Words, at times, need a once-over. Automated spell check can fail, and most of us type a little too fast for complete accuracy. If your eyes don’t immediately pick up on spelling mistakes and you find grammar blunders anything but obvious, yet copyediting or content creation is part of your job, never fear. Below are some quick tips to knock out the task. If the burden is too heavy to bear, however, you can always look to some savvy content superstars (we know a few) to help you out.
Question facts, stats, quotes and names.
No matter where you use content — a blog, quarterly report or social media post — it never hurts to double or even triple-check the accuracy of your information. Cite sources if appropriate and leave out anything you’re unsure of. This especially goes for names: People notice even the smallest of slip-ups here, and at best they’ll take offense. At worst they’ll question your credibility.
Look closely and from 2,000 feet above.
Zoom in on what you’re reading. Here’s a trick I learned in college that I still find useful to this day: read backward to catch spelling mistakes. Research has shown we all have the habit of anticipating what a sentence says and easily gloss over individual words.
In the same vein, take a larger view of the piece and see it from a greater perspective. Whether it’s a short headline or a white paper, is it relevant to your audience? Does it really get your message across?
Have you tuned out?
Do you find yourself checking Facebook for the 10th time while you’re reading through something? Proceed with caution because this is a bad sign. If it’s your job to focus on this task and you still can’t keep your eyes on the page, what do you expect of your readers?
These days, when it comes to content, less is generally more. Cull down and take out any slow or uninteresting sections, or consider if there are any graphics that could enhance the copy. Maybe it will just take some reformatting — break up longer content into smaller paragraphs or put it in a list format. Consider if you even need so many words or if your point would be better communicated through an infographic. Whether it’s an annual report or a brochure, double check to make sure your words need to be words and, if they do, that they’re the right ones.
The rules are still the rules.
Though we’re seeing a downgrade in the importance of grammar standards in today’s quick, 100-character limit, hashtag- and emoticon-laden world, glaring grammar mistakes still reflect poorly. Tip: keep a quick-reference guide on your desk or bookmark a convenient grammar website. Also, Word catches most mistakes, so if you’re editing in something different, do a final check by copying and pasting the text into Word.
Walk away from the screen.
Print out a hard copy (sorry, trees) and get your pen handy. Distractions on the screen can lead to overlooked mistakes. For optimum editing victories, take yourself to a quiet room and focus on reading what’s in front of you.