It’s no secret that proofreading is one of the more important elements of writing. It’s like cleaning up after yourself when you’re done.

You may have a killer concept, bold ideas and brave insights, but you can sure leave a mess on that page once these ideas are all out of your head.

That’s why we’re taught the value of proofreading our work after we’ve finished writing.  However, just like when we were told to clean our rooms as children, we seldom get it all cleaned up when proofreading our own writing.  Here are 5 things that are often missed:

1.  Punctuation

Did you know that you should only use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when that conjunction joins two independent clauses?

Exactly…sometimes it seems like there are more punctuation rules than there are words.  Missing a comma here or a hyphen there is easy to do, and if you proofread your own work you probably get the punctuation mixed up every now and then.

When proofreading for punctuation, a professional will use these marks to set the tempo of your piece, making sure your reader pauses when they’re supposed to, and that the right words are emphasized.

2.  Capitalization

Everyone knows to capitalize the first word of each sentence, and the pronoun ‘I’, but it’s easy to miss other situations where a capital is called for.  Some of these include using proper nouns like specific people, places or organizations, family relationships written as proper names and certain deities or religious figures.

When proofreading for capitalization, a professional will make sure your letters are clean so no one mistakes a proper noun for anything else.

3.  Personal Mistakes

It’s difficult to catch the mistakes that are specific to your own writing and come as second nature, even while proofreading.  These might include mixing up ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’ or ‘to’ and ‘too’ or shifting between different pronouns in the same sentence.  Everyone has little, or sometimes big, mistakes that they make on a regular basis and these are often missed during proofreading.

When proofreading for mistakes, a professional will ask enough questions of you to understand what you’re trying to say, and make sure it’s coming through in your work.

4.  Formatting Errors

Formatting errors are common with every type of document, but it’s a good idea to check for format after you’ve gone through all the other proofreading.  Poor formatting isn’t inviting to the eye and can often cause readers to not want to read the piece.  Formatting generally includes paragraph spacing, spacing around bullet lists and indentations.

When proofreading for formatting, a professional will consider the final destination of the work and any place it could be published. They’ll also consider who will be laying out the copy and what they need to make it easy.

5.  Verb Tense

Verb tenses such as ‘are’ and ‘were’ should remain constant within the same sentence, and even throughout the entire piece of writing when possible.  You shouldn’t be switching between past, present and future tenses to illustrate the same point, but many do and it’s something that’s often missed during proofreading.

When proofreading for verb tense, a professional will internalize the point  you, the original writer, want to make. With that in mind, they’ll make sure the action words line up with your goals.

Do you need help with proofreading?

You’d be surprised at how many mistakes you leave behind, even after the first or second round of proofreading.  But we’re not. We see it all the time. Reach out to get a professional final set of eyes on your messaging and get you feeling proud about everything you produce.