A chipped ceramic teapot. A scratched mahogany dining table. Our eyes are immediately drawn to these blemishes. No matter how beautiful the teapot’s hand-painted floral design is or how impressive the table’s woodworking, once a flaw has been detected, the piece’s overall value greatly diminishes.
The same holds true for content writing posted online. Copy errors kill credibility. Just consider the following examples:
Would you trust your business with a company who posted the second example? It’s easy – and human – for content writers to introduce errors into their copy. That’s why it’s so crucial to have a rigorous review process for your content editors to root out these issues prior to publication.
Unfortunately, only 18.1% of bloggers use a blog editor at all, and only 5.4% of them use more than one editor, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Orbit Media. No one is immune to making mistakes, even the most expert writers, which is why we follow a comprehensive 15-point checklist to carefully edit and proofread every blog post and piece of content we create.
Read on to discover our internal processes for quality control, from self-review to editorial to proofreading, that leads to the production of great content.
15-Point Proofreading Checklist For Content Editors
- Self-review. Before a blog, landing page or other digital content makes its way to an editor’s desk, the writer performs a quick self-review. By giving things a once-over, writers are able to catch most easily recognizable errors and correct them.
Editorial Level (Broad Overview Issues)
- Do the title and introductory sentences reveal the intent? Readers want to know what they’re in for before clicking into a blog post. Make sure the title and leading paragraph clearly signal what’s to come.
- Check the formatting. Are headers uniformly bolded? Are there consistent line breaks between paragraphs? Are the margins too wide? Is the font the same throughout the entire piece? How things are laid out visually on the page is just as impactful as errors in the text itself.
- Is the tone appropriate? When writing for a brand, it’s important that your writing comes across as a natural extension of the brand’s own voice. A law firm’s blog post on ‘how to file for a divorce’ should generally utilize a professional, straightforward tone. If the post is injected with lighthearted jokes and creative flair, the tone has missed the mark.
- Confirm the facts and verify sources. Whenever data, statistics or claims are made, fact-checking prevents the dissemination of numeric typos or inaccuracies. Make sure statistics are backed up with works cited, and vet the sources used to ensure they’re not just “fake news.”
Editorial Level (Readability Issues)
- Are there natural transitions between sentences and paragraphs? If mid-way through a blog you start to wonder how you jumped from there to here, chances are, the transitions need some work. If thoughts don’t flow naturally, restructure the copy until there’s coherence throughout.
- Are there awkward, clumsy phrases? Getting tongue-tied? Scratching your head, puzzling over what a certain word arrangement means? Never sacrifice clarity for creativity. Streamline any twisted passages, so the meaning is evident the first time around.
- Eliminate unnecessary repetition. Repetitive phrases usually only serve as word-count filler. Chop out bits of information and sentences that repeat without warrant, so the copy is leaner and less monotonous.
- Bolster passages that require more detail. Simplicity is good, but you also don’t want boiled potatoes for the whole meal. If a post is so pared down that it leaves you with more questions than answers, flesh the piece out by adding more concrete information.
Editorial Level (Granular Issues)
- Spell check. Spelling errors are costly. The BBC ran an article featuring an online entrepreneur in the UK who provided evidence that a single spelling mistake on a website can cut that site’s online sales in half. Word processing spell-checkers have led to laziness in the writing community, allowing spelling mistakes to slip by with more frequency. Even though it only takes a few seconds to correct a spelling error, once it’s been noticed by a reader, the damage is done.
- Look out for homophones and other mixed-up word choices. Accept/except, complement/compliment, aisle/isle, too/to. The list goes on. Unlike spelling errors, which can usually be detected by word-processing tools, homophone errors and word choice fumbles can stealthily slink into copy.
- Is everything grammatically correct? From syntax and subject-verb agreements to dangling modifiers and sentence fragments, grammar dictates the rules of language, and these rules should be followed.
- Punctuation – is it being used appropriately? Are commas excessively peppered throughout every sentence, or inversely, are commas completely absent? Have periods gone mysteriously missing? Do exclamation points run rampant?
- Ensure all written elements are consistent. If “percent” is used in the first paragraph, but the percent symbol (%) is used in the third paragraph, it comes across as sloppy and dissonant. Check to ensure repeating elements are consistently used, whether that’s contractions (they’re versus they are) or numerals versus spelled-out numbers.
Proofreading Level (Final Checks)
- Send the edited content to a proofreader. It may seem like overkill to have yet another person review your work, but it helps to have another set of eyes looking everything over before final sign-off. Once the proofreader has given the piece a quick read-through, it’s ready for publishing!
Our team of highly qualified copywriters, content editors and proofreaders use this 15-step proofreading checklist to keep our clients’ copy clean and error-free. Once you apply these principles to your own content writing, you're sure to see higher-quality copy that makes a great impression on every visitor to your website, turning browsers into prospects.
Can't find time in your schedule to edit content? You might need to partner with a content creation firm. Download our ebook to learn more about choosing the right content provider for your business.
About Virtucom Group
Consistent business blogging yields results – more clicks, more subscribers and – ultimately – more conversions. Whether you’re writing an automotive blog, an accounting blog, a healthcare blog or a home renovation blog, blogging for business and content development are useful for any industry. Follow the content writers at the Virtucom Group blog as they share digital marketing tips and discuss website content writing services that can optimize your business blog.