I’m a stickler for proofreading — as I should be. After all, writing and editing is what I do. But not all agree.
I don’t need to proofread because readers will know what I mean if I make a mistake.
I don’t need to proofread because nobody cares about grammar.
I don’t need to proofread because minor mistakes make me more relatable.
I don’t need to proofread because I’m a good writer.
But such thinking is faulty. A grammatical mistake could change your writing’s meaning or confuse your readers.
Still not convinced? Here are nine ways that poor grammar or spelling could be detrimental to your content. And thus nine reasons you need to proofread.
1) Typos Weaken Your Credibility
Typos are unprofessional and make your content — and you — less credible.
When I proofread, I like to read through content first for typos, then do all other editing, and then check once more for typos.
But I always run my content through spellcheck!
That’s a good start, but computers are not perfect. Run your content through spellcheck and then read it over yourself. If you can, have a friend or coworker read it over for you. They might catch something you didn’t.
2) Commonly Confused Words Can Confuse Readers
It’s easy to confuse similar-sounding words. Reread your content and make sure you used the correct there/their/they’re, too/to/two, your/you’re, etc.
Consider the following sentence:
My apartment is over their.
I’ve used the wrong there. This can confuse readers because it looks as though I’m missing a word after their. For example, I could have meant to write, My apartment is over their restaurant. That is, above their restaurant. Using their instead of there turned my sentence into a fragment.
Take a second to look over your content, focusing specifically on homophones. Spellcheckers can be helpful; however, they might not catch these errors. For a quick reference on commonly confused words, check out our post on it here.
3) Fragments Are Content Cliffhangers
Always finish your thought. We all get distracted, but it looks especially bad if you get distracted in the middle of a sentence and never finish it.
All complete sentences need a subject and a verb. The subject can be implied, but it needs to exist. For example:
Which of these examples is a fragment? The first sentence, even though it is only one word, has an implied subject (you) and a verb (go). The second sentence has only a verb (skipped). We don’t know who the subject is. It could be we, they, I, you, he, she, Brian, Kathy, etc.
Sentence fragments fail to convey necessary information, look sloppy, and leave readers wanting more — and not in the way you intended.
Note: Stylistic fragments are fine if you use them correctly. For example:
Anybody can do it. Even you!
Even you! is a fragment. However, the verb is implied and therefore shouldn’t confuse your readers.
4) Run-on Sentences Will Have Readers Running from Your Content
We have shorter attention spans than goldfish; if it takes too long to read a sentence, readers might give up on your content entirely.
To check for run-on sentences, read your content aloud. If you’re running out of breath by the end of your sentence, it’s too long. See if you can delete words or break up the run-on sentence into two (or more) sentences.
5) Long-Winded Copy Doesn’t Effectively Convey Your Message
When you proofread, look for words or phrases like that, the reason why is that, the fact of the matter, etc. You can delete or replace these words and phrases with simpler versions (e.g., the reason why is that = because).
Eliminating needless words, sentences, or phrases makes your content more concise and easier to read. This, in turn, helps convey your message more effectively.
6) People Won’t Read Inaccessible Content
Even if you content is thought-provoking, has no typos, and is easy to read, it won’t matter if your readers don’t understand it. Check for jargon or highly technical words. Remove those words or explain complicated subjects in plain English.
You might also consider finding your content’s Fog Index or Flesch reading score. This will tell you the required reading level for your content.
7) Readers May Not Waste Time Looking for Hard-to-Find Information
Readers come to your page for a reason – to find an answer to a question, to learn about your product or service, to learn about a new idea, etc. If you bury the information they want, they might not spend time searching for it all over the page.
When you proofread your content, make sure you provide the desired information clearly and right away.
8) Misleading Titles or Headers Leave Readers Feeling Lost
Think of your section headers as little breadcrumbs that tell readers where they’ll be heading next. That is, a title or header tells readers what the content underneath it will discuss.
If you write a title or header that is inconsistent with the content below it, readers will undoubtedly feel lost. Read each title or header and make sure the content below it answers the question, provides promised information, etc. If not, change either the title/header or the content below it.
9) Bad Formatting Is an Instant Turn Off
Think of the formatting on your page as a first impression. When you walk in for a job interview, you want to look professional. If you show up in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, you’ll likely make a bad first impression. If your formatting is funky, your content immediately makes a bad first impression. This might lead readers to leave your page.
Here are some quick formatting tips:
- Are your paragraphs long? Could you convert a sentence or paragraph into a bullet list? A table?
- Did you bold too many sentences? Use bolding to highlight important information. If everything is important, then nothing is important. Be selective.
- Did you use inconsistent spacing? Make sure the spacing between paragraphs and sentences is consistent throughout the page.
Now guess what your last step is. You’ve got it — proofread it one last time.
For help with content writing, give us a call: 888-521-3880.