Creating Content – Proofreading

This is part two of my ongoing series, The Art Of Creating Content. Before your content goes live, you should always proofread it several times before hitting the publish button.

English Is Not My First Language

I’ll be the first to admit that my spelling and grammar are far from perfect. English is not my first language and I barely passed it in school. I am sure my old English teachers would be shocked to find out that I make my living by writing. Almost all my friends have better English skills than I do, but I’m the one making money with words. That’s irony for you.

My Proofreading Steps

I like to write my blog posts in Firefox because it has a built-in spell checker. However, I will still copy and paste the post to MS Word to run an additional spell check and grammar check. MS Word does a fair job at checking for obvious mistakes but there are things it cannot check for, like comma placements or the misuse of words (there instead of their, or your instead of you’re). Those are the kinds of things you have to pay attention to if you want to present yourself as a professional.

I like to use the Save and Continue Editing feature found in WordPress. This feature allows me to view a preview of the post before it goes live. I like to proofread my post with the preview window because I run the WordPress editing windows in HTML mode – proofreading is a lot easier when you don’t have HTML codes in the way. I will read over a post three to six times before transferring it to MS Word for the additional spelling and grammar check.

What I pay attention to most is the flow of the article. I want to present my ideas in one seamless fashion. Jumping back and forth makes an article harder to follow. Most of my editing involves taking away redundant words or entire sentences. I like to overwrite a post and then clean it up after.

Once I transfer the post back to WordPress, I like to read it again in the preview window before making it live. This is my last chance to catch any mistakes. Sometimes, I will go away (for dinner or whatever) and come back later to read it. I find this time gap helps me to find mistakes easier.

Correcting Mistakes After An Article Is Live

If you discover a mistake after the post goes live, fix it immediately. Don’t get upset if readers correct your mistakes in the comments. They’re just trying to help you. Make the correction, then thank them for helping out.

I’m proof that you don’t need perfect English to be successful on the Internet. However, you do need to write well enough to get your point across. If your English isn’t up to standard, then consider taking a night school course to improve it. I know Stephen Fung recently took a creative writing course at Langara College and I may do the same.

Now watch me get blasted for all the grammar mistakes in this post. 🙂


55 thoughts on “Creating Content – Proofreading”

  1. HMTKSteve says:

    “but there are stuff it cannot check for”

    “are” needs a plural noun in the predicate not a singular noun “stuff”

    Try changing it to: “but there are things it cannot check for”

  2. John,

    I couldn’t agree more with your proofreading comments. English is my first language — I’ve been a writer/editor for over 20 years — and yet my procedure is quite similar to yours.

    People don’t understand the importance of first impressions when new readers visit their websites or blogs. Misspellings or grammar mistakes create this first impression, and often determine whether the reader will return.

    I was recently looking at publishers for a potential photography book, and reading their materials turned up multiple typos. I liked the work of several of their authors, but the site spelled non-professional. I would guess they are losing a lot of business.

    Read your blog (via RSS) every day. Keep the good tips coming.

    Lowell Christie
    [email protected]

  3. Michael Kwan says:

    “I’ll be the first to admit that my spelling and grammar is far from perfect. ”

    plural. spelling and grammar ARE far from perfect 🙂

    “on going series”

    it’s “ongoing series”

    I could go on. 🙂

  4. John Chow says:

    This is why Michael writes for Mobile magazine and I don’t. 🙂

  5. John, I love the timing of this because the one (somewhat) negative remark that I made in my recent review of your site was that my eye always seems to catch the spelling/grammar mistakes.

    As I mentioned in my review, I tend to be anal about that and don’t think it detracts from your content. It sounds like you have a pretty thorough process for catching most of the mistakes.

  6. Paul Jacob says:

    John,

    As for myself I am not too worried about your grammer mistakes but rather on the usefulness of the information you provide.You have always posted quality content which I am sure many have benefited from.If you feel the neccessity to actually go take a writing class in collage then all the power to you.Anyways best of luck.

  7. Andy says:

    Another great post with informative info – John where do you go for tech news to report on?

  8. Christoph says:

    I write almost all my content in Outlook and use the spell checker there. Why? As I also write a lot of emails the Outlook spell checker dictionary is most up to date with Internet slang and terms.

    Christoph

  9. John Chow says:

    Andy – I don’t have to look for tech news. Tech news looks for me. 🙂

  10. ketyung says:

    Hi John;

    I catch your typo 😀 “I like to proofread my post with the preview widow because…”.. Blog is meant more for personal. As a blogger, I think I don’t mind having spelling/grammar mistake as long as readable (and also profitable) and it pulls readers, just like yours, it’s great

  11. G says:

    Proof-reading tip: read your copy backwards word-by-word. It cost me 10’s of thousand$ to learn this the hard way.

  12. G, that is a very good tip as it forces you to slow down and actually read the words.

    That reminds me of that example I seem to come across a few times each year with a paragraph with words all spelled wrong but your eyes/mind can read it without any problems.

  13. Sami says:

    It’s MS Word not “MS Words”, although that’s not spelling mistake.
    I, too, think you English sufficient enough and you have a good writing style. Also, it’s personal blog and not NY Times.

  14. Sami says:

    I wish there was an edit button for comments, too 🙂

  15. John Chow says:

    This is slowly becoming a perfectly worded post, free of all spelling and grammar mistakes. 🙂

  16. Nenad Ristic says:

    Yet another one in a long series of wonderful and informative posts.

    Although English is technically not my first language, I have been using it almost exclusively for the past 15 years, and I consider myself more proficient in it then many English speakers.

    I have to admit, I have never noticed any of the grammar or spelling mistakes in your posts, but I prefer to focus on the actual information rather than how it is presented.

  17. Tony says:

    What I also try to do is to re-read the post and replace common words with their synonyms, so that I don’t awkwordly repeat myself.

  18. Alex Becker says:

    Your doing a good job

  19. Michael Kwan says:

    John: I may write for Mobile Magazine, but I know that you’re (currently) better off than I am in the world of internet income. 🙂 Whatever makes the buck, right?

  20. Nomar says:

    hmm.. i was using an older version of FF, thanks for saying this.. the spell checker is very usefull

  21. Lady In Red says:

    I must say you have really improved your grammar over the past year. Yet you still could use some improvement!! 🙂

    I’m just glad I don’t have to proof after you anymore. 😉

  22. Raghu says:

    Well well John I cant but agree with you. I read everything I write be it blog posts or emails at least a couple of times before posting it.

    I really also agree with your input that if you give a little time gap between one read and the next you have a much better chance of catching mistakes.

    I make an attempt to think of my post based on its objective a little bit and may be throw in a couple of links to make it more or less interesting for my readers

    But overall you are doing a pretty good job of writing – who does not have scope for improvement anyways 🙂

  23. depi says:

    John, English isn’t my first language too, and I’m also preparing myself for English blog. I think your English is pretty good – it must be good, because your writing skills fetch your readers eyes, you make a good job! Be the best dot com Mogul 🙂

  24. Mitch Bryson says:

    To be honest, I never really noticed any spelling or grammar mistakes in your posts until this one!

  25. HMTKSteve says:

    Can we comment on the spelling errors in your comments too?

  26. Ed Lau says:

    You forgot to mention the last step: When Ed reads it and makes fun of me, I go and change my horrible, horrible spelling.

  27. Leftblank says:

    Steve, rather don’t, it’ll get you stressed unnecessarily 😉

    John, I must say that you have a lot of patient if you manage to read over your article up to six times and then also run it through a spell checker, I do also write my comments in Firefox and run my posts through Word, but reading them that much is quite a job on itself 😉

  28. CoAX says:

    Your referential to money is quite stinky. You expose your wealth with indecence and it does not appeal to me. I will not come back to your blog.
    Good luck with your page filled with ads and so few content.

  29. HMTKSteve says:

    It’s always best to have someone other than yourself read your articles. Often times you will miss things as your brain fills in the holes for you.

    Wans’t theer a stduy dnoe a wihle bcak taht proevd as long as the fisrt and lsat letetr wree in the corerct poistion yuor brain can fgiure it all out?

  30. HMTKSteve, that study is what I was referencing but I couldn’t remember the specifics. Your sentence made perfect sense even with all of the typos, which shows how difficult it can be to proof material.

  31. Ryan says:

    If you don’t have time for a class pickup these two books:

    On Writing Well and The Elements of Style.

    Expect to see cleaner writing after applying the tips in those books. 🙂

  32. Tyler says:

    I remember reading that review of john’s site and it mentioning the grammar/spelling errors 😉

    I too am not very good at english, but the fun thing is it is my first language. I try, and I’ve been hopefully getting a bit better the more I write.

    Stephen invited me along to that course at Langara, but I was out of funds. Actually I am usually out of funds for things. I hope they will offer it again and I can save up some money to take it. Stepehen did say it was worth the time and money. I am sure he would love it if I could write better too 😉

  33. Eliza says:

    I use a combination of word and of course blogger and I still catch things later on. I’m happy when readers point out things I missed.

  34. Hannes says:

    OK, wow – that’s a lot of work per post… How much time do you think you spend on each post on average?

  35. Vinay says:

    John, In my review of your blog I mentioned that grammar is your weakness and that there is at least one grammatical error in each of your posts. But I like your open admission of it in this post. Don’t get me wrong – Considering that you knew very little English as a kid; you have made fantastic progress. You communicate well what you want to. You do present your articles in a easy and seamless way. That’s more important.

    Regards,
    Vinay

  36. John Chow says:

    Hannes – A post like this one takes about an hour.

  37. Brandon Wood says:

    Thanks for another great article John. I really like your point about stepping away from the post for a while (to eat dinner, watch TV, whatever). I learned this trick in college, writing all those papers.

    If you read something over and over again, even your own writing, it just kind of all mushes together. If you give yourself a break in between when you first write it, and when you do your proofreading, it gives you a fresh look and an open mind.

  38. Just my opinion here. I tend to not read this blog because of spelling or grammar, but rather for the knowledge and experience that John has in producing smash hit web based properties.

    The mistakes made in writing his posts are hardly mistakes that will be caught by 99% of the people quickly reading through.

    I also find that I pay a lot less attention to spelling and grammar when I’m reading through new posts via Google Reader.

    However, since my day job involves programming web applications I tend to be quite terrible with writing. This is probably what keeps me from looking for errors that are otherwise obvious to talented writers/bloggers…

  39. Stew says:

    Luckily, English is my first language. By no means to I consider myself stellar with the language, but I ‘ve always naturally been able to articulate myself well. As long as my writing is flowing, I rarely make any grammatical mistakes, and now that firefox has an auto-spell check, my spelling is near perfect 🙂 The only time I get in trouble is when I’m writing something deathly boring, or I go around changing words and sentences.

    I’ve noticed a few small grammatical mistakes by you John but most of them are extremely minor and I’m not one to go up in arms when I see a mistake, since I’m used to chatting with international users when I’m playing online games.

    Cheers
    Stew

  40. Stephen says:

    I think blogs should be, for the most part left raw and unedited. They are a personal expression of ourselves. Otherwise, how the heck are you going to be able to pick out the telling details of the person you are reading about or their thought process? Maybe this person uses certain phrases that pinpoint their location or their background? Maybe they make the same mistakes you make, giving you that initial connection.

    It’s like meeting someone in person vs talking to someone on the phone. In person, you see how the person plays with their food, or fidgets with their cutlery. Things that make them who they are. Completely sanitizing a blog really takes those things away. If John sanitized all his entries, you’d have no clue what he was really like.

    I know by the way I write and the level of the grammar and spelling, I can tell if I was in a rush, in a crappy mood, or having a great day. I’m sure others subconsciously do this as well. It’s hard to pick these things out when a piece of writing gets over-sanitized.

  41. Hsien Lei says:

    Geez. Your readers are nitpicky! I’m a new reader and I’m really impressed that English is not your first language and yet you write better than the majority of English bloggers out there. Everyone makes grammar errors and typos but that’s part of the charm of blogging. It’s off the cuff and doesn’t have to be perfect!

  42. Michael Kwan says:

    Stephen, while I agree that blogs should be a “personal expression of ourselves”, I don’t agree that they shouldn’t be edited for grammar and spelling. Blog posts don’t need to be poetry or particularly elegant, but they should be free from glaringly obvious spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. I’m not immune, but I do what I can.

  43. ThomasDM says:

    I haven’t really noticed any big spelling errors or grammar mistakes on this blog or TTZ but maybe that’s because English isn’t my first language either.

    Fortunately my English is a lot better than my French and German lol.

  44. Stephen says:

    Michael Kwan – I can agree with not having the glaringly obvious like mispelled words. That too can take away from the experience. But at the same time, a sentence that is clumsily laced together can also offer telling details that would be lost if the structure is corrected too much.

    For me, my blog is like when I sit around at home in my sweatpants. It ain’t pretty, but I’m not trying to impress anyone at home.

  45. Hannes says:

    Well, English is not my first language but I’m wondering about this one:
    “Here’s A Few More Related Posts”

    Shouldn’t this be “Here Are A Few More Related Posts”?

  46. John Chow says:

    Hannes – I’m sure you are correct, but here’s a few sounds more like normal speaking than here are a few.

  47. John-

    The simple grammatical errors in your blog are nothing compared to the quality and frequency of your postings. I really enjoyed your post on proof-reading. My fiance and I both read your blog and we are both constantly inspired by your innovative mind!

    Thanks,
    Shelby C. Stidham

  48. Dan says:

    Another great post letting us peek into the kitchen of master chef:)

    I agree that correct grammar and spelling will add some professional feeling to one’s blog, but I don’t think it stands in the way of the blogger’s success. If it was than only linguists would make successful bloggers.

  49. David Mackey says:

    Mmmm…I really like the new Firefox integrated spell checker. Its awesome. Now they just need to expand their dictionary. Maybe they should allow user submissions to a centralized db that would upgrade the database based on a peer ranking system.

  50. Ha ha loving the barrage of corrections immediately in the comments of this post! But yeah I agree with you on this John. Communicating clearly with the reader is the most important thing, after perhaps the actual content itself.

    Matt

  51. Wow, John, you surprised me. I couldn’t imagine that English is not your native language. You’re writing really well, not just grammar, but the style you use. So it’s a little bit a surprise.

    Also I like how the guys are helping you out with grammar, couple places are pretty interesting and I bet its pretty educational at the same time. Some bits, some situations and wola, you’re getting smarter.

    p.s. English is my 3rd language…

  52. Jane says:

    I think the beauty of a blog is that you don’t have to use perfect English for people to read you. People actually relate to you more if you throw in some words that don’t make you seem like a rocket scientist.

    I pretty much follow your method of proofreading my submissions, but don’t do as many repitiions as you do. That’s something I can work on.

  53. mlegs says:

    If you’re interested in automated proofreading solutions that can scan both electronic documents and graphics, check out Global Vision at http://www.globalvisioninc.com

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