An Essential Proofreading Checklist Every Blogger Should Have
Thinking of starting a blog? You’re in very good company! The United States alone boasted 31.7 million bloggers in 2020, with ten million of them appearing within the last six years.
Blogs are an excellent tool for today’s digital writers. They’re accessible and highly versatile, with both individuals and businesses using them for a range of purposes. Reading information rather than watching or talking about it may also offset problems like zoom fatigue.
One of the first steps on the path to blogging success is proofreading. Proofreading helps you solve problems like misspelled words and a lack of flow. This checklist highlights major concerns and paves the way for blogging success.
Misspelled words immediately stick out from the words surrounding them, and make a piece of work seem sloppy. Today’s word processors catch most misspelled words quickly, just as google automate reduces errors. But it’s still worth paying close attention to spelling.
This is particularly important if you’ve confused two homophones (words with the same pronunciation, but different spelling). These can fall through inconsistencies in spell-checking software, but they’re still an example of sloppiness.
It’s also worth checking you’ve got the right spelling for your location. If you’re a Brit writing for an American site (or vice versa) you’ll need to keep a close eye on unique spellings.
Make sure you know your “grays” from your “greys” (and your “realizes” from your “realises”) and ensure these are applied consistently throughout the writing. Don’t forget about unique words like “sidewalk” or different uses of words like “to” and “with”, either.
Capital letters are typically used for names (of people, places, organizations, and so on).
Article titles are trickier, as different places have different rules for capitalizing them. If you’re writing on behalf of someone else, check for their preferred approach. Consider a screen share app so they can see exactly what you’ve written.
A good rule of thumb is to use no more than one comma per sentence. An exception to this rule is lists, particularly if the Oxford comma is employed. This means we put a comma after the last item in a list.
While not everyone uses it, the Oxford comma can be useful to clarify intention. If you were to write “I love my parents, Donald Duck, and Minnie Mouse”, the Oxford comma (after Donald Duck) would clarify that your parents aren’t cartoon characters.
You may also use multiple commas if part of a sentence could be excised without affecting the rest of it. Writing “My umbrella, which is green, keeps me dry” is an example of this.
Apostrophes are also easy to misuse, though their usage often overlaps with the homophones discussed earlier. Make sure you don’t have “It’s” when you meant to write “Its”, or “You’re” when you meant to write “Your”.
Possessive apostrophes are a particularly common error. A fruit seller that sells “Apple’s, Orange’s and Grape’s” isn’t going to make friends with any writers. As a rule, limit your apostrophe use to contractions (like “I’ve” and “You’re”) and possessives (like “Greg’s car”) to avoid any major hiccups.
Worried you aren’t using commas consistently? A blog content calendar can both help you schedule blogs properly, and review all your work with greater ease.
These come in three varieties: hyphens ( – ), en dashes ( – ) and em dashes ( — ). While they look and sound similar, they have distinct uses.
Hyphens are used to connect two words, shifting their function within a sentence in the process. By linking a noun and a verb, the hyphen allows “load-bearing” to function as an adjective. You can also use hyphens if you spell out larger numbers (like “thirty-seven”) or if you want to add a number, fraction, or prefix to a word (like “fourth-century”, “quarter-pounder”, or “ex-husband”).
En dashes are typically used when you write numerical ranges (like “20–30 hours”, or “1951–1996”). Since they replace the words “from” and “to”, you can avoid both of these when using en dashes. You can also use en dashes in complex compound adjectives, like “World War 2–era”.
Em dashes usually designate parenthetical information. If you want to draw attention to something in a sentence, em dashes are a great choice. “Travelling—by train, at least—is relaxing with the right book” is an example of em dashes in action.
6. Adverbs and Adjectives
Adverbs are really very useful in writing… or so some people might think. In practice, it’s actually best to restrict their use in your writing. This is especially true if you’re writing a blog post for a business; too many adverbs make your writing feel salesy and insincere while contributing little to your arguments.
Adjectives present a similar problem. There is obviously a place for them in your writing, but using them too often can undermine your writing and inspire laziness. Try to focus on nouns and verbs when describing something.
Of course, proofreading isn’t just about commas and capital letters. Good proofreading examines the broader structure and clarity of the writing itself. As you might expect, this requires a little more work. Workflow management tools can make all these tasks more digestible.
One way this manifests is how the parts of a piece of writing fit together. There needs to be a logical flow to your writing, a deliberate order to things that helps people understand your broader argument. A piece of writing could be flawless in terms of spelling and punctuation but if the argument they support is sloppy or unclear, the writing needs work.
Take a step back from the text and consider it as a whole. Does one section flow into the other? Could a section benefit from having its position shifted, or from being removed altogether?
If someone sends you an idea via voicemail, a virtual voicemail app can help you to establish coherency. These tools transcribe spoken words, allowing you to take something organic and make necessary tweaks.
Every piece of writing has some kind of purpose. This may be to tell a story, educate its readers on a topic, or make a particular argument. It’s likely you’ll have this in mind before you start writing a blog post. After you’ve finished, consider if what you’ve written serves that purpose. If there’s a section that doesn’t, consider rewriting or removing it.
These look a bit different for every area of writing, but they’re always there. Clichés—in this context—are lazy turns of phrase whose usage might not bear scrutiny. While people will recognize clichés upon seeing them, this recognition isn’t a good thing. It’s more likely to inspire eye-rolls than excitement or investment in your work.
Scour your writing for instances of “low-hanging fruit”, “deliverables”, “digital natives”, and other irritating turns of phrase. Getting rid of these clichés encourages your writing to be more innovative and memorable. You can also set yourself apart when choosing a blog color scheme.
Acronyms and initialisms are an effective time-saver if your audience understands them. However, if you need to use one that’s obscure make sure you explain it quickly. Everyone knows NASA, for instance, but what about WIPO or RIAA? (These are the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Recording Industry Association of America, by the way.)
While you can assume some know-how amongst your audience (particularly if you’re writing for a specific industry) it never hurts to clarify an acronym that’s lesser-known.
If you’re unsure about an acronym’s popularity, cloud content management helps you foster a more collaborative space and get feedback.
11. Active Voice
Writing in the active voice—as opposed to the passive voice—frequently strengthens your blog posts. While they are grammatically accurate, passive sentences don’t flow or engage audiences as easily. They’re also frequently longer than their active counterparts, which can eat into valuable word counts.
Compare “Bob ate the carrot” to “the carrot was eaten by Bob”. The former is not as short or punchy, and a high number of passive sentences can negatively impact your writing. Use the passive voice if you feel it works, but focussing on the active voice is often the best strategy.
Making the “write” choice
Writing well is a complicated task at the best of times. But proofreading work after writing helps you to avoid the most obvious mistakes, and clarify what you’re trying to achieve. All work benefits from proofreading, so make time to proofread every blog post you’re responsible for.
If you’re blogging as part of a larger team, you and your colleagues will benefit from a degree of emotional intelligence. Empathy, conflict resolution, and giving and accepting feedback will help you improve your work beyond spell checks and apostrophe hunts.
Blogging also benefits from a broader idea of what you’re trying to accomplish. Think about video conference software to brainstorm content ideas and to discuss a content strategy. By creating a long-term plan, you’ll significantly increase your chances of blogging success.
Jessica Day – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad
Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform with encrypted video conferencing that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.