Do you suffer from grammatical nightmares? Do you ever look at past blog posts or emails you wrote and notice some silly grammatical error? Does proof-reading take you too long?
This post will show you a great new technique to improve, and expedite, how you proofread your writing.
Let me start by admitting that I have never been a strong writer. I was always fascinated by the art and the science behind great writing, but my strengths were more in numbers and computers. As I progressed in my career, writing played an increasingly more important role in my day-to-day activities.
Content in a Digital Age
In Digital Marketing, content is the undisputed king. Great writing skills will help you expand your business, but grammatical errors will continue to peck away and may even hurt your personal brand.
If you are writing to deliver a marketing message, the more immediate issue with grammatical errors are that they will distract the reader. If your reader needs to stop and re-read a sentence to understand what you meant to say, instead of what you wrote, you have then interrupted the message. Think of this as watching a great show or movie, and your connection freezes. Just for a second or 2. If this happens 1 time, you keep watching. If this happens 5 times in a short period of time, your mind just cannot stay in the moment, and you leave. Writing is the same way.
Writing skills are both a science and an art, and pressures such as time, audience, message, headlines, engagement, less is more, more is more, keywords and optimization, only add to the pressure of doing a good job. Every seasoned content writer will tell you this is not easy and the challenges keep growing. Everyday we learn about words to use and not use. We learn about powerful introductions and strong closings. Just today I read a post about ‘500 words not to use in an email subject line’. All of this just continues to add pressure to the art of writing and the competition to stand out.
Some Proofreading Techniques We All Use
We all have our techniques for dealing with spelling and grammar issues. Such as:
Word processors are getting to be increasingly intelligent in helping us out. I feel that no matter how intelligent these tools will get, they will only go so far in the art of writing. For example, use the word “here” instead of the word “hear”; will your word processor catch it?
Ask our network to proofread. This helps, but then they may tend to change the voice of the message. It certainly delays things.
Read it out-loud. Personally, I noticed when I read my writing aloud, it helps catch errors. However, as you read the same five hundred to a thousand words repeatedly, your eyes will make immediate corrections, and skip over the errors. By the third or fourth reread, this has the same effect of not seeing the errors at all. At this point, you are also then just reading by memory of what you want to say versus what you have written. This is usually what leads to the silly errors you discover months later.
A Great New Proofreading Technique for All Content Writers
Recently, I have started to utilize a feature in Microsoft Word called “Speak Selected Text” and it has helped me greatly improve both my grammar checking, and my proofreading time. I am sure you can find similar features in other tools as well. In Microsoft Word it is not a default button, so you may need to “Customize the Ribbon” and find the feature. The tool will read back the selected text to you aloud and you can hear how your word may come across to the reader. If you wish, you could even select the entire article and have Microsoft Word read it back to you.
This is where the magic happens. Select the text, press “Speak Selected Text” and then listen. Your ears will catch the grammatical mistakes your eyes (and brain) skimmed over. No matter how many times you play it back, if you are listening, you will hear the mistakes. It is as if listening to a vinyl record with a scratch in it, or a CD that skips. Another use for this tool is to follow along with your eyes open, and make edits in the text as the computer continues to read to you.
I found this to be a powerful and simple way to reduce errors, and improve my writing style. I hope you do to.
If you have any other tips or tricks, I would love to hear about them.