Nothing takes away more from online content like typos, misspellings, and grammar errors. Yet customers will often give you copy that's riddled with mistakes. Most likely, they expect you to make sure that it gets proofed before going online. Here are a few ways to handle that chore as quickly and effectively as possible.
Note: These tips are based on an entry in our Web Master blog.
1: Give it a little time
If you can, put the content away for a night or a day, then come back and read again. Fresh eyes always find errors. If you get strapped for time, at least try to take a short break -- even if it's just five minutes. You'll be more productive and likely to spot mistakes when you return to the work.
2: Read slowly -- and aloud
Take your time reading, and read every word. If you speed-read or skim the content, you'll miss the typical errors.
It's also helpful to read the piece out loud to yourself; the words sound different than when you read silently. In addition, reading aloud gives you the opportunity to role-play, allowing you to put yourself in the audience's frame of mind -- a change of perspective that enlightens you to options you might not see or hear otherwise.
3: Be systematic
Create a personal proofreading checklist; set up a list of the common errors you typically come across. Then use that list to systematically check your content.
4: Use a multi-layered approach
Scan the document several times, looking for specific errors with each pass. For example, one pass for spelling errors, another pass for grammar, once more for word usage, and again to verify accuracy (such as names, dates, and figures).
5: Don't count on the spell checker
Do use a spell checker, but don't rely on it to catch everything. Keep an eye out for misused homonyms, such as "to/too/two" and "there/their/they're". Here is a list of 100 common homonyms.
What other proofreading tips would you recommend? What's the worst content mistake you ever came across on a Web site?
Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal government.