How to get better at identifying errors in your own writing
Identifying errors in your own writing is always so much harder than finding them in other people’s writing (which is why working with an editor is such a great idea!). Sometimes you can have glaring errors in your own work that your eyes skip right over—which is no good when you’re publishing content that represents your brand and speaks to your professionalism.
However, I do believe that you can get better at picking out your own errors if you test out some techniques and put in some effort.
So, with that said, here are my top tips.
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Find your favourite proofreading techniques
Proofreading is essential if you’re writing for an audience (and especially one that you’re hoping will buy from you). There are loads of proofreading techniques out there, ten of which I covered in one of my past blog posts.
My suggestion is to test them all out, see what works for you, and then make sure you use those techniques for proofreading (set a reminder if you need to—sometimes it can be difficult to get into the habit).
The three techniques I find the most useful are:
- coming back to my writing later with fresh eyes (I find this particularly helps to eliminate those weird sentences you thought were cool/funny when you were writing, but actually are not)
- reading my writing out loud
- writing in Word and then proofreading once I’ve transferred it to Squarespace for publishing (seeing the words in a different format helps; also, it’s important to proofread after you transfer to your blogging publisher to make sure you haven’t introduced any formatting or other errors in the process).
Have you tried out any proofreading techniques? What works for you? Let me know in the comments.
Learn more about writing and grammar
Expanding your knowledge about how to write can only help. It’ll enable you to pick out more errors and find areas where your style could be improved. Just like reading (which I’ll cover a bit later), knowing more about the basics of writing will help you to instinctively know when something isn’t right.
And with the internet at our disposal, there really are no excuses. If you find that you struggle with writing and grammar, find a resource on the internet to help and set aside some time to learn. If you’re not sure exactly what kind of resources you should be looking for, ask for advice. You can go to an editor (like me) or even just ask a friend what they think you could improve on. If you have a proofreading buddy, they'd be the perfect person to ask.
If you’re looking for resources, I have tons on this website, including:
- my free eight-lesson mini-course, Unboring Your Writing
- dozens of blog posts about grammar, writing, proofreading, and editing, all written specifically with bloggers in mind
- free resources in the library
- my writing and grammar workbook for bloggers and infopreneurs, Blog in Bloom.
And that’s only a drop in the ocean when it comes to the information you can find on the internet to help you. Search ‘writing’ in Pinterest and you’ll easily lose an afternoon.
Question your own knowledge
This is a big one for me. Even as a professional writer and editor, I constantly google things I’m not sure of (and even things I am sure of, because I am wrong about things all the time).
Googling is not a difficult thing to do. As you stick a comma into a sentence, open a tab in your browser and google whether it’s meant to be there or not. As you use that word you’re not quite sure of, open a tab and google it. Easy peasy.
Eventually, you’ll learn more and more about writing and you’ll have to google less and less.
Be critical of other people’s writing
Not openly, though, because that doesn’t usually go down well.
What I mean is that you should be reading other people’s work (as well as your own) with a critical eye. Have they used that word correctly? Google it and find out. Is that semicolon correct? Google it, so you’ll know for next time.
What’s their style like? If you’re drawn in by their writing, why is that? If you can’t stand their writing style, can you figure out why? (For example, I once read a blog post I really didn't like. After trying to figure out why, I realised it was simple: They had used an exclamation mark at the end of every single sentence. That was useful for me because I then knew I never wanted to use exclamation marks that much.)
When you see something you really, really like, keep a note of it (Trello is perfect for notes like this). You never know when it’ll come in handy.
Keep a personal proofreading checklist
I think if you were to search my website for the most-used phrases, ‘proofreading checklist’ would definitely be up there—but that’s because I believe wholeheartedly in the usefulness of keeping a checklist, and I’m going to keep talking about it until everyone has their own.
You can read more about how to build an amazing proofreading checklist in this blog post that steps you through exactly how to do it, and you can download my free proofreading checklist (and use it as somewhere to start) by signing up for library access.
I also offer a personalised proofreading checklist service, where I go through samples of your writing and create a proofreading checklist for you. With this service, you get advice from an editor (plus an awesome resource to use forever) without the price tag of having all your content edited. You can find out more here.
I mentioned before that expanding your basic knowledge of writing can help you to instinctively improve your writing skills.
Reading helps you do the same thing. As long as you’re reading high-quality writing (which you can find in most published books, fiction or otherwise) then you’re set. And you don’t have to read books specifically about writing—even just reading fiction will build your knowledge of sentence structure, your vocabulary, and your general writing ability. I credit the strong foundation of my writing and editing abilities to the fact that I was never without a book when I was a kid.
Plus, there are so many other benefits besides just becoming a better writer—reading helps you to keep learning, it relaxes you, and (if you’re a workaholic like I tend to be) it takes your mind off work for a bit.
I hope these tips help you to level up your writing! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or thoughts.
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