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Proofing Tips for Business Content

It takes an exceptional person to be a naturally skilled proofer: patient, focused, detail-oriented, and endlessly fascinated by language. But most of us are not born with those skills. That's why, this week, we're sharing what may sound like an oxymoron - proofreading shortcuts.


Shortcut: Online Proofing

Online proofing programs can be helpful but don’t settle for free versions. Invest in professional subscriptions: they're pretty affordable and much more robust. We like Grammarly, but there are tons of them out there, including Ziflow, Scribbr, and more. You can even purchase programs that proof in a particular style, like AP Style, or writing that adheres to the Chicago Manual of Style.

Shortcut: Hire a Proofer

Some online programs like Scribbr also offer human proofing services. Fivver and Upwork are also good places to look for a specialized freelancer, but not all services are "as advertised." Furthermore, testing a new proofer on an important project is never a good idea. Instead, test on low-risk projects, find a few good resources, and stick with them.

Shortcut: Ask Someone Else to Read It

There's a lot of research out there that explains why humans are so bad at proofing their own writing. So even if you don't have time to hire a proofer, have someone else read your work. They'll quickly spot errors that your brain refuses to recognize.


Shortcut: Digital Read Aloud

Most computers and all Word programs have a read-aloud function. While reading aloud won't catch misplaced commas and other punctuation mistakes, you'll be able to identify a host of other issues by hearing instead of reading.


Shortcut: Read Your Material Out Loud

This is less effective than listening to your computer read your work, but it can be helpful to some writers. Warning: This doesn't work for everyone, so test this method thoroughly before relying on it.


Shortcut: Walk Away

Even a short break will make you less familiar with your own writing, making it much easier to proof your work. Whenever possible, put your work to one side, work on another project, and go back to your writing later in the day or, better yet, one or two days later.


Proofing Matters, So Pay Attention

No matter which combination of approaches you use, remember that proofing matters. It is difficult to get your point across unless you pay attention to what you write, how you write it, and the rules governing style and clarity. Mistakes can be embarrassing, but they may also change meaning or even confuse the reader. To paraphrase an old adage, proof twice, post once.

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