefully proofread their work. For instance, they know they need to use 'they're' instead of 'their' but somehow it slips into their posts. To avoid such errors, you should be very vigilant when checking for grammatical errors.

Homophones

One of the most common errors made by writers is misusing homophones; words which sound similar but are actually spelled differently. The spellchecker will not catch misused words; it'll only catch misspellings. A read through your work can enable you to catch words you didn't intend to write.

Style

Abiding by a particular style might seem like a minor thing, but if you do not follow it can make your work seem out of place amongst the rest of the work. For instance, in HubSpot style guides, writers always capitalize the prepositions in headlines which are 4 letters (or more). So words like “from” or “with” should also be capitalized in the titles.

Consistency

When proofreading you should ensure consistency in your work. Some readers actually left sites because they are not sure they're on the right site, or cannot find what they are looking for. You need to have a consistent feel, tone and look across your work, blog or site. Your readership should be able to easily navigate without encountering different styles each time. You should check for paragraph structures and complex sentences which could be made much more concise, acronyms and complex words which need proper defining.

Also, verify that the tense is consistent all throughout your work. Slipping between present and past tense is one very common mistake made by writers, and it's extremely jarring to readers.

Vocabulary

Make sure that the vocabulary is varied. For instance, if you have said “Moreover” for the last couple of sentences, you should try to change it up. If you have used a word like “cute” 1o times in your writing, consider using a thesaurus. Just make sure that you know the connotations and definitions of the words you use, and ensure it conveys your intended meaning.

Country Specific Spelling and Jargon

Although global companies usually worry about this, everyone writer or blogger who posts online content needs to be concerned with this particular bullet point because anyone from any part of the planet can find and view your content. If your content is intended for the global audience, the last thing you'd want is for a reader to leave your blog or site because they did not understand your country specific references.

That said, it's important to note that you need not eliminate country-specific jargon and spelling if your target readers are local; however, make sure that your work makes sense to those in your particular industry from a different country.

Punctuation

Punctuation flaws generally relate with misuse of apostrophes. Before proofreading, you should learn about punctuation including; opening factor, conjunction, restrictive, and non-restrictive things. When it comes to apostrophes, you should make sure you fully recognize exactly how possessive styles of indefinite pronouns, plural nouns and single nouns appear like.

Comma Usage

One of the most common errors is missing or misplaced commas. These errors can completely change the meaning of the sentences and are usually way beyond the scope of the spell checking software or programs. Here are some examples of misplaced commas;
-Dave walked on his head, a little bit higher than usual. In the sentence, there's a misplaced comma which actually should be after 'on'.

Logical Images

Often, readers tend to notice the images more than text, especially if they are just scrolling through or speed reading. Therefore, make sure that your images make contextual sense. You can ask yourself;
-Do the images make sense on their own?
-Do the images require an explanation? If they need explaining, you can swap them for something else.

The images should hit home your points, and not make your readers ask more questions.

Spelling

MS Word and various other word processing software usually offer some spell checking features. Most of them underline the words if the program does not recognize it, while others can force you to invoke spell checking function manually. Do not solely rely on these spell checking features alone. Carefully, proofread your work, and if possible read it out loud. By doing this, you'll catch spelling errors and other common errors which a spell checking feature would never catch. That said, here are some examples of the words which are frequently overlooked by the spell checker;
-Homonyms; These are the words which sound the same, but are actually spelled differently. In English language, there is a long list of the homonyms and the built-in spell checker will most likely not know the difference. Therefore, it is your job to ensure you're using the right words.

Examples;
-'Complement' can be misspelled as 'compliment' and vice versa. You need to remember that the 'i' means remarking favorably; 'she complimented Jane on her beautiful score'; while the 'e' means to complete; 'the mashed potatoes complemented the dish'.

-'Perspective' can be misspelled as “prospective.” Prospective means, 'potential or likely in the future', while perspective means, 'point of view or seeing all the relevant data'.

Verbs

You should check your work for correct use of verbs. Do the verb and subject agree?

  • Plural subjects should have plural verbs, for example, Mike and I are lawyers', they play', 'children listen', etc.

  • 3rd person singular subjects (that is, “you” or “I”) should go with singular verbs (that is verbs which end in “s” and in present tense). For instance, 'Mike is a lawyer', 'she listens', “he washes his bike on Sundays', etc.

  • Keep in mind that verbs must agree with subjects, not with the other nouns. For instance, “the twigs of that tree are long.” Here, the subject is “twigs”, “of that tree” simply describes which twigs. The nouns following the preposition aren't the subject, even though they're next to verbs.

Typos

When proofreading for grammar, you should've also found typos, but it is possible that you might have missed some of them. You can use a built in spell checker to fix any typos present in your work. You would be surprised just how easy it is, even for trained proofreaders, to miss tiny typos especially when writing long articles.

You should make sure that all of the links actually work and are correctly directed to exactly where they are supposed to. Before submitting, posting or publishing your work, go through each link and open it up to ensure it works.

Watch Out for Some Other Common Errors
Some of the common errors to watch out for include but not limited to;

  • 'Separate' which is commonly misspelled by many writers as 'seperate': You should remember that there is “rat” in the word separate to avoid this error.
  • 'Further' is commonly used instead of 'farther': Further actually means 'additional', while farther refers to distance.

Of course, you will not always have the luxury of time or experience to thoroughly go through your documents; please contact The Proofreaders for a sharp set of eyes!