A Simple Proofreading Checklist for Brands, Publishers, Content Marketers & More

by Emily E. Steck

A Simple Proofreading Checklist for Brands, Publishers, Content Marketers & 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 dyslexic-looking 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 practices, (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, this is in academia circles. For content marketers and brands, PlagTracker is still a safe route. (Side note:
  • Employ fact checkers. Taking another cue from journalism, 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 Grab 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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Common Writing & Editing Mistakes to Avoid

By Emily E. Steck

Writers and editors: beware.

  • Phrases vs. Sentences

    By Emily E. Steck

    A sentence has a subject and a verb; if it does not, it is a phrase. Writing my list is a phrase. "I am writing my list" is a sentence. Phrases can be used in writing, but they should be used sparingly.

  • Making Family Names Plural

    By Emily E. Steck

    Never use an apostrophe to make a name plural. When referring to a group of people in the Steck family, refer to them as the _Stecks_. If referring to what they own, then use _Stecks'_ instead. Some names need an "es" to become plural, like names that end in "s," “x,” "z," “ch,” and “sh.” For example, the _Joneses_, the _Foxes_, the_ Alvarezes_, the _Churches_ and the _Ashes_. For these last names that require an "es" use an apostrophe for possessives. "That is the _Joneses_' car."

  • Its vs. It's

    By Emily E. Steck

    For the love of all that is mighty, _it's_ is a contraction of "it is." For example, "_it's_ cold outside." Whereas _its_ is possessive. "The book has lost _its_ jacket."

  • "i before e except after c" Exceptions

    By Emily E. Steck

    This handy rhyme is often very wrong. For example, the word _ceiling_ breaks this rule, as does any word with an 'e' sound. With a different sound, the 'i' goes first like the word _science._ Know that the rhyme may help you with words like _receipt_ but the rule is flexible.

  • Emigrates vs. Immigrates

    By Emily E. Steck

    One _emigrates from_ a place while one _immigrates to_ a place. Also, note that emigrates has one 'm'.

  • X Ray vs. X-Ray

    By Emily E. Steck

    _X ray_ is a noun. "He broke his arm so he needed to get an_ X ray_." Whereas an _X-ray_ is a verb or adjective. "My ankle was _X-rayed_." There are variations on when to capitalize the X; consult a style guide.

  • Wise Guy vs. Wiseguy

    By Emily E. Steck

    A smart aleck is a _wise guy_. A mobster is a _wiseguy._

  • Somewhat vs. Something

    By Emily E. Steck

    Something is a noun. Something is an adverb that means "a little" or "kind of." For example, "A thing is  _somewhat_ rare, or it’s _something_ of a rarity."

  • Palate vs. Palette vs. Pallet

    By Emily E. Steck

    You have a _palate_, which relates to taste. A color _palette_ is an assortment of colors. A _pallet_ is, among other things, something you sleep on.

  • Premier vs. Premiere

    By Emily E. Steck

    A _premier_ is a diplomat. A _premiere_ is a first performance or exhibition. British, Canadian and American spellings can confuse them; check with your style guide.

  • Loath vs. Loathe

    By Emily E. Steck

    _Loathe_ is a verb meaning to "dislike greatly." For example, "My boss is so mean. I _loathe_ him." _Loath_ is an adjective meaning "unwilling or reluctant." For example, "I am _loath_ to to spend time with my mother-in-law." _Loth_ is a variant of _loath_ and serves no purpose of its own; it is most common in U.K. English, though even U.K. writers prefer _loath_ by a significant margin. To sum up: "I _loathe_ when people use this word incorrectly, but I am too _loath_ to admit when I am wrong."

  • Insure vs. Ensure vs. Assure

    By Emily E. Steck

    You _insure_ cars. You _ensure_ personal success by working hard. And you _assure_ people.

  • A Letter's Difference

    By Emily E. Steck

    Paraphernalia, with an 'r.' Vinaigrette, by switching the 'a' and 'i.' Villain is not "illian" but (v)ain. Newsstand has two 's' as does transsexual.

  • Grisly vs. Grizzly vs. Gristly

    By Emily E. Steck

    Bears are _grizzly_. Crimes are _grisly_. Cheap meat is _gristly_.

  • Don't "Mispell" Misspell

    By Emily E. Steck

    Contrary to popular belief, it is spelled "misspell" with two "s" letters.

  • Ad Nauseam

    By Emily E. Steck

    _Ad nauseam_ is spelled with two 'a's not two 'u's. _Ad nauseam_ > ad nauseum.

  • Every day vs. Everyday

    By Emily E. Steck

    One goes to work _every day._ Working is an _everyday_ occurrence.

  • Capital vs. Capitol

    By Emily E. Steck

    A _capital_ is a city (or a letter, or part of a column). A _capitol_ is a building.

  • Blonde vs. Blond

    By Emily E. Steck

    When describing the color of someone's hair as _blond_, he is a blond man and she is a blond woman. Use the word _blonde_ to call a woman that. For example, "she's blonde."

  • Besides vs. Beside

    By Emily E. Steck

    _Besides_ is other than; _beside_ is next to. "_Besides,_ I get to see you." vs. "He placed the book _beside_ him."

  • Graduate From

    By Emily E. Steck

    You do not graduate school. You graduate _from_ school.

  • Peak/Peek/Pique

    By Emily E. Steck

    Use _peak_ to describe the top of a mountain. Use _peek_ to describe looking quickly. Use _pique_ to describe something that stimulates curiosity or causes irritation. "She _piqued_ my interest" or "He was _piqued_ by her curtness" or "They climbed to the mountain's _peak._"

  • Hyphenate Adjectives

    By Emily E. Steck

    Use compound adjectives when necessary to make things clearer. For instance, use "a _heavy-metal_ detector" rather than "a heavy metal detector." Otherwise, the latter implies the metal detector is quite heavy.

Image Credit: volkspider via Flickr

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