In many cases, when bloggers write a post, they just race through it and write as they think of it, allowing the flow to rule. And unless you are writing very technical stuff, this is often the best way to approach the task.
But there’s one crucial thing you must remember to do after you have finished that flow of writing – proofread the piece!
So here we have compiled a bloggers checklist to help you proofread your article because getting it ready for publication is about more than just running it through a spellchecker.
What is proofreading?
Proofreading is the same as editing but is a commonly misunderstood process.
Back in the pre-computer days, editing was about reading over what you had written and hoping you spotted any errors before the piece went for publication.
But today, we have a wealth of tools at our disposal to do a more comprehensive job and one that takes very little time but ensures the quality of the writing we submit for online or print publication.
Editing is about more than just spell checking however – it is about checking the facts, the readability, and the style of the piece.
It is also about ensuring that you have included all the elements you need and that the feel of the piece is in keeping with your blog’s tone or ‘voice’ as it is often called.
So, the best bloggers have an established process to follow to ensure their editing is consistent and effective. From this, you can formulate your own version that suits your own type of blogging.
The editing process should begin with the actual words that have been used in the piece and how they have been assembled.
1. Structure. The structure of a piece follows a general pattern, although there’s nothing to say you can’t break with this if you need to.
Generally, it involved an introduction where you tell a little about the content and hook the reader to continue.
Next there should be a series of points that fill out the promise of the title and intro and then a conclusion where you summarise the points made within the piece.
You should check that you have covered all the points promised in the intro and that you have summarised them succinctly at the end.
2. Check spelling and grammar. There are lots of tools to check spelling and grammar, from those built into word processing software to standalone versions such as Grammarly.
You can work with the one that you find comfortable to use and that doesn’t try to spoil your ‘voice’ too much – after all, you are not writing technical, academic pieces so you are allows to be a bit chatty if that’s your style.
3. Read it aloud. Read the piece aloud or in your head, even have someone else read it after the checks have been done – they don’t always improve a piece if you are using conversational tone.
4. Cut out filler words. Sometimes we use more words than we need to make a piece the size we want. Or because we think we need to add these words. But do you need them?
Great if you sound okay and it fits your style, but if they are there just for the sake of it, take a virtual knife to them and cut them out.
5. Watch for passive voice. Lots of software and some readers don’t like passive voice and prefer to use active voice. Again, it depends on your style but look to cut examples of passive voice back.
6. Trim any weak verbs and adjectives. Another recommendation that depends on your style is to use a single strong word in place of two or three weak ones. Weak verbs tend to use modifiers in front of them such as very and quite.
7. Double check your facts. If you are including facts, statistics or other information in the piece, ensure everything is accurate and include relevant citations. Google Docs offers a way to check these on the right hand of the documents for speed.
8. Leave it for a while then re-check. Some editors say that if you are editing the article yourself, leave it for a day then re-check. It doesn’t have to be a day if you don’t have that time, but leave it for a while then read over again, see how the piece reads when it isn’t fresh in your mind.
The other big part of editing is SEO editing or preparing the piece for those search engine bots. This involves checking all the signposts that tell Google and others what they need to know about the article.
9. Check H1 headings. H1 headings are what search look at to know what the article is about and, where possible, they should have the keyword in the first half. Then designate it Heading 1 in your software. If you are publishing on WordPress, then most likely the title would also be the H1 heading but check your theme details.
10. Check H2 headings. Most SEO experts recommend using your keyword in at least one H2 heading during the piece. These subheaders break up the article into readable chunks and also help signpost the content to Google. You can also use H3 headings to further subdivide as necessary.
11. Keyword use. Overuse of keyword is a crime but you should aim to use it 2-3 times in the body of the article and at least once within the first 150 words. Use the Find function in your software if you aren’t sure.
12. Shorten the slug. The slug (the part of the URL after .com/ or .co.uk/ for example) is the way that your post reads in the hierarchy of the website and should contain only the most important words. Shorter URLs have also been shown to be more popular than long winded ones.
13. Don’t forget media. Images, infographics, videos, GIFs or any other type of media are the eye-catching elements amid the sea of words so don’t forget to include them before publishing. Make sure that you update the ALT tags with your keyword too, to help them register on search results.
14. Links, links, links. Internal and external links are important from an SEO perspective but also for reading. Outbound links add authority to the website and some experts recommend 2-4 for every 1,000 words. Also, include internal links to other articles or pages on your website, offering further reading for visitors.
Check your visuals
Point 13 mentioned the importance of visuals but let’s take a moment to consider them. Images and videos add to the reading experience but they should be good quality images and not too cheesy (unless the post is about cheese, of course). Align images with the text so it fills the screen from side to side.
Graphics are a good way to create branding and we come to recognise things when they look the same. Graphics can therefore be a way of creating continuity on your website from article to article and across onto social media.
There’s nothing compulsory about this checklist and you can form your own version. But you should complete comprehensive checks for every article you write, regardless of the format or the destination.
Create yourself a tick chart if you like and ensure that you use it to guide you every time, to make those proofreaders of years gone by proud.