Proofreading 101 – The Ultimate List of Things to Edit For

Proofreading 101 - The Ultimate List of Things to Edit For

Though proofreading is something that a lot of people don’t think a lot about, it is one of the most vital parts of publishing a blog post. Writing and content is important, but it doesn’t mean anything if your readers can’t make it through your post because of errors. A while back I wrote a post How to Proofread Your Posts Before Publishing because it’s really important to have a system in place so that proofreading every post is easy, and having a list of things to edit for will help.

Having a list is a great way to stay organized and create a strategy. You should build from my list and make one that applies to you – because everyone struggles with different elements of writing. Though you may be excellent at spelling or grammar, you might struggle with certain tenses or verbs, and you should put those specific examples on your list to make sure you always catch the mistakes. So start with this list, and use it to create your own! Here’s what I’ve got so far – I’ll be adding things as I think of them over time!

Proofreading 101 - The Ultimate List of Things to Edit For

Cliches

Cliches are the worst. They are as stinky as old cheese. They are just a waste of time. They are just gut wrenching. You see where I’m going with this, right? I wrote a post a little while ago – Pro Writing: Cliches – How to Avoid Them & Why You Need To. If you’re not careful, cliches can really drag down a good post. Make sure to edit every post for them!

Tense

Though tense isn’t something many people think about, it can ruin a post if you let it. Tense means switching back and forth between present, past, future, etc. in your writing. Of course, switching around is okay if you’re actually talking about things that happened versus things that are going to happen, but most people do it all in one post that should be written in the same time period. For more informaiton about tense and how to do it right you can read my post Pro Writing: How to Maintain Your Tense.

Grammar

There are so many different grammar rules that you need to keep an eye out for when you are proofreading your posts. In my opinion, the most important ones are commas and apostrophes. When they are placed right, they help your writing make sense and go unnoticed, but when they are wrong they can break the flow and really tear your writing apart. I don’t have a post on grammar just yet – mostly because I need to figure out how to properly use commas myself (they are my weakness) but proofreading will help you catch the most obvious grammar mistakes.

Headline Grammar

You may or may not know this, but your headlines have their own grammar. The rules apply mostly to how you should capitalize them. There are certain words that you never capitalize, certain words you always should, and certain words that depend on where they are placed. For some details you can check out my post Headline Grammar – How to Capitalize and Why You Should, because headlines are a vital part of every post, and a grammar error there might warn people off before they even start reading.

Verbs

Verbs are the most powerful parts of every sentence. They should be front and center in every sentence, and they should have true meaning. When I started out in school for professional writing, one of the exercises we repeated over and over again was to go through a piece and highlight every single verb. Then we would go through it again and make sure every one of those was as strong as it could be. Verbs can be weak in a few different ways. The first is when you haven’t chosen the right one. For example. Why say ‘running fast’ when you could say ‘sprinting’. It cuts out an unnecessary word and has such a more powerful meaning. The second is when the verb you intend to use isn’t really the verb at all. If you say ‘I am writing for my readers’, ‘am’ is the verb, though you probably meant it to be ‘writing’. Instead change the sentence to ‘I write for my readers’. You can already tell how the sentence feels so much more powerful, and the meaning is truly where you want it to be.

Similar words

This one is something that a lot of people struggle with, and it’s something that really bothers a lot of people. When you use the wrong form or spelling of a word. There are hundreds of different examples of this, and everyone struggles with different ones. Some of the most common are:

  • they’re, there, their
  • right, write
  • its, it’s
  • two, too, to
  • then, than

You should make a list of the ones that you struggle with the most, and then make sure to edit for those on every post. Once you do this enough, using the right forms will be something automatic for you.

Spelling

Spelling is the first thing that people think of when they imagine proofreading, but it is only one small element in a long list of things to edit for. Most programs like Microsoft Word check your spelling as you write, and now WordPress even does it right in the post editor window. These are the spelling errors that are easy to catch because they are pointed out to you. But, you also need to proofread the post and check for spelling errors yourself, you can’t just rely on the built in editor. This is because the editors are just checking that the words you type are real words spelt correctly, they don’t check that they make sense in the sentence or are the correct word. Read over a post yourself to see that all the words you meant to type ended up there.

Once you’ve built a list of things to edit for that’s custom tailored to you and the things you struggle with, print it off and use it every time you write and edit a post. Eventually you’ll start to catch fewer errors, and eventually you might overcome some of your writing problems altogether!

What are some things you always need to edit for? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

17 thoughts on “Proofreading 101 – The Ultimate List of Things to Edit For”

    1. Thanks Emily! Well written and proofread work definitely makes the difference! Now I just have to work on proofreading all my own posts. haha Easier said then done.

  1. I proof at least once after writing, then once again after drafting to the interface. Friends and colleagues are also good tools, as they will find things an author never will. I use every tool I can to make sure it is as pro as possible before publish. Never tried the listing thing (I usually balk at listing), will have to make one up for myself.

    1. That sounds like a great strategy! I definitely need to practice what I preach a little more – I don’t edit my own work nearly enough. But I’m working on it!

  2. Hi Mellisa, Many thanks for the list, it is much appreciated. As for myself, I always go through my work at least twice checking for mistakes. I also use Auto Crit that I find most useful

    1. You’re welcome Colin, I’m glad you found it helpful. Going through twice is definitely a good method! I’ve never heard of Auto Crit before but I’ll check it out. Thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks so much, Melissa! I am a high school English teacher and have to mark numerous essays. Not many students edit their work before submitting, leaving me to desecrate their writing with red pen and this usually dampens their creative process. Your list will give them good pointers to quickly check their writing.

    With your permission, I would LOVE to print this article for my learners to help them with their writing. It will be much appreciated.

    1. You’re so welcome Mai! Being new to blogging is so exciting because you really get to start from scratch and learn and build yourself from the ground up! I hope this list is helpful for you! Thanks for reading!

  4. Perhaps when you edit your section marked ” verbs,” you could check out your use of the word ” necessary ” in the sentence starting, ” It cuts out a necessary word.”
    Regards, Norman Townsend.

  5. Unnecessary sentences…such as…”she picked up the phone an text him a message on the Phone”…. Could be shortened to ….” she text him……we know you text on a phone

    1. Perhaps the proper way to write this would be—-“she picked up the phone and texted him a message on the phone”—-but I really like the shorter version–“she texted him”—that is cutting out unnecessary clutter!! keep writing and rewriting—

  6. Thank you, this was incredibly helpful. Predict text in Word loves to add on to words. So you really have to watch out for words you don’t want.

  7. Hi, Melissa.

    Your post really highlights the importance, and also the dangers, of proofreading, or not, a copy.

    Many are those articles that I start but don’t finish. This is mainly because my brain hurts trying to either figure out what the author is trying to say, or because of the torrent of mistakes all over the place.

    Thank you for such a great article.

    James

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