A successful freelance writer creates dozens of pages of text every week. This is no surprise that even an experienced writer makes mistakes considering this amount of work.
Sometimes you just don’t notice a typo or misspelling after finishing your third page in a row. And a word processor is not a magic stick that can correct all of your mistakes.
The answer to this? Carefully edit and proofread your content. And here are the most important tips to make the most out of this.
Never edit and proofread at the same time. That is probably the most important piece of advice any writer can get. Why? Because they are two different activities focused on two different aspects of polishing up a piece of writing.
Nonetheless, there are some common tips that apply to both of these processes, as well as specific tips for each of them. Have a look and embrace the tips that you find most useful.
In this article:
Best Tips for Both Editing and Proofreading
- Back Away: You can’t do a decent job of either editing or proofreading immediately after you have finished a piece. You’re too “close” to it mentally and emotionally. Even if you’re facing a short deadline, at least take a short walk or a shower.
- Screen or Hard Copy: try editing and proofreading both ways and identify which way works best for you.
- Change the Look: Sometimes this helps to give your brain the impression that you are looking at a new document. Change the font, the color, etc. and dig in.
- Dump the Distractions: This is a time for focus. TV in the background probably won’t help.
- Divide it Up: If you have the time, edit and proofread in short chunks. It’s a boring task, and your attention may wane if you do it all in one sitting.
Tips for Editing
You are looking for overall structure, flow, logical organization of ideas, good transitions, and coherency in the points or arguments you are making. Here are the things to focus on:
- The Content: Have you covered the topic as requested or required? Are the points or argument you make valid and backed by research if required? Have you linked to authoritative sources? And, most important, have you covered every aspect of the topic and not added “fluff” just to get a word count?
- Structure: Remember what you were taught in school. Do you have an attention-grabbing introduction with a thesis statement? The reader must be told exactly what is to follow. Pat Fredshaw, a content editor for EssaySupply, sees this as a major failing of freelance copywriters. “They seem to forget that structure does not change, no matter what they write. You have to tell the reader what you are going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what you told them. This is universal and never changes.”
- Check your Paragraphs: Each of them must have a topic sentence somewhere in the content and stick to a single idea. You may have that idea divided into smaller points with bullet points, but they all must relate to the main idea.
- Style and Tone: This is a critical component of your writing and depends on the type of writing you are doing. An academic paper you are writing for a client will be formal, and vocabulary may be quite sophisticated. On the other hand, if you are writing content for a web-based business, your blog and social media posts will be informal, simply written, and the vocabulary equivalent to about the 7th-grade reading level. And avoid passive voice.
- Format and Citations: if your writing is of an academic nature and you must cite sources, be certain you are using the correct format. For web-based articles and posts, be sure you have included links to key resources/research. Christopher K. Mercer, CEO of Citatior, puts it this way: “Academic writing requires careful citation of all resources. But content writers often forget that they have an obligation too. When they include data, research, or key points that others have made, there should be links to those sources – it’s a matter of integrity and reliability.”
Image source: Giphy
Tips for Proofreading
Proofreading is that last thing you do before delivery or publishing. Here, you are going to focus on what are often called the “surface” errors – grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. If you have a structured process, then you will probably catch these errors, and your readers will not have to be “turned off” by these small irritants. Sometimes, in fact, failure to proofread can cost a writer dearly.
Randy Jackson, a client consultant with ResumesCentre, has this to offer: “I am always surprised when a client submits a resume for my evaluation and comment. They seem to forget that small errors are big red flags for prospective employers. It smacks of lack of attention to detail and an attitude toward a job search that is far too casual.”
First, a couple of warnings: Do not rely on spelling and grammar checkers built into word processing software. They are not foolproof, by any means. And if you use any of the automated grammar checkers, you can run into the same problem.
So, here are our structured tips:
- Read for only one type of error at a time: It’s much easier to find errors in spelling if you are not checking for anything else at the same time. This goes for grammar and punctuation errors too.
- Be a Tortoise: Slow and steady wins the race. Read each sentence deliberately and slowly, as you check each of the factors. For grammar checking, it may help to read each sentence out loud. Sometimes, we can “hear” mistakes when our eyes may not catch them.
- Use that Return Key: If you are proofing on your computer, press the return key after every sentence. In this way, each line begins a new sentence that you can look at separately.
- Look at each punctuation mark, sentence by sentence: Is it right? Do you know if it is right? If not, look it up.
- Read the piece backward: Then you will be focused on the grammar, etc. rather than the point being made. You can also try reading each sentence backwards if you are checking for spelling.
Image source: Giphy
Best Editing and Proofreading Tools
As you practice editing and proofreading, you’ll get better and faster. But, if you know that you are challenged in these areas, then it’s better to get some professional help, either from human pros or some of the better tools:
- SmallSEOTools: A package of text content tools to check your text for grammar and spelling mistakes as well as for plagiarism.
- FlashEssay: A professional writing service with a full editing and proofreading department.
- Grammarly: This is a tool that is good for catching passive voice and some sentence structure errors. It will also check for any plagiarism, which can be a great element to have.
- GetGoodGrade: While this is primarily an academic writing service, the company does have a great copywriting department, as well as a full team of editors and proofreaders specific to the type of writing to be edited.
- Hemingway App: Especially if you are writing copy for online business clients, this app will point out sentences that are too complex, superfluous adjectives and adverbs, and, in general, help you simplify your writing.
- OnlineWritersRating: Here is a site that provides summaries and reviews of online writing services, including evaluations of their editing and proofreading departments.
- Slick Write: This tool checks your writing for grammar errors, potential stylistic mistakes, and other features of interest.
Editing and proofreading are essential parts of your work as a freelance writer. You have to deliver your best quality content to make a name and leave your customers satisfied. These main tips will help you to master important skills to nail it.
Jessica Fender is a professional writer, independent blogger, and passionate trend explorer. You can find her articles on Freelancer.com and Addicted2Success. Or follow her on Twitter @fender_jess to never miss a new post.