Skip to main content

Effective proofreading tips

Written by Kieran McNeill

Writing flaw-free copy isn’t easy, so the Scaramanga team has pulled together a few handy proofreading tips to help you avoid the common pitfalls.

This article has been assigned the following categories: Tips,

We’ve all spotted errors in copy, some of them obvious and some less so.

Check spellings of proper nouns

If your copy is name checking, it is important to ensure that you have used the correct spelling. If you are including email addresses and telephone numbers then check these are active by making a call, sending an email and checking the website address. Is it a or a .com? This could be a fatal error, especially in a print advert.

Check the punctuation

Make sure you are using punctuation effectively; capital letters, full stops and everything in-between. Reading your copy out loud will help identify long sentences and where pauses fall naturally in sentences so you can add in commas, colons and semicolons where needed.

Brand guidelines and style guides

Make sure you are following your business’s brand guidelines and adhering to them when it comes to tone of voice, use of capitalisation, headers and other typographical styles.

Check any data

If you are writing reports, budgets or citing financial data, double check the figures as this kind of mistake is easily made and the omission or addition of an extra digit can be significant.

Avoid repetition

When you are writing, it is often easy to fall into a pattern of repeating words. Look out for words you use regularly and make sure you aren’t using them too frequently.

Look out for over-use of synonyms: the enormous large dog for instance. Both adjectives mean the same thing, so pick one and edit out the other word.


Spell check only picks up incorrect spellings, check carefully you are using the right word, for example stationary and stationery. Both these are homonyms and have very similar spellings but completely different meanings.

Print out the copy

Printing out copy and reading it slowly in a quiet room where you won’t be interrupted by phone calls or email alerts. The focus and concentration will help you to spot errors, as will seeing it in a different medium than on the screen.

Get a second person to proofread

It can be difficult to spot errors if you have been writing for hours and you’re on a tight deadline. Ask a colleague to proofread your copy; they will often be able to spot errors that you haven’t seen.

Finally, proof the document at least five times

  1. Check the sense and wording. Do you have the right words in there?
  2. Go through the article in detail. Put a ruler under each line and go through word by word to check the spelling
  3. Check the layout to make sure everything is there that should be — images in the right place, correctly captioned, all headings are in the correct size and style
  4. A final check to make sure you have picked everything up
  5. A second person to do that final proofread

Do not overly worry about making mistakes

We all make the occasional typo, which is why adopting these proofreading tips will help ensure your communications are error free. If you do end up making a mistake, then prey they are not as bad as these copywriting howlers.

Spot the typo

If you can spot the deliberate typo in this article, drop me an email to let me know. No prizes, just great to know you’re paying attention!