Thursday, June 11, 2009

Proofreading: The Blogger’s Bugaboo

The only thing that gives me comfort about typos and other icky errors in my blog posts is the knowledge that I am not alone. In this new age of blogs (and other types of self-publishing), mistakes like typos and misspelling can easily slip through the proofreading gaps to mess up a writer's perfectly brilliant post.

Murphy’s Law comes into play for me, because whenever I’m sending out loads of proposals and queries (all with links to my blogs), that’s when I find big, fat, embarrassing mistakes that ruin my punch lines or points. Yesterday I fixed some whoppers, and if a friend hadn't e-mailed me about my garbled words, my mistakes might have gone uncorrected for a long time. What’s a writer to do? How can a blogger keep her work clean and error free?

Here are a few of my strategies for avoiding (and correcting) those cringe-inducing mistakes:

1. If a post can wait overnight before it goes on your blog, let it sit before you give it a final proofing. This is the technique I use with all my print articles, and so far it's kept my print work very clean (and my editors happy). Unfortunately, the immediacy of blogging means it's not always possible/desirable to wait until tomorrow. If it can’t sit overnight, let it sit for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer. Your brain’s proofreading abilities work much better when you put some time between creating and correcting.

2. Proof from a hard-copy, if possible.

3. Read your work out loud.

4. Ask a writing (or English-savvy) friend to proofread your posts; this is what I do. Unless you ask for proofing help, some folks may be reluctant to tell you about your mistakes. (And we all know a few people who are just delighted to point out errors. Proceed with caution if you choose one of them to be your proofer. That’s a topic for another post.)

5. Re-read your own posts frequently. In fact, re-read large chunks of your blog on a regular basis to make corrections and/or post updates.

6. Know your weak points. In my case, if I become passionate about a topic and compose on the fly, right there on Blogger’s posting page instead of in Word, I tend to hyper-focus on the topic and miss errors. (My post on book banning became a grammar victim due to this hyper-focus.) I also have a tendency to leave words behind when I’m cutting and pasting in the throes of editing, which makes my sentences read like alphabet soup.

7. Accept that you will make mistakes. Put a good proofing system in place, and use it. I tell my writers that their work can be published or perfect, but rarely will it be both.
Picture courtesy of Piotr Lewandowski at

1 comment:

Catherine L. Tully said...

Reading out loud is fabulous. It really works. Reading slow is another way to do proof--not quite as reliable, but better than nothing. Great advice!