Editors and proofreaders are the unsung heroes of any marketing and communications team. They ensure that all content is clear, concise, and error-free. They answer questions such as:
- Are the words appropriate?
- Is the sentence grammatically correct?
- How do ideas flow from one paragraph to the next?
But freelance writers often struggle with editing and proofreading their work because it’s natural to be so immersed in their writing that it’s difficult to spot mistakes. Moreover, editing and proofreading are not easy to master. You must apply proofreader’s marks, understand grammar and style, and work under tight deadlines.
While many believe editing and proofreading skills are innate rather than learned, everyone can sharpen their eye for detail and grasp of the English language. It just takes dedication, practice, and these helpful tips and tricks to help you become a more efficient and effective editor.
Know the tools of the trade
Learn to use Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and other word-processing software. Focus on valuable features such as the spell checker, word counter, and comment boxes. Since most editing is done digitally rather than on printed documents, getting better acquainted with word processors and their advanced features enables you to transform drafts quickly and easily. Check out other tools like Hemingway and Grammarly Premium, which can make your work more efficient.
Check the style guide
Whether you follow the Associated Press Stylebook or your organization’s style guide, referring to style guides and manuals is an excellent way to keep your writing consistent. These essential documents establish your voice and tone and get everyone on the same page when using certain words and phrases. Style guides can also help maintain brand integrity and avoid misunderstandings between writers and editors.
Read the writing out loud
Reading out loud might sound silly, but it goes a long way in quickly checking for accuracy and clarity. It helps you spot spelling mistakes, awkward sentence construction, and poor word choices that even the most advanced grammar tools miss. More importantly, reading a piece aloud helps you hear how the writing sounds. This critical step shows you what works well and what needs more work. If you’re self-conscious about annoying your colleagues with your reading, try using a screen reader with a headset or earphones.
Practice on text around you
The best way to improve your editing and proofreading skills is to practice on text around you. Read food packaging, news articles, and blog posts, and try to find ways to improve them. Even these simple edits can make a big difference in your work. Practicing on written materials helps you identify both compelling writing and writing that needs improvement. It also trains your eye to spot errors and inaccuracies more quickly.
Summing it up
Editing and proofreading skills are essential for any professional writer. But these skills can also be easily overlooked or underestimated. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of writing and forget about these critical steps, which can cause errors in your work.
While editing is not a skill that can be learned overnight, there are several ways to improve your skills as an editor and proofreader. Make sure you use the right tools, refer to style guides, read out loud, and practice on text around you. The most important thing is to become familiar with how English works to spot mistakes and inconsistencies in written text faster.
With these tips, you can become a more efficient editor and create better content!