Do you spot other people’s mistakes but rarely see your own?

Annoying isn’t it?

You spend ages writing a cracking blog post or LinkedIn article, read it through a couple of times and press post.

A little while later a kind friend sends you a private message to say they just spotted a typo.

Even tho’ you know it’s there you sometimes still can’t see it because you see what you expect to be there instead of what’s really there.

That’s why we asked our Premium Member, Annie Deakins, to share some proof reading tips with us.

Annie qualified in proofreading with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) after a career in teaching. She launched her business ProofNow in 2017.

Here are Annie’s tips to proofread for consistency in your own writing – for difficult emails, website, social media, blog posts, etc.

First, general tips:
– Read the text aloud.
– Read the text backwards by starting at the end.
– Change the background colour of the text (the default colour white isn’t always helpful).
– Change the font to a serif font.
– Don’t try to proofread everything at once. Read for errors, then read for sense. Do a pass for each element you are checking, e.g. page numbers, headings (big picture); full stops at ends of sentences (small detail).
– Use the ratio 20:20:20 for general eye health – after 20 minutes of work, look away from the screen for 20 seconds, to a distance of 20 metres (e.g. looking out of the window). Your eye muscles will thank you.
– Leave the writing for a couple of days (if you have time) and come back with fresh eyes.
– Know when to stop tweaking. Stop now!

Specific tips about consistency in spelling, punctuation, and context.

It helps to write your own style sheet or checklist.
Annie has a style sheet for her blog Tall Tartan Talks because it helps to remember from one post to another about the style choices she made.
Note: a Style Guide is different to a style sheet. A Style Guide is official guidance published by a publisher or company, e.g. OED, The Economist, etc.

– UK or US English? ise or ize, e.g. realise or realize?
– Use a dictionary to remove any doubt. Apps like Grammarly are popular, but, it might not recognise the wrong word if spelt correctly, e.g. if you write ‘selling’ when you should have written ‘spelling’. ‘Selling’ is correct spelling, so Grammarly won’t flag it up as incorrect.
– Are names consistently spelt correctly? Check spelling of place names, if appropriate.

– UK or US punctuation?
– Oxford (serial) comma, i.e. comma before and (as in my title)?
– Double quote marks or single quote marks? Quotations are found in non-fiction as well as fiction.
– Ellipsis = 3 dots (…) Do insert a space after. Or even insert a space either side ( … ). No need for a full stop if it’s at the end of a sentence. Whatever style of spacing you choose, do it consistently, rather than mix up the number of dots (four here, five there.)
– Choose one kind of punctuation at the end of the sentence without leaving a space.
– One exclamation mark (!) is fine for dramatic purposes. Use sparingly. Two at the end of a sentence is too much.

Context with the bigger picture:
– Is the style consistent: formal or informal? Business-like or chatty? Be yourself, show personality, be rich in content, and readable in blog posts. Stay in style.
– Have you ensured clarity, correctness and convention? Only use jargon if your audience understands it, or you have explained what it means.
– Is the text sound in the case of accessibility, inclusivity and legality?

When you can’t ‘see the wood for the trees’, employ a trained proofreader!

Annie proofreads non-fiction books and children’s fiction and non-fiction.

Find out more about Annie at ProofNow