“You had me at the correct use of ‘you’re’.”
Truer words have never spoken. Okay, maybe there were, but when it comes to blogging, nothing turns us off faster than reading one too many “You’ll love my new cookie recipe, there a real crowd pleaser!” Too many typos and grammatical errors show a lack of commitment and passion for what you do. If you are not going to take the time to proofread something that you have written, why should a stranger take the time to read it? Follow these helpful tips to make sure you don’t have to publish two times because of too many typos.
Read It Aloud
The easiest way to proofread anything you have written is to read it aloud to yourself. In doing so, you will not only catch tiny spelling mistakes, but you will also be drawn to what punctuation needs fixing. This is a great way to fix those pesky run-on sentences and ensure that you are always using the correct there/their/they’re. Too often than not, we think faster than we type or are only giving half of our attention to what we’re writing. In doing so, we skip words here and there or somehow plug in a few lyrics of the song we are currently listening to rather than the end of our fabulous cookie recipe. Reading your work out loud before you ever hit publish will help you catch all the small mistakes you never meant to make.
Print It Out
When in doubt, print it out. We so seldom write on anything other than our computers that we have trained our eyes to breeze over digital print. By printing out your work, you force your eyes to play closer attention to the black ink printed on white paper, making them work a little bit harder to read what you have written. Unlike your computer, you aren’t able to hit the delete a couple of times and fix your mistakes instantly. The extra effort that it takes to find your mistakes on paper and go back to your computer to fix them makes them more prevalent in your mind, making you less likely to repeat the same mistake again.
The dreaded red pen that used to plague you in all of your English classes is now going to be your best friend. There was a reason your teachers corrected your work with red pens–it stands out! After crossing out the incorrect use of “you’re” for the umpteenth time and having to write the correct use over it, you will train yourself to think twice as you are typing out the word in the first place. Training yourself to pay closer attention to the areas of writing that you regularly have trouble with, will ultimately lead you to not make the small mistakes moving forward. Most of our grammatical errors stem from us simply writing too quickly and not paying proper attention to what we are doing. The red pen will act as a trigger in your mind to remind you to slow down while typing out certain things.
Too often, we're so close to a piece of writing and know what it's supposed to say, that we don't read what it actually says.
Having someone you trust and admire read your work is always helpful. We are often too close to a piece of writing and know what it is supposed to say, that we do not read what it actually does say. Getting a fresh pair of eyes to read your work is a great way to not only catch grammar errors, but it is also helpful in learning what areas of your writing may not completely make sense or what parts seems to drag on. A good trick to getting the most out of an outside proofreader is to first give them your article and ask only what they think about it. Then after they give you their overall opinion, ask them to read it one more time to look for spelling and grammar issues. Asking your reader to wear both the hat of a regular audience member, as well as a critical literary eye will get you two proofreaders for the price of one.
Sleep On It
Sometimes we begin writing something that we love and after working on the same fifteen sentences for what feels like an eternity, we can’t stand it anymore. All of the quirky bits we added in have lost their charm and we are left wondering why we wrote anything in the first place. If you should feel this way while writing, don’t throw all your hard work in the trash. Take a step back, put it away for a while, and sleep on it. The same way that a joke can be hilarious the first time you hear it but not ten times later, your writing can feel overplayed if you stare at it for too long. This is usually because you are the one writing, re-writing, and editing it. If you start to tire of a piece long before you ever hit publish, set it aside and come back to it in a day or so.
Kill Your Darlings
In the wise words of William Faulkner, “In writing, you must always kill your darlings.” If you have never heard this expression before and are not quite sure what it means, it’s simple. As a writer, you fall in love with certain phrases, imagery and/or anecdotes you create. The problem is that the pieces we absolutely fall in love with sometimes don’t make sense or aren’t needed in the final version of our stories. As a writer, we feel connected to our “darlings” and have trouble telling the difference between what is good and what is needed. Darlings can be jokes, images, and phrases that we aesthetically like, but are distracting to our readers. Being able to let go of your own ego and prune your darlings out of your writing where necessary is a hard skill, but incredibly useful when proofreading your own work.