How to Proofread Your Own Work and Why You Should
At GameSkinny, you have editors here to be your safety nets. We check grammar, spelling, formatting, theme, facts, structure, argument strength, and everything else!
We are more than happy to help in any way we can... but you can help us out (and help yourself out) by taking some time to sit down and proofread before hitting that big 'Publish' button.
At the top of this article is a video called "The The Impotence of Proofreading" - a hilarious piece of slam poetry by Taylor Mali that I'd like you to watch. It's very much worth your time. Besides generally being awesome, the video helps illustrate how easy it is to accidentally change your meaning if you don't appropriately proofread and self-edit.
The The Impotence of Proofreading
Everyone misses things, and everyone will make mistakes, that's a given (even editors make mistakes sometimes!) so don't take it personally when we point out errors and typos. When you stare at your work for a long time, your brain fills in the gaps but doesn't tell your fingers to follow suit.
The human brain is an incredible tool that can make sense out of nonsense. Without actually fixing anything, the brain will easily fix minor errors without you knowing. You might not even notice that anything is off as you write because your brain is constantly fixing things for you in order to enhance comprehension of your own work. We highly encourage you to proofread before you publish your articles! You never know what letter might be missing.
What are the best ways to do this proofreading thing?
1. Separate writing and proofreading
Take five, breathe. After you finish writing, get up and walk away for a little bit, and then come back with a fresh mind and start proofing. If you edit as you write, you'll end up missing a lot more than you think - and you'll be much more prone to issues of flow and phrasing. It is important to proofread after you've gotten all your words down and to pay attention to how an entire piece reads.
Even though news and topical articles feel like they need to be published 5 minutes ago, take a hot second and think about something else. Clear your head.
Get up, stretch, walk, take a bio break, answer some emails, check social media, play a quick game of Hearthstone - do something other than just stare at your own words for a few minutes.
2. Use a spellchecker
Spellcheck should be your bread and butter for proofing. Always turn on a basic spellcheck after you finish writing go through each red line you come across.
On GameSkinny, after you finish your post, hit the ABC Check button (located to the left of the Bold and Italics buttons) in the post editor ribbon. This will underline typos and other small issues that our system picks up. It is NOT an infallible system, but very useful.
Spellcheck cannot catch things like:
- Correctly spelled but incorrectly used words
- Missing words
- Redundant phrasing
- Clunky language
- Unclear points
- Formatting issues
- Singular nouns that should be plural
- Misspelled proper nouns
3. Re-read what you wrote. ALL OF IT.
After you finish your post and have already used a spellchecker, read through your entire post, top to bottom, in preview mode. Re-reading will help you catch errors better than anything else, and you will find things that get past the spellchecker.
You may have a correctly spelled word, but maybe it's not the word you want (ex. 'impotence' vs 'importance') OR you might have a word that is singular when it needs to be plural OR a verb in the wrong tense. Seeing your post in preview mode is a quick ticket to catching errors because you'll see things in a new light and outside of the editing window.
Also, if you have the chops for it: read your article aloud. It's a little time-consuming, but you'll catch things quickly!
4. Eliminate unnecessary words that aren't necessary
There could be a whole course on word economy and flow. Is there an extra 'that' or 'so' or 'well' or anything else? Is something obviously redundant? Take an ax to your words and remove the excess - but don't fall into the trap of accidentally axing your personality or voice in the process.
Write enough to get your point across in a clear, concise, and direct way. Don't fluff up your writing, make your writing lean and effective. If you need to write more, then do some research and use your brainpower to write additional lean sentences.
5. Check your facts and your caps
Is it BioWare or Bioware? Is it ID Software or id Software? Did World of Warcraft release on November 23rd in 2004, or November 24th in 2003?
Any time there is a hard fact in an article, it had better be correct. Fact check yourself.
Make sure you capitalize titles and names properly and make sure you get your dates right! If you aren't sure, check the company's official website and then double check using something like Wikipedia or an article about the same subject from a reputable source.
Nothing will discredit your writing and turn readers away faster than a blatant untruth sticking out like a sore thumb.
6. Read from your audience's perspective
There's a good chance that you are writing about something you care about and know a lot about. We all love games.
But, well, your reader probably isn't on the same page as you are on a topic. Most internet readers aren't experts on every topic they read about (in fact, they are likely reading about that topic because they don't know something, and they want to learn more from you).
A reader might have a passing knowledge of League of Legends, but they might not be aware that the Season 5 item enchantment Devour allows players to Smite other players, and this has made certain champions unbalanced. But, if you don't make connections for your reader, saying that Warwick is overpowered because he can abuse Devour's on hit effects, the reader might not understand why you are discussing Warwick so much.
In this case, it would be worth taking a second to explain Devour if you think the average reader might need a bit of clarification. Also, here's a nice segue, you can provide your reader a link to more information.
7. Make sure your reader has easy access to resources via links
A lot of people who write online forget why online articles are so damn great: hyperlinks.
At any point, you can send your reader on a wild ride to another article, or an image, or any other resource. And, when it's appropriate, providing a link can hugely improve your effectiveness as a writer. If we go back to our League of Legends example: if a reader might want to know more about the Season 5 changes, just link them to a resource. Just like that!
GameSkinny even has a little tool built in specifically for making this easier; you can learn more about our Existing Content Finder here. Oh, look, I just provided a link again. #SorryNotSorry #YOLOButYouDoNotOnlyEditOnce
But more than just me being cheeky about our Existing Content Finder feature, the point stands: give your reader access to resources. Overdeliver. If you consistently deliver and overdeliver on links and resources, readers will know that you are a reliable writer and they'll appreciate your efforts.
8. Phone a friend (made easy on GameSkinny)
Who has the freshest eyes? Someone who hasn't read your work yet. Don't be afraid to request a friend or editor to take a look before you send your work out into the deep end of the internet.
You shouldn't be embarrassed about asking for help. Everyone can use help!
Also, don't be embarrassed about letting someone see a rough draft. Eventually, the whole world will see your writing - so don't write anything you don't want people to read.
You'll be much better off having one person find an error than having a thousand people find an error. We really believe in this concept at GameSkinny, that's why we've implemented a feature that allows you to notify a friend via email and give them access to edit your work (and each article has it's own Feedback tab specifically for giving and talking about feedback).
Our Feedback tab:
Sample dialogue box for "Ask a friend for feedback" option:
Note: Whenever you hit 'Publish' on any article, it will go into the GameSkinny Lobby, where our editorial team can get at it and start editing!
Conclusion: Get your proofing pants on
Writing an article is more than just the act of writing; fact checking and proofreading are also integral to the holistic writing process. No one is perfect and everyone will make mistakes. Hell, there might even be a mistake in this article! I mean, I hope not... I proofread the hell out of this!