I have come to the realization that I notice errors in writing more often than most people. Maybe it’s because I am so critical of my own work, but I find it difficult not to hold it against writers who make amateur mistakes in their final work. Lately, it seems like the errors are becoming more prevalent. To be honest, if you consider yourself a “professional” in the business of writing, then errors just make you look bad. So, I thought I would share some of my ideas on how to catch errors in the content writing process.
Notice I mentioned errors in “final work”. Like many professional writers, all of my writing projects go through production stages. Generally, the stages are first, second, third, proofing and final drafts. At least this is how I do it.
So here are several ideas on how to catch errors in the content writing process before your final work is submitted to a client or posted online.
Free-form First Draft
While I am in the early stages of a writing project, I don’t worry about mistakes. I just free-form everything. In my writing work process stages, I refer to this as a Free-form First Draft. Type, type and more typing. Whatever pops into my head gets typed into the document. By the time I am done with the first draft I usually have much more material than I need.
Cutting, Deleting and Erasing
So, the obvious next part is cutting, deleting and erasing. Everything that doesn’t work or flow how I want, gets cut. I don’t trash those parts though. I cut and paste them into Microsoft One Note for possible use in future projects. This has resulted in enough extra material in One Note to write a few thousand projects. I probably write too much, but it’s something I love to do.
I Prefer One Note to Evernote
As an aside here, I have used Evernote for many years. With the updates that Microsoft made to the latest Microsoft Office in 2016, now I prefer One Note to Evernote. It works seamlessly with Word and the other Office programs like Excel and PowerPoint. There are many note taking apps and programs out there. As long as you use one that works for you, that’s all that matters.
2nd and 3rd Drafts
After I am done with my Free-form First Draft and the cutting phase, I switch gears into editing mode for the 2nd and 3rd drafts. I edit, move, cut, paste, and basically do whatever it takes to make my project flow to my satisfaction.
It’s worth mentioning here that I also never complete anything in one day. I always write and then walk away and do something else. Usually downtime like playing with the kids or clean-up something around the house. Basically, anything to take my mind off the current project. When I’m in downtime mode my mind usually continues thinking about my latest writing project. I have come up with some of my best ideas during these between work down times.
The Proofing Stage
After I have edited everything to my satisfaction, I move on to the proofing stage. This is where I get serious about finding and fixing mistakes. I fire up my Grammarly add-on for Microsoft Word and let it scan everything for errors. Usually it finds at least a few issues that need my attention. For example, I have a habit of writing in passive tense and it catches when I do this. Some passive writing is acceptable, an entire document filled with it is not.
Personally, I believe Grammarly makes me a better writer. It catches mistakes, but it also explains the reasons why there is a possible error. Grammarly isn’t perfect, however, so don’t rely on it exclusively. It’s just a great tool to find and fix nearly all your spelling and grammatical errors. Your own common sense is always going to be your best tool in the proofing stage. If it doesn’t sound right when you read it, then investigate it further for errors.
My Proofing and Editing Crew
The next step is get your writing project reviewed by people you trust. I have a group of friends and family that I affectionately call my proofing and editing crew. It’s made up of my wife and some friends that are good at reviewing and catching errors. Depending on my deadline, I will send my final draft over to each of my proofing crew and ask them to review it with brutal honesty. I want them to find obvious errors like grammar and spelling, but I also like more general feedback. If they hate it or don’t understand the point I’m trying to make, I want them to tell me. That’s the brutally honest part.
This step doesn’t cost you anything and gets the people around you involved in your life’s work. Your friends and family should be more than happy to help you out. A simple email, text or call is usually all it takes. Tell them you would appreciate their help reviewing your writing projects before you post them live. Then move on to something else and give them time to do their thing.
I usually set aside one day in my work process just for the proofing crew. They are doing me a favor and it’s rude to send them something last minute and expect them to drop everything to review your writing project. Give them time to get back to you and your final product will have a much better chance of being perfect.
I’m sure most people would agree that it’s much better to get feedback from a friend or family member than a troll. Internet trolls tend to be rude and impolite. They are more interested in embarrassing you publicly than helping you write better. It’s unfortunate that people are like this, but it is what it is. You should expect to run into them at some point. So, don’t give them a reason to target your work by posting error filled projects.
Pay It Forward
In this same line of thinking, don’t you be a troll either. When I find an error in content that I am reading, I will take a few minutes out of my day to email or message the writer privately with something quick and polite. Basically, I say something like “Hey John, I really enjoyed this article, but I found an error in the 3rd paragraph where you typed “and and” so I thought I would mention it. As a fellow writer, I appreciate it when people let me know when I’ve made similar errors. I look forward to reading your next post.” Call it professional courtesy or whatever you like. I know I appreciate when other people have helped me like this over the years, so I pay it forward. I always receive a quick reply thanking me for pointing it out and they fix it. It’s simple and you make a new friend.
How to Catch Errors in the Content Writing Process
Hopefully this brief guide on how to catch errors in the content writing process will help you produce better work. Errors happen, but they don’t have to. Adding these steps to your writing process will improve your writing and build your credibility as a professional content writer.