Lisa Coghlan details ClickThrough’s proofreading process, from tone of voice checks to simplifying copy, and ensuring you eliminate simple spelling and grammar mistakes before it gets uploaded.
Keeping copy squeaky clean isn’t the most exciting task in the office, but it’s one that is absolutely necessary and one that can set you apart as a truly professional copywriting team. Although time consuming, an accurate proofreading process will help you to write clean copy that fits the brief of your client. And remember, professional proofreaders need help too! A second pair of eyes on your copy will make for a much sharper piece of writing.
Take a look at our proofreading checklist below and use it to your advantage the next time you sit down at your computer.
Having a clear picture of who you’re addressing as you write your copy is one of the best ways to minimise potential instances of inserting words or phrases that your demographic wouldn’t identify with. Do your first proof as if you are the user. That way you will easily recognise phrases that don’t quite fit with your intended audience.
Of course, getting tone of voice right from the very start can only be perfected if you have a clear view of your buyer personas. If you have buyer personas in place, revisit them during the proofing process. This will help you to eliminate copy that will not resonate with your target demographic.
Good web copy means keeping things simple. The average internet user will only read about 28% of the words on the page, scanning the text to land on the information they really need. So eliminate unnecessary words or phrases that don’t add any value to the content.
Do you capitalise staff titles? Do you use hyphens in your brand name? How do you format your headings and subheadings? Whatever your answers are to these questions, the important thing is that you choose one approach and stick to it throughout the copy - create a content style guide. If there is any hint of inconsistent style in your copy, it will stick out and it will affect the brand’s reputation.
Revisit your brief as you proof. Does your copy fit the brief? And does it address the customers’ needs? If your copy does not directly address the customers’ needs there’s something vital missing. It may be a simply case of adding a more dynamic call to action to your copy to show users how the brand can help them.
Start with the main message you want to get across to your user and build on that. Writing in an inverted pyramid structure, with your most important point first, means that your users are more likely to catch a glimpse of your most important messaging as soon as they land on the page. So when proofing, it’s vital to ask yourself if your most important information is at the very top of your content.
No matter how experienced you are as a writer, there will always be instances where you miss a small spelling error or grammar mistake. If you’re on a tight deadline, these small mistakes can inadvertently slip through the net. It can help to print off a hard copy of the content to check for these types of mistakes as it can be easy to fall into the trap of scanning on-screen as internet users do.
In instances where you’ve been proofing for a few hours, spellcheck is an excellent tool. But don’t rely on it too heavily. It will spot some clear mistakes that have fallen through the cracks but it is never completely accurate.
Another dimension of writing for the web is checking that all links are working properly and pointing to the correct content. From a user perspective, there’s nothing worse than being guided to another page that either does not work or does not fit the anchor text. Double checking your links for any issues before your page goes live is a simple step to take to ensure users get the best possible experience from your content.
Once you’ve taken all of the above steps it often helps to leave the content you’ve been working on for a few days before you come back to it for a final proof. By distancing yourself from the work and coming back to it at a later date, it’s much more likely that you’ll pick up on errors before it’s published. If you don’t have the luxury of time it may help to have someone else take a final look at your copy. With a fresh pair of eyes on the content, there’s little chance it will be published with errors.