From ideation through publishing, you probably value writing and design over everything else. It’s the thinking and the presentation. It’s the real meat of the work. Everything else is just process. But if you’re producing high quality content, the grunt work of editing and proofreading are keys to preventing embarrassing editorial errors. So how do you prevent typos? I’ll show you the processes, tools, and techniques that will be your insurance against everything from minor slip-ups to major editorial errors.
Typos Are Everywhere
Typos happen everywhere in the publishing world. They’re seen everywhere in social media, personal blogs, online publications, and even print magazines and physical books. I’m not talking about informal but intentional casual-ness and rule-breaking. I’m talking about unintentional typos – these kinds:
- Missing words
- Repeated words
- Wrong words
- Overuse of words
- Missing Punctuation
- Incorrect Punctuation
- Incorrect Capitalization
- Incomplete Sentences
- Incorrect Character Spacing
In the publishing world, anything that has been edited is later proofread (or “proofed”). Editors focus mainly on the quality and mechanics of the writing. They work with sentences and paragraphs and the piece as a whole. They’re not looking for typos unless they’re explicitly proofing a piece. That’s where proofreaders and copyeditors come in. But even copyeditors and proofreaders don’t catch all the typos.
Typos are an embarrassing, inevitable fact of publishing. Whether you have one proofreader or three, your content is bound to have typos.
Are Typos Okay In Business Blogs?
Business blogs are an informal communication channel. They should reveal something about the author and/or the company. They’re an ideal medium for genuineness and transparency. Blogs aren’t Twitter or Snapchat, where the speed of publishing prevents most editorial oversight, but they also aren’t books, which have an expectation of perfection. Perfect, error-free prose is not expected.
My long answer to typos in the business blog world is this:
Does the typo compromise your message?
If yes, you have an editorial problem.
Are typos common – but do not compromise your message?
If yes, your typos are a minor annoyance. Those annoyances add up over time with loyal readers. They will impact your credibility. If you can’t write without mistakes what should we make of your data, your insights, and your products and services? You don’t want to communicate that accuracy and quality aren’t important qualities of your business, and that’s exactly what typos tell readers.
The occasional typo is okay. It’s going to happen. Readers don’t expect perfection. That said, if you have typos on every piece of content you produce, then your mistakes are happening too frequently. Frequent typos are not okay. They need to be mitigated.
Can’t I Just Use “Spellcheck”?
Spellcheckers – the kind you find in Microsoft Word and Google Docs – can’t tell whether words are used correctly in context. Spellchecking is not proofreading. They can’t tell whether a word or part of a word is missing. They can’t tell whether proper names are correct. They can’t tell when a word should be hyphenated. They can’t tell you when certain words should be capitalized. They can’t give you a judgment call on a spelling variant. Please do use a spellcheck tool, but know that spellchecking is not proofreading.
Hire A Proofer
The easy answer is to hire a proofer. Proofreaders aren’t necessarily better writers than you or your writers or editors. They’re trained to look for something entirely different. They’re specialists. Their specialization is correcting errors within text.
There are plenty of proofers on job boards available for hire, and proofing is a little less expensive than writing and editing. You can expect to pay $10-$20 per hour to have your words proofed. That will add up over time – but remember that proofing is about insurance against editorial disaster, not about value creation. Three noteworthy services worth looking into are:
Wordy is a proofreading service that integrates into WordPress using a plugin. So, real people proofread your words for 2.5-3 cents per, and it’s all done in your CMS (assuming you use WordPress).
vappingo is an editing and proofreading service with quick turnaround time and proofing done as cheap as $0.018 per word. The service has a money-back guarantee.
Prooffix that claims they’ll proofread for $4 (err, for “as little as $4” and within three hours. Sounds like a great deal to me!
Proofing Without A Professional
Not seeing the ROI of a proofer? You’re not alone. Understand that avoiding typos without the help of professional proofers will require some process on your part. First, know that proofreading always comes after major editing. Proofreading is the final stages of editing. Proofing too early is a waste of time.
Proofreading Tip #1: Read With “New Eyes”
The goal of proofreading, especially if the author or editor is doubling as the proofer, is to view the content from a different perspective. To disassociate the meaning of the content from the words you’re looking at. Our minds are such strong pattern-making machines that we can make sense of misspelled garble without even noticing.
Proofreading Tip #2: The Experienced Amateur’s Process
- Are you done editing? Great, leave it alone for a few hours before proofing. This will remove a lot of context and meaning from your mind and give you a “fresher” view.
- Run a spellcheck.
- Run the piece through a proofing tool or two.
- Print the page and read it. Read it line-by-line, word-for-word. If it helps to read it aloud, do so.
- Re-read it when you get it into WordPress or your CMS. New errors can be introduced in a post-production design stage or after the content has been moved into your CMS. You may find yourself changing more than just misspellings and grammatical issues.
*If you use WordPress, the WordPress JetPack Plugin is a free plugin that uses After the Deadline’s technology.
Proofreading Tip #3: Invest In Tools
Proofing and copyediting tools are a major help in spotting small errors in content. There are a ton of tools out there, and new ones pop up frequently. Try several and find a mix that works for you you.
Proofing and Copywriting Tools
ProWritingAid is a freemium copyediting and proofreading tool. It checks for sentence structure, overused words, cliches, redundancies and more. It can be used within Microsoft Word, Google Docs or even Scrivener.
Grammarly, the paid version, might be the best tool of the bunch. Grammarly has a free option which integrates well as a browser extension and checks for 150 grammar and spelling errors. The paid version finds more advanced issues, makes more suggestions.
Ginger Software. For less than $10/month, the paid versions of Ginger Software will edit your words wherever you write. The basic version will assist with only proofreading, while the Premium version will “learn” your mistakes, and provide deeper analysis of your errors.
Proofread Bot checks your content similarly to Grammarly, finding thousands of issues and providing recommendations. It’ll even produce a massive, somewhat intimidating text report of its findings.
EditMinion is free a copyediting tool that you can copy and paste words into to find weak words, passive voice, cliches, adverbs and other nasty grammatical issues.
Slick Write is a free web-based tool that analyzes your words and provides critiques of style, word-choice, passive voice, structure word variety, and more.
Hemingway App isn’t exactly a proofreading tool, as it’s aim is to make your writing “bold and clear,” by calling out sentences that are hard to read, use of passive voice, adverbs, and more. Hemingway is web-based but is also available as a desktop app.
WordRake is an MS Word add-on tool that will help you increase your clarity and make your writing more brief. It combs line by line through your document and crosses out words, sentences, phrases it doesn’t like and suggests others. You scan through its suggestions and accept those you like and reject those you don’t. The license is not cheap, but if brevity and clarity are your issue, and Word is your writing tool, WordRake is a solid investment.
PaperRater’s “Free Paper Rater” is another tool where you can upload a file or simply copy and paste text into a text box for a free analysis. The Premium package come ad-free and with more bells and whistles, but the free tool should work just fine.
There is no perfect proofreading tool. Your ideal solution will be to find and use a couple that fit your process seamlessly. Free tools are better than none at all if you don’t have a budget. The premium versions of Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Ginger Software are great options, but tools like Hemingway and WordRake are great complementary tools for copyediting.
You work so hard to come up with great ideas, to get them approved, to get writers writing and editors slaving away laboriously at structure and content, so why stop there? Why risk major editorial errors ruining the entire effort?
Simple typos aren’t bridge burning, but they’re distracting. In a distracted world, the last thing you need is to create unnecessary distraction with your lack of editorial oversight. As you make steps towards solving the problem, understand that errors will always happen, and ask yourself: How much can I afford to spend to avoid them?
The answer to that question will help guide you down a path to a freelance proofer or proofer service, an investment in proofreading tools and/or a solidified process for proofing in-house.