7 easy proofreading mistakes nearly every beginner blogger makes

People gathered around a table trying to think of ideas.

Erring might be human, but it isn’t an excuse for complacency. Good writing is the result of good proofreading.

Related content: How to Self-Edit a Novel: A Practical 9-step Guide

Pick up your proofreading game by avoiding these 7 common mistakes:


1) Common typos

I like to keep a sticky note (or 3) around to remind me how to spell some of the words I have the most trouble with (guarantee is one of my worst).

Yes, every computer these days has a spellcheck, but even these highly advanced grammatical machines can make mistakes, and they don’t pick up on some of the nuances of wordplay and meaning: thank goodness, or else I might be out of a job.


2) Poor grammar mistakes

A bad blog can’t be improved by better grammar, but a great blog can be destroyed by poor grammar. It doesn’t matter how great your points are if a broken sentence is obscuring its meaning.

Keep an eye out for these in particular:

  • It’s vs its.
  • Which vs that.
  • Use of semicolons (just don’t).
  • Too often use of “and” at the start of sentences.
  • Too many or too few commas.
  • Using en dashes or hyphens when you should be using em dashes.
  • Overuse of passive voice


3) Failing to write like you talk

Allow me to demonstrate how extraordinarily clunky it is to utilise unnecessarily languorous and lengthy verbage in written prose that one would never say nor think to add in real life.

Just write like you talk. I have a rule: 90 per cent of the time, if someone comes to me (the words guy) and asks me “Jack, how do I say…”, I will sit and listen to them finish their sentence, and respond: “like that!”.

Allow me to demonstrate how extraordinarily clunky it is to utilise unnecessarily languorous and lengthy verbage in written prose that one would never say nor think to add in real life.

Brevity is important too, but never try to “fancy up” your writing more than is necessary. Keep it within brand guidelines, of course, but always try to keep it natural.


4) Plagiarising

Plagiarism can seem easy to avoid. Just don’t copy and paste, right? Not quite.

Plagiarism isn’t just the theft of words, it’s the theft of ideas too. We all get inspired or informed by sources elsewhere, but taking ideas without attributing them properly is easily one of the most common breaches of plagiarism (not to mention writing ethics).

Don’t be afraid to link to where you got the information from. Linking out to an authoritative source can even be a good thing! It shows you know what you’re talking about, and can back up what you’re saying with hard evidence and/or established ideas.

My rule is this: if it’s data, you’ll need to cite where it’s from with a link, if possible. If you can’t find it or access it, name the people responsible e.g. “Research from CoreLogic recently revealed…” or “Scientists from Harvard University discovered…”.

If it’s more ideas-based, see if you can find two other sources that say the same thing. If so, you can generally think of it as common knowledge for what you’re writing and get it down without a citation.

But, if in doubt, cite. Don’t be “that blogger” that plagiarises, even accidentally.


5) Failing to proof in the first place

Even the best writers in the world let a typo or a poor turn of phrase slip through the net. That’s why proofreading is a step you need to master in order to create great copy. Misspelling a word is enough to convince your reader that you don’t really know what you’re talking abuot—see?

The work isn’t done once the writing is done. You must edit, and all too often, bloggers fail to do so.

The work isn’t done once the writing is done.

Not only that, but you need to proof multiple times. First to smooth out the glaring errors, second to dig into the subtleties, and third to round out any loose ends.

It’s an involved process, and by the third time it can feel like you never want to write anything ever again! That’s why a lot of people turn to friend, family or third-party proofreader to go through the process for them instead.

Whatever method you use, don’t make the mistake of failing to proof. Your copy will suffer.


6) Not letting it rest

Here’s a fun fact for you: Stephen King, one of the most prolific writers ever, always makes sure to leave a finished manuscript for about six weeks before rereading it. He talks about this in his book, On Writing.

You’d think that someone who churns out so many books would be just as fast with his proofing, so why does he leave a whole month and a half before touching his work again?

One simple reason: you get tired of your own writing, and you start making mistakes. Leaving a piece to rest for a day, two days, or a couple of weeks, gives your brain time to ‘forget’ what it has created. It allows you to view it with fresh eyes, much in the same way that your eventual readers would be viewing it.

I’ve spoken about the importance of this in the context of novel writing, but this same method works for articles too. Personally, I leave at least a day in between my writing and proofing. This works exceptionally well when combined with the task batching method too.

Give the work time to rest, and use your fresh eyes to proofread accurately.


7) Never reading aloud

Good writing is often good reading—if it sounds good out loud, then it’ll sound good written down too. You’ll find it easier to identify pacing issues, or run-on sentences, just to start with. This also helps to keep your work sounding natural, ensuring that you “write the way you speak”, as described further up.

If you’re in a busy office environment, I’d recommend doing this under your breath to avoid distracting office neighbours.

Good writing is often good reading—if it sounds good out loud, then it’ll sound good written down too.

For even better results, try reading out loud in another accent. It makes you think about what you’re saying a lot more; not just looking out for typos but also breaking outside of your own author’s voice to uncover how it may read to another person.

Personally, I have an English accent in real life so I read my work with a Scottish accent—they are extremely different and it forces me to think of my work from a different sound perspective. Plus it’s fun.


Summary

There you have it: a few simple ways to ensure that your copy is tight and shiny for your readers upon publishing. Try using this as a checklist for your next article: I can almost guarantee there’ll be at least one that can improve your blog!

Looking for a proven way to avoid these common mistakes that could damage your online content authority? I’ve got the solution: me. For a quick chat about your content needs, or a consultation on your greater business blogging enterprise, get in touch with me. Let’s get your content the attention it deserves!

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