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How to proof read your own content

Proof readingOne of the most neglected aspects of self-publishing is proofing and editing copy. The world is full of people who write and publish their own content (myself included, as is evident with this very piece) and there is a wealth of un-proofed content, full of errors and inconsistencies.

I am guilty of not re-reading my own copy before publishing it, some of the time, but even when I do, author blindness will mean I miss some problems.

Here is a checklist for writers, to help you ensure your quantity is matched by quality.

Which English? – Decide which version of English you are using. American English and English English have different vocabularies and different ways of spelling the same thing. Traditionalists believe “realise” and “specialise” are the proper English spellings, although “realize” and “specialize” are acceptable for both. Have a house style so that your copy follows a consistent set of rules.

Check facts – If you state a fact, check it. Don’t just state something you have heard someone say. If you can’t verify something, say it has been reported or don’t say it at all. You could link to sources or cite them in your copy to back up any claims you make.

Look for typos – Once you have written your copy, re-read it slowly looking for typing errors or spelling mistakes. transposed letters are common (“teh” for example instead of “the”).

Read for sense – writers can often half complete sentences – perhaps because they are long with confusing clauses. This could be caused by you losing your train of thought halfway through. Re-read your copy to make sure each sentence says what you mean and means what you want it to say.

Look for repetition – Sometimes you will repeat yourself, having started your article without an order in mind. If you just write and publish without re-reading, you may not realise you have said the same thing twice. This is common in tabloid newspapers where an editor will take a statement from lower down the story and highlight it nearer the beginning, without re-ordering the content.

Capitals on Nouns. Why? – Check every word in your text that has a capital letter. If it is not a proper noun or the beginning of a sentence, don’t capitalise. Here’s an example you may commonly see on websites. “XYZ company specialises in Marketing, Advertising and Design services.” Why are marketing, advertising and design capitalised? They are not brand names, not part of a book or other title and not the name of the company. They are just words in a sentence like any other.

Check links, emails and numbers – you can easily make a mistake when typing a phone number, an email address or a link. Check these are correct – don’t just gloss over them and assume they are correct.

Now, if you want to point out any errors or inconsistencies in this piece, feel free.

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