By Allison VanNest of Grammarly.com
At Grammarly, we focus on cleaning up copy after it’s already written. Even though we’re on the opposite team, so to speak, we’re deeply for grateful for all the freelance writers out there, without whom we would have nothing to proofread.
We all know that good grammar is the equivalent of wearing a nice suit to an interview: it makes a positive impression on clients and readers, which can lead to more (and better paid) work. With that in mind, here are our top six proofreading tips to get your copy in tip-top shape!
- Read your copy out loud. Yes, you will feel silly doing this. But it really is the best way to catch typos, awkward syntax, and omitted words. Our brains are very good at filling in the blanks when we scan a screen, but reading out loud forces us to slow down and pay attention to every word.
- Take a Break. It’s tempting to proofread immediately after you finish writing; after all, you want to wrap your latest project and get paid. However, it’s best to give yourself a break before you launch into proofreading. According to Shane Arthur at Copyblogger, you should “walk, run, or jog away from your screen before you start proofreading. Fixing everything at once will only allow errors to fool your eyes into believing they don’t exist. Take a break, and come back with your well-rested proofreader mindset.”
- Create Your Own Grammar Guide. Develop a “house style” for the different types of copy you write regularly that includes both notes on style and grammar issues that regularly trip you up. If you know that you struggle with comma splices and dangling participles, you can start to build a personalized grammar guide that’ll help you perform triage on your copy.
- Cut Out Distractions. Proofreading does not lend itself to multitasking. Writer Leah McClellan recommends creating a distraction-proof environment before you being the task: “Shut down email and social media, hide the cell phone, shut off the TV, radio, or music, and close the door. Print your document if you need to get away from the computer altogether.”
- Double Check and Double Click. If your piece includes numbers, facts, and figures, double check them against your source material. A slip of the key can change 10 percent to 100, and you may not remember the details off the top of your head. In addition, review your references before finalizing your copy. If you’re writing for the web, make sure to click through any links you’ve included to make sure that they take readers to the correct page.
- Know When to Ask for Help. For those really important writing projects—the first piece for a new and potentially lucrative client, for example, or a big ghostwriting project—you may need an extra set of eyes to help out. Like finding a good mechanic or dentist, the best way to find a qualified proofreader is to ask around. The Editorial Freelancers Association has a helpful table of suggested rates here to help you estimate costs. If hiring a pro isn’t in your budget, you can try asking an eagle-eyed friend or check out Grammarly’s automated proofreading tool.
Finally, a tip for all freelancers: This Thanksgiving, give yourself a pat on the back for all your hard work!
About the Author: A self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and more than ONE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.