I learned to appreciate the priority of proofing and editing my work the hard way: by making a careless error in a popular local newspaper. Dot Barrett seems like an easy enough name to remember, but thanks to my carelessness her name ran as “Dott Barrett” in a voter registration story under my byline. Though pink with embarrassment, I learned two important lessons that day:

  • Take nothing for granted.
  • Focus on the little things before they become big things.

A talk with my news desk editor made me aware of the seriousness of such errors, which could have eroded confidence in the publication. I then knew I needed a way to ensure it never happened again. Those lessons still serve me well today as a digital marketer and content strategist.

Borrow editing and proofing tips from journalism to improve content marketing

red pen on printed paper with red editing marks on text

After several weeks of working weekends in the newsroom, which allowed me to observe and borrow habits from the news and copy desks, I was armed with the information needed to prevent future errors. In fact, these elements are still put to good use today, by me and others I’ve shared the tips with for use on content marketing blogs.

Your brand can use these three simple but powerful tips effectively as well.

1 – Print your content, and then read it aloud to edit and proof.

We hear all the time that “You should read your copy aloud.” Good advice, but it’s lacking. A better idea is to read aloud printed copies of your content. As I learned in the newsroom, our eyes lie, especially when it’s our words on a screen. You have a better chance of catching those errors if you print the work and read the hard copy. Try it; it works. Keep a red pen handy.

2 – Use your cursor.

The single biggest idea I stole from my metro news editor was to use the cursor when editing. That is, use the forward arrow and allow your eyes to track along with the cursor without straying. This keeps you honest and on task. Always. I found this tip magical for spotting typos, but it’s also stellar for readability and meaning as well, even if you’re reading under your breath.

3 – It’s not done until it there are no red marks.

How many times should you read through a post? As many as it takes to get it totally clean. So each time you read through the post and find an error, you have to re-read it. This seemed needlessly tedious, but it will make you a better, more disciplined writer fast, as you’ll expend a high degree of effort to find and rid the page of errors each time through.

Put these editing and proofing tips to use for your  content marketing

While in an ideal world you’ll have someone read your content before it’s published, these tips can at least help ensure your blog’s content is mostly clean and free of egregious errors. Editing and proofing your work can seem like a thankless task, especially when you’re a team of one, but the errors it prevents makes it worthwhile in the end. Do you have any editing and proofing tips for content marketers?