How many times has this happened to you: you write a post, read it through seventeen times, hit “publish,” and then immediately spot an error in the published post?
If it never has, lucky you! Would you mind proofreading ours?
For the rest of us, it’s an all-too-frequent occurrence. We’ve been sharing resources for improving your eye for detail throughout the year, and here are two more tricks to try today.
Part of proofreading is being able to slow down and focus enough to stop your brain from correcting typos or filling in gaps before you notice them. Reading your work backward forces you to stop and look at each individual word in a way you can’t otherwise — it’s great for catching those final spelling errors.
Change your font.
Similarly, things that cause you to look at your writing in a new light also slow your brain down. Changing your font (or your font’s size/color) only takes a click of the mouse, but transforms your words. A mistake you might have skimmed over becomes unmissable when it’s 30 points high or bright red.
Sometimes, finding that last gaffe means having to trick your brain into noticing it — these are two simple ways to do it that anyone can try, no special tools needed.
If you think you’ve mastered the intricate art of proofreading or just want another way to practice, a few minutes of Googling unearths lots of proofreading exercises and tests for all reading and comprehension levels.
To save you those few minutes — more time for proofreading! — here are some to try today. Focus on the aspect of proofing you find the trickiest, or test your general proofing abilities:
- Separate your there from your they’re: pick out the commonly confused words in these passages.
- Gamify your proofreading with Portland Proof’s interactive proofreading challenge. Can you beat today’s top score?
- Bring your subjects and verbs into perfect harmony by identifying the disagreements in this exercise.
- Improve your proofreading and your reading list with proofreading exercises using classic works of literature.
You can also find exercises for a range of grammar issues, along with general proofreading/typo identification, at the Dalton State University’s Writing Lab.
Practice makes for perfect proofing!
Very few of us are able to churn out perfectly error-free writing every time — we’re all constantly editing and proofreading, and many of us are on the lookout for tools and tips to help. (After all, that’s why you use After the Deadline!)
Colleges and universities are great resources for editing and proofing. Many of them have dedicated writing centers for those very purposes, and many of those centers publish online resources that are accessible to the public.
Here are a few we think are especially useful:
- Colorado State University’s Writing Studio has a wide range of tips, from how to tailor your writing to your audience to how to track down every last typo. There’s also a print-friendly version, if you prefer to read hard copies or want every resource in a single document for easy skimming.
- The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill has a handy quick-reference guide to help you develop a proofreading strategy. It’s also a test — the guide contains seven errors. Can you spot them all? Take a second look, and then check out the edited version.
- The University of Wisconsin – Madison Writing Center publishes a writers’ handbook that lays out simple techniques for improving your proofing and answers common grammar questions. Confused by semicolons? Not sure about your conjunctive adverb? They can help.
You don’t have to go back to school to take advantage of these helpful resources!
Tools like After the Deadline are a great safety net, but you’ll still want to make sure your writing is clear and grammatically correct. Keep upping your grammar game with help from these three sites:
Daily Writing Tips has posts on everything from common grammar errors to homonyms (their, they’re, there) to rules for writing numbers, and beyond. It’s a great one-stop-shop to find answers to common writing questions, as well as the more obscure.
Grammar Girl dishes the dirt on grammar issues large (avoiding the passive voice) and small (knelt, or kneeled?). Best of all, her posts are quick, fun reads.
Apostrophe Abuse is great for a laugh, and for examples of what not to do. If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at a misplaced apostrophe on a flyer or billboard, this blog’s for you.
Good news! We’ve put several After the Deadline libraries and extensions on GitHub for your hacking pleasure. As we announced previously, we’re no longer supporting the browser extensions and libraries, but we know there are developers who have ideas (and code) for updating and improving them. Now, you can fork them on GitHub.
The atd-server repository is still available on Subversion for now (it’s got too many big binaries for GitHub). Check out the overview page for information on the AtD Server distribution and source code. We’ll also continue running our After the Deadline server for personal and low-volume users.
For those of you eager to play with After the Deadline, we’ve got a useful collection of developer resources on the main After the Deadline site. There’s also a Google Group, if you’d like to connect with others.
(Although we’re no longer supporting them, you can continue to use the After the Deadline extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and OpenOffice, available in their respective stores. Self-hosted WordPress bloggers will find it built in to Jetpack. If and when other developers create new versions based on forks of the GitHub projects, we’ll happily link to them..)
After the Deadline is a great safety net, but your own critical eye is also an important tool to hone — that’s why we offer proofreading tips along with helpful software. In this post, we want to highlight one of our favorite proofreading methods: reading out loud.
How many times has this happened to you? You draft a new post. It goes through several big revisions, and then endless tweaks (sometimes back to its original wording) until you’re as satisfied as you can be. You give it a last once-over for typos, find none, and send it on its way… only to get a note from readers about typos. You vow to be more vigilant the next time, yet it happens again.
Why? Your brain is skimming over the errors. You’ve been looking at the words for hours and know exactly what they’re supposed to say, so your brain makes sure that’s what you see when you read.
To get your overachieving brain to notice the errors, you’ve got to slow it down. That’s where reading aloud comes in: when you’re reading aloud, sounding out each word as you go, your brain is forced to consider each word independently in a way that doesn’t happen when you’re reading silently.
The next time you need to make absolutely sure your work is typo free, make sure you’re home alone, close the door, and give it a try (and then run After the Deadline as a final check).
Tools like After the Deadline (and the proofreading tools built in to WordPress.com) are great for catching typos and making sure that an overlooked mis-type doesn’t cloud your message. As anyone who’s ever relied on a proofreading tool knows, however, there’s more to clean copy than a lack of typos.
Use After the Deadline as your personal proofreading assistant, but consider the other key copyediting steps before you hit “publish.” Rely on this copyediting trifecta to give your sparkling prose a final polish:
- Accuracy. Is everything you’ve written correct? This is critical if what you’re writing includes things like dates, contact information, or data — it’s easy for our eyes to skip over a street addresses or URL we’ve seen a hundred times, so make a point of double-checking. Accuracy is about more that just verifying statistics and email addresses, though. If you’re giving instructions, are they clear? Is there anything you’re written that can be misinterpreted? Be your own devil’s advocate, and give your writing a once-over for accuracy; your piece will be stronger for it.
- Nips and Tucks. Editing is just as important as writing; the first few drafts you write are just that — drafts. Once you’ve got all your ideas down clearly and accurately and you think you’re happy with what you’ve got, take a figurative x-acto knife to your words. Is each word necessary? Is each word as strong as it can be? Does each word advance your point? Be merciless.
- Spelling and Grammar. Here’s where After the Deadline comes in! Do a final sweep of your tight and toned piece to eliminate distracting typos and grammar gaffes. Even your most lyrical description will land with a thunk if your “two” should have been a “too.”
If you’ve got a self-hosted WordPress blog, the multi-functional Jetpack plugin gives you After the Deadline along with dozens of other goodies, and there are After the Deadline extensions available for Chrome, Firefox, and Open Office. Whatever your site’s platform, there’s a tool to help you look your best.
In our last post, we let you know that we’d no longer be supporting After the Deadline browser extensions — you can still use AtD, just within WordPress itself rather than through a browser. If your site is on WordPress.com, you’re all set; you’ve got a “proofread” button right in your post and page editors.
But what if you’re prone to typos and running a self-hosted WordPress blog? Easy: Jetpack.
Jetpack is the Swiss army knife of plugins: it’s a multipurpose plugin that gives your self-hosted WordPress site two dozen of the most popular features of WordPress.com. By hooking your site into the WordPress.com cloud, it lets you have the best of both worlds: WordPress.com power and ease with WordPress.org flexibility.
Why are we going on about Jetpack on the After the Deadline blog? Simple: installing Jetpack gives you AtD, right there in your post editor, so you can check your work no matter where you’re publishing. And if that isn’t enough, consider some of the other features it includes:
- Tiled photo galleries, so you can create elegant, magazine-style mosaic layouts with a few clicks.
- Shortcode embeds to speed up the process of inserting multimedia.
- Comments that let readers respond to you using their WordPress.com, Facebook, or Twitter login.
- Notifications and stats to help you manage everything from one simple toolbar.
- Sharing tools to take your content from stand-alone post to viral sensation.
That’s just the tip of the jetpack – check out Jetpack.me for a full features list. Best of all, this can all be yours for the low, low price of zero dollars, and with only one plugin to install.
Remember, if you still want to pitch in with the development and maintenance of browser-specific After the Deadline extensions, the main AtD site has tons of developer resources. But if you just want to make sure you never publish another “teh” (at least, accidentally), then Jetpack’s your plugin.
It’s been a few years since we launched After the Deadline, and it’s helped millions of bloggers put their best feet forward with clean, error-free copy.
If you’re a WordPress.com user you’ve got After the Deadline technology built right in to your site, although you might just know it as the “proofread” button in your visual editor. If you’ve got a self-hosted WordPress.org site, then you have After the Deadline as part of the suite of features in the Jetpack plugin.
(You do have Jetpack installed, right? No? Go ahead and do that, we’ll wait.)
If After the Deadline proofreading is something you rely on when publishing, we encourage you to use the built-in WordPress.com tool or install Jetpack — while there are extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Open Office available, Automattic will no longer be supporting those as of the end of this month.
Luckily, After the Deadline and all its extensions are completely open source. If you’re a developer with a yen for good grammar, why not lend a hand in its future growth? There are lots of developer resources on the main After the Deadline site, as well as an active Google Group for folks who want to pitch in or figure out how to add After the Deadline to their projects. (If you’re not already a part of Google Groups, join up and then search for “ATD” to find them.) We appreciate everyone who’s already taken the time to contribute, and look forward to see where you’ll take After the Deadline next.
After the Deadline for OpenOffice.org has been kept under the radar. It started out as a modification of the Language Tool plugin for OpenOffice.org. The first release was simple but worked. The second release added some error checking to let you know when the extension couldn’t connect to the AtD server. Today, I’m releasing the third release.
This release fixes a bug that prevented OpenOffice.org from applying After the Deadline to non-English (US) documents. As the developer, I’m responsible for specifying the locales the extension can check and well. I used en_UK and not en_GB. It’s an honest mistake. If you tried After the Deadline but found yourself frustrated because it wouldn’t check anything, try again–you’ll be quite pleased.
This release also cleans up the “AtD Service” option. It trims trailing slashes from the URL (if you added one) and makes it easier to reset the extension to the default AtD server.
If you’re using After the Deadline 0.1 or 0.2, click Tools -> Extension Manager -> Check for Updates to get the latest. Otherwise you can download the After the Deadline for OpenOffice.org from our site.
After the Deadline for OpenOffice.org is now ready for a more general audience. Enjoy.