Updated: Sep 12, 2020
I tried to give you all of my words at the start / But there's someone who's torn them apart / And she's taking almost all that I've got / But if you want, I'll try to write again /
… Baby I'll try to write again but I know / The worst cut is the deepest, baby I know / The worst cut is the deepest…
It doesn't have to be so.
Have Readers Fall In Love With Your Words
I've got the remedy to stop the bleeding on the page after the editor has torn your writing apart. But let's say you don't have access to an editor. You still want to avoid embarrassing yourself handing over poorly written prose. Knowing how to proofread your work will help you deliver a polished piece of writing. At the least putting in some extra effort will give people an enjoyable reading experience. Remember, your B2B audience is time-poor and shouldn't have to figure out poorly crafted messages.
Benefits to Proofreading Your Work
For technical people and subject matter experts:
You will better articulate complex ideas
Your writing will be crisper
You will cut down reading time in half
For sales executives, account managers and everyone else:
Your writing will be crisper
You will be more believable
You will be more respected and liked
Below I show you how to proofread your work. It’s a process I follow to help take my writing to the next level of excellence.
The 10-Step Proofreading Process
1. Set aside your written piece for a few hours or a couple of days – the longer, the better. When you're the writer, you don't always pick up on spelling and grammar mistakes that might be noticeable when reading someone else's work.
2. Read your work out loud. This will help you pick up on awkward sentence structure and incorrect use of commas. IT business people tend to use too many commas. When reading out loud, pay attention to where you naturally pause. A lot of the times you'll notice you don't pause where you've put a comma so take it out.
3. Read from a printout. I proofread my work on the screen, but at some point, I print it out and reread it. There is something about reviewing on paper that helps to check narrative flow or help you pick up further punctuation and spelling errors you've missed proofreading online.
4. Make a list of your typical writing errors and check for them. Correcting your repeat offenders will help you stop making them over again and will improve your writing overall.
5. Check punctuation. Typical mistakes IT business writers make include random capitalisation, using the semi-colon as a comma and using apostrophes to pluralise nouns, numbers and symbols. For example, writing SLA's, instead of SLAs for Service Level Agreements. Not fixing these can confuse the reader and slows down their reading experience.
6. Watch out for incorrect use of contractions like they're and their, you're and your, and it's versus the possessive its. Getting these words wrong can weaken your credibility.
7. Check acronyms, buzzwords and technical jargon. Sometimes our readers have no idea what we're talking about because we write in acronyms and buzzwords when talking about our services, innovations or methodologies. Instead of using a buzzword, explain something using plain English. Always check that you've spelled an acronym in full first.
8. Proofread for conciseness. B2B IT writers tend to be verbose. One way to make your writing more succinct is to cut out redundant words. For example, "at the present time" versus the shorter "at present". Using, "during the course of" instead of "during", or "end result" instead of "result". A result is something that occurs at the end so the word ‘end' is redundant.
9. Look out for overly long sentences typical in B2B IT writing. This is incredibly irritating to the reader who struggles to make sense of the content. It's common for me to proofread writing filled with 60-word sentences. It either means you've got more than one idea in a sentence or you have competing ideas in one sentence. Putting a full stop somewhere at the 30-word mark fixes most of the problem. It also pays to read the long sentence a few times to see how else you can make it succinct.
10. Run a spellcheck when you finish writing a draft. Do another spellcheck after you've proofread your work. This is because the proofreading will force you to make edits and who knows you might have misspelled a word again. So, spellcheck one more time.
The Next Cut Won't Be So Deep
Proofreading isn't complicated, but it takes effort. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Proofreading your work will also make you a stronger thinker, a better writer and a more eloquent communicator.
And if you're lucky enough to have access to an editor, they won't have to paint over your masterpiece with a sea of red. Hopefully, they'll only make a few tiny cuts here and there. It won't hurt as much or make your heart bleed out.