Proofreading Tips for Freelance Writers

No one writes a perfect first draft. So when you write professionally, you need to set aside time to proofread your work. Our tips will help you do it effectively.

This article was conceptualized by Jordan, written by Bridgett, and edited by Pitsh.

Bridgett is a Pitsh freelance writer from Maine. When she isn’t writing about B2B Marketing, she loves to act, create art, and explore new places.

Sometimes after I’ve written something, I can only stare at it.

Just the thought of reviewing my work is daunting.

But I know that proofreading is one of the most important parts of writing.

Why is proofreading so important?

The truth is, no one writes a perfect first draft. The point of a first draft is to get pen to paper (or fingers to keys). After you’ve put down your initial ideas, you can organize them, polish them, and make them special. This is the editing process.

But you’re not done yet.

Proofreading is essential because it allows you to go over your work and fix any mistakes. It may make the overall writing process feel longer, but in the end, it’s the only way to do a good job.

When you charge money for your writing, you can’t just budget for composition: You need to set time aside to proofread your work.

Adjust your prices if necessary. Maybe by a lot. 

Quality takes time and effort. Make sure your clients are on the same page. Your expectations need to be in alignment not just for pricing, but also for deadlines.

If you sometimes feel like writing is a lot easier than the proofreading and editing that comes after it, you’re not alone. Most new writers start projects with ambition and confidence. Your first draft flies by!

But your first draft is a trick.

And it’s not just typos and grammar mistakes. Your ideas might not flow logically from one to the next, your words might repeat themselves, and you might even lose track of the point of the story.

There are a lot of elements to look out for, and it’s easy to miss things. Proofreading is a skill that takes time to master. So here are some tricks that will help you improve your writing:

  1. Work on Something Else

Yup, that’s right. The first tip is to put it away. Go for a walk, have a bite to eat, take a nap, or pick up another project. Just find a way to clear your head.

When you’re ready to come back to it, you’ll have a fresh perspective on what you wrote. It’ll be easier to see the many mistakes. And you’ll be in a better frame of mind to fix them.

Just don’t use it as an excuse to procrastinate!

  1. Ask for Help

You can’t do it all alone. Every good writer relies on an editor to look at their work, see past their blind spots, identify their strengths, and improve on their flaws. You’re not better than Dickens or Shakespeare or Hemingway or Atwood. Don’t pretend to be.

Find someone you trust to look over your work, and catch things you might not have noticed. If they’re a writer too, you can return the favor.

  1. Change The Font

Change the font radically. Make it almost unrecognizable. Do it more than once.

Your brain is trained to recognize patterns and to fill in the gaps. When you look at the same copy in the same way, over and over again, you start to imagine perfection when it isn’t really there. 

If you’re used to typing in a small font, try proofreading with a bigger and bolder font. Or even a scripted font. Changing it up forces you to focus on what you’re reading, instead of remembering what you wrote.

  1. Invest In Tools

It’s hard to become good at something without the right resources, and proofreading is no exception. They make the process easier. They make it faster. And they let you multiply your strengths.

There are lots of good tools out there. Many of them are free. Many of them are worth paying for.

Cloud software tools have evolved well beyond the Microsoft Word spellchecker:

  • Grammarly offers browser plugins to help pick up composition errors in all of your online writing, whether it’s a long-form article, an email, or a Facebook post. It can even help spot plagiarism in your work.

  • Hemingway helps you simplify and strengthen your writing by highlighting run-on sentences and weasel words (like “just”, “overall”, and “some”).

  • Slickwrite optimizes your writing with statistics, making it easier to vary sentence lengths, improve readability, and avoid the passive voice.

  • Atomic Reach uses artificial intelligence to make your marketing content more engaging and better optimized for search, social, and advertising.

  • Coffee is your friend. Really. Caffeine increases focus and makes it easier to spot small mistakes.

  1. Don’t Depend on the Proofreading Algorithms

Digital writing tools exist to support you, not to replace you. Sometimes Grammarly and other systems suggest changes that don’t need to be made, or aren’t right for your audience.

Use your own judgment when editing and proofreading your work. Your skills, creativity and intuition are what make you valuable. Even AI is just an algorithm. It can only do so much.

  1. Read Out Loud

We teach kids to read out loud because it works. Reading out loud slows you down and helps you spot mistakes. It makes it easier to spot awkward phrasing and wordy sentences. And it helps you put away your writer hat so that you can hear your words the way your audience will read them.

If you’re working from home, find an isolated space where you can proofread noisily, whisper under your breath as you proofread, or embrace your reality and scream loud enough for all of your family, friends, and neighbors to hear.

  1. Proofread Until You Find No Mistakes, Then Proofread Again

When you edit your own work, you can never trust yourself. 

So don’t get bogged down in the first paragraph: Make your revisions, then work your way through to the end of the document. Then start again at the beginning.

Proofread until you’re confident there aren’t any more corrections to be made. You should be able to read the whole thing through, and not make any changes. After you’ve done it, proofread once more. If you still don’t make any changes, you’ll know you’re done.

Proofreading isn’t easy, but it is necessary.

Pitsh is an online marketplace for freelance writing, where proofreading and editing are included as a part of the service. Join today to see how Pitsh can help simplify your freelance career.