It’s close to midnight and the deadline for your article, manuscript or proposal is RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW. You know your ideas are good, and want to make sure they get the attention they deserve… but you don’t know anyone who could look at it, and haven’t budgeted for a copyeditor or proofreader. What do you do?
Here are five suggestions which I use when proofreading or editing work for my clients, or if I have to (gasp!) have to proofread or edit my own work.
1. Give your work time to sit. I’ve looked back at articles I’ve submitted (or posts I’ve written) days or weeks later and been stunned by some very basic errors I made. Another set of eyes works best, but time is the next best thing. Even 24 hours can work wonders.
2. Give credit where credit is due. Although there is a plethora of “borrowed” material floating around online, it is good practice (and karma) to cite your sources whenever possible. This can also help if the information happens to be incorrect. And it goes without saying that you should put direct quotes in quotation marks instead of ripping off large chunks of other people’s work.
3. Check your spelling! Even if you do run spellcheck, often the recommendations given are inaccurate. And there could be words spellcheck misses. Do your very best to look up every word you think might be misspelled in the dictionary, and verify that you’ve spelled the names of people and places correctly.
4. Limit the buzzwords that you use if you are writing for a lay audience. Try to put yourself in the mind of one of your readers, who may be outside of your field or area of expertise. If you must use words they wouldn’t know, make sure to clearly define them.
5. Be careful about using passive voice too much. For example, “The material should be read by the student twice a day.” sounds sloppy compared to “The student should read the material twice a day.”
I’ll be back tomorrow with five more proofreading and editing tips, for those times when nobody else can review your work.