You don’t want your friends to mess up your hard work, do you?
I know I have to rely on non-writer friends because I can’t afford a professional proofreader for each and every of my articles, e-zines, blog posts and much more. My writer buddies are busy folks and I try to ‘disturb’ them as rarely as possible.
What to do, though, when your friends don’t even know where to begin with correcting your drafts?
My fiance and I came up with a 12-items rubric to make the proofreading work easier for your buddies and less of a concern for you.
Mandi (my spiritual daughter) also contributed to this post. She is my most efficient beta reader, so I owe her a lot of successful articles. 😉
*NOTE: The rubric below talks directly to the proofreader, so beware of the switch of target reader. Also, feel free to print out this post and distribute it to your beta readers.*
How To Proofread Your Writer Friend’s Work In 12 Steps
1. Does the text flow smoothly? – Flow is the most important factor to check in an article, blog post or white paper. The target reader should be able to consume it quickly and retain as much information from it. Don’t worry about grammar or typos at this stage, just check the flow of concepts and the way they’re presented (spaced paragraphs, clear lists, use of bolds, titles and italics, etc.).
2. Are there any major grammar mistakes? – Look at the grammar: are there any confusing sentences? An abuse of adverbs and -ing verbs? A misuse of plurals? Check with a dictionary if you’re in doubt. This kind of mistakes can put off an editor or blog owner and be a cause of rejection.
3. Is the punctuation correctly used? – You should ask your friend if they’re referring to a specific stylebook for their article. Punctuation varies according to the different styles – Associated Press, Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White, etc. – so make sure you know what to look for. If your friend is not using a stylebook, pick one yourself as a reference and check for consistency.
4. Are there any minor mistakes and/or typos? – These ones don’t cause a lot of trouble if present sparingly in the body of the article, but if you can spot them all you’ll be doing your friend a big favor.
5. Is the target readership clear? – Terminology helps. In doubt, perform a web search to see if the same topic is covered in an alike way by another niche. The article, blog post or white paper should be tailored to a specific audience, unless exceptions are allowed (like this post, initially talking to the writer, then switching to the proofreader – YOU! – after a notice).
6. Is the article/blog post/white paper following a specific format? And was the writer loyal to that format? – In other words, if your friend is working on a list article but the text doesn’t include a list of tips, items or steps, the piece is not going to work. You should point this out to your friend when you return the edited draft.
7. Did the use of sources/interviews help find a solution to the initial problem? – Sources are great, but if writers doesn’t know how to use them to spice up their articles, they’re no better than opinion in a personal essay. An article, blog post or white paper should help the reader solve a problem, whether it’s diaper changing or Twitter marketing.
8. Have the sources been cited properly? – Yes, your friend might have used the right sources extensively— but were they correctly cited? Fact checking is crucial to the success of an article— and to avoid legal issues such as libel or defamation. If something looks wrong, don’t hesitate to tell your friend.
9. Is the writer using the right tone? – The format of the article may require a different tone (neutral, simple and direct, impersonal, etc.) than the writer is used to, so if this is new ground for your friend, make sure to let them know if they’re talking to their audience using the wrong language. The way the message is conveyed is important.
10. Did the writer rush out their conclusions? – In other words: has the writer really understood the topic at hand? Or was it rushed through the end? It’s easy to understand: if your friend didn’t arrive to the conclusion by covering all the necessary points mentioned in the article, but skipped most of them or focused too much on the smallest, irrelevant details, then
11. Did the writer say all that could be said about the specific topic in the specific word count limit? – Sometimes you will have a gut feeling about it: maybe the concepts and the sources have done their job, but somehow the writer didn’t really close the article. What’s the message to the target reader? Is it clear? Can you summarize it in one sentence? If you can’t do this simple thing, something’s wrong.
12. Is there anything you’d like to suggest to your writer friend? – Go for it. 🙂 Simone’s suggestions were a life saver in many difficult situations, whether it was an additional paragraph or the removal of a commentary.
A question for both writers and proofreaders: what techniques do you use when proofreading your own or another writer’s work?