A simple proofreading checklist for brands, publishers, content marketers, and more

Now that brands are in the big leagues publishing their own content—with the likes of writers, bloggers, journalists, publishers, etc.—brands must meet the same expectations as their peers/competitors. As readers, we expect storytelling, logical organization, and, yes, errorless copy.

Part of the content game is porofraeding—I’m sorry proofreading—and it separates not only the good content from the bad but the careful from the careless. Content readers forgive the occasional typo, but they don’t want to read error-filled copy. Luckily, proofreading is relatively easy to accomplish with a variety of apps and seasoned copy editors, but there’s more than just “typos” to consider. Here’s a quick and easy proofreading checklist for brands, publishers, content marketers, and everyone else to proofread their internet content.

Is it plagiarized?

Unless you were schooled under a rock for the better part of your life, you’ve been told time and time again in school that plagiarism is bad. It is. Stealing someone’s work by cutting and pasting is gross, tacky, disrespectful, unprofessional—take your pick of adjectives. Anyone knows this, but plagiarism often comes in more forms than verbatim thievery.

The basic definition of plagiarism is simple: the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. It’s an act of fraud, which can hurt your brand’s image. The key part to remember here: taking someone else’s ideas. The Columbia Journalism Review opined the internet culture’s regard for ripping off a writer’s thoughts, which is…still plagiarism (it’s also a great read—go read it).

To prevent plagiarism:

  • Cite your sources. Take a note from journalism and link out to external sources when you create content to create transparency. The New York Times received criticism of late for its lack of linking, (which shows how much room NYT has to grow from a print paper to a digital one). If you care to add depth to your hyperlinking, check out this post.
  • Try using a plagiarism detecting software. Among the most popular plagiarism checkers on the web is PlagTracker, which analyzes pieces of up to 5,000 words for free. It doesn’t check grammar. Though it has been reported that Google is better at detecting plagiarism than some of the leading software, that is in academia circles. For content marketers and brands, PlagTracker is still a safe route.
  • Employ fact checkers. Taking another cue from journalism and grab a proofreader or copy editor to provide some basic fact checking. Fact checking allows for more accuracy and can help your content from regurgitating inaccurate or even plagiarized material.
  • Only use multimedia you have permission to use and attribute accordingly. Never use an image or video you don’t have permission to use. Otherwise, you are violating copyright laws. The blog has detailed your questions about Creative Commons before—which allows people to use photos for free under restrictions like attribution. You can also check out our list of license-free image sources you can peruse if you’re looking for free images. Otherwise, look for royalty-free photos and videos on Getty Images or iStock.

If your brand happens to be accused of plagiarism, get to the bottom of it quickly. Issue an apology for the error of your ways, note the piece has been edited/removed. But if you have the right editorial manager, you won’t need to worry about this.

Did you use the right software?

Microsoft Office’s spellchecker isn’t enough. We’ve outlined some of our favorite writing and editing tools that can help your content creation out already, but the big one to consider is Grammarly. A freemium online proofreader that analyzes and marks problematic areas of your work and offers solutions, Grammarly is great to clean up copy. A premium version of the app even checks Google for plagiarism. Note that it may offer suggestions that contradict your style guide. You’ll still need to employ human judgment when you use Grammarly.

Did you work with a proofreader?

A writer writes. An editor edits. A proofreader proofs. It’s good practice to use another person outside of the writers and editors to look over a piece one last time to check for small details: a missing period, run-on sentences, a misspelling, etc. They’re helpful to have around for multimedia content as it’s much easier to fix an error in a text post than a graphic or video.

And that’s it! With this proofreading checklist, you’ll be able to keep plagiarism at bay and publish clean content. After all, if you’re not offering top-notch, quality content, then what’s the point?

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Image credit: volkspider via Flickr

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