It’s not enough to learn how to write a great blog post. And to become a great blogger…especially if you are a team of one…you need more than superb editing skills. You also need to become an excellent proofreader. Today, Emmanuel Nataf (@EmmanuelNataf), co-founder of Reedsy, explains why you can’t just rely on apps or programs to do this job for you, rather you need to develop strong proofreading skills.
If you’re a blogger, you definitely can’t neglect that final polish every piece of writing needs: a proofread. But the question remains — what’s the best way to proofread?
Grammarly, a proofreading app, has shot to fame recently. It’s easy browser integration, and personalized settings allow you to examine and improve your writing style, whatever your purpose. Over 10 million users — from casual office workers to high school essay writers alike — enjoy its features.
That said, there’s a reason why traditional publishers still rely on human proofreaders. Technology has yet to find a way to replace them (much to the relief of professional proofreaders everywhere). They are the final members of an editorial team to read a manuscript, scanning the copy for consistency as well as spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors.
The importance of this role means that professional proofreaders can charge some hefty rates. But you don’t need an entire external team to proof your blog post so long as you take proofreading seriously yourself! Sure, Grammarly will help you catch a few typos, but you may not want to rely entirely on it when proofing your own blog posts.
Let’s take a closer look at why Grammarly isn’t going to replace human proofreaders any time soon.
1. Aesthetics and Layout
In the heyday of the printing press, proofreaders only came into the process after the book had been typeset. Their job was as much catching mistakes made by the typesetter (who physically put the type letters into the printing press) as it was looking for the writer’s errors. While the digital process of typesetting is much less likely to result in scattered typos these days, it still takes a human’s eyes to ensure the layout of your book or blog post is free from errors.
For a research-intensive blog post, you’ll have to cross-check numbers, names, and links. For an image-heavy blog post, you’ll need to check the captions for style and accuracy, make sure that photos are placed correctly, and confirm that the images have a credit where necessary. If you use bullets or numbers or need any type of special formatting, you will want to check your post for visual appeal and errors created in the formatting process.
While Grammarly has its uses and can certainly help avoid embarrassing spelling slips, there are many more things to watch if you’re publishing a blog post. The visual consistency and professionalism of your post are just as key as ensuring your actual writing is error-free. And your vigilance contributes to making sure that your blog comes across as professional as possible.
2. Consistency and Unusual Words
Moreover, if you’re writing a blog post about a subject that involves a lot of non-dictionary terms (say, J.R.R. Tolkien’s development of the Elven tongue), you’ll need to be the one to check for consistency and fix any blunders in writing names or places. Grammarly won’t have any idea whether the King of Mirkwood is spelled Thranduil or Chranduil.
If you misspell a name or misuse a metaphor in your post, you need to pick that up because your blogging or document software’s spell check will not. Proofreaders can treat every post individually and ensure, even if you are using words like “gobbledygook,” that you don’t slip up and spell it “gobblygoop” elsewhere in the post.
The real issue is when you’ve misspelled something, and the misspelling is a real word, too. Malapropisms will often not get flagged in Grammarly, whereas human eyes will notice “pacifically” as an error when you want to write “specifically.”
3. Relevant Style Guides
While style guides are more of an issue for authors, bloggers should still be aware of style choices and preferences. Grammarly has style options you can choose, depending on the work you’re doing. However, if you need to follow a specific style guide—such as the Chicago Manual of Style, the Associated Press Stylebook, the Oxford Style Guide, and the MHRA Style Guide—that would be a little too complex for the program.
Proofreaders aren’t mere editorial assistants; they will know the conventions of these popular guides inside out. It’s the proofreader’s responsibility to make sure that your book adheres to it consistently.
The complexities of the English language mean that points of punctuation, abbreviation, and methods of citations are often debatable. Although Grammarly can point out errors and suggest improvements, sometimes it is more a question of understanding a style guide like the back of one’s hand.
4. Human Intuition and Knowledge
Most of all, you bring your own human intuition and knowledge to the table when you polish up a blog post. You can spot issues like the difference between British spellings and Americanism, whereas Grammarly most definitely can’t.
You could almost compare a Grammarly “proofread” of your nonfiction book to the stiff-sounding language you might get from Google Translate. Compared to the more authentic language used in conversation, there is no doubt which one flows better and is a more professional (and readable) approach. Attention to the nuances of language is something that technology is yet to overtake us in. But you, as a human being, can apply your language knowledge and a bit of gut feeling to your prose.
As the final stage of the editing process, proofreading is the polishing point of your writing — just before it goes to press or online publication. Putting the onus for finishing touches and overall polish on an algorithmic online program just seems like you’re failing to jump the last hurdle.
You can’t afford any mistakes, which is precisely why proofreading is one of the must-learn writing skills for every blogger. So, do yourself a favor—use Grammarly as a double-check if you must, but trust yourself to proofread your own work first and foremost.
What tips do you have for proofreading your blog posts before publication? Tell me in a comment below. And if you found this post useful, please share it with a few other bloggers.
About the Author
Emmanuel Nataf is the founder and CEO of Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. Emmanuel dedicates most of his time to building Reedsy’s product and is interested in how technology can transform cultural industries.
Photo courtesy of route55 / 123RF Stock Photo