Your website copy speaks directly to your audience and represents your brand, so it has to be flawless. It’s often the first encounter people have with your business, and you only have a few seconds to make a lasting good impression. Glaring punctuation and spelling errors or inconsistencies are distracting and can cause your potential customers to quickly leave your site.
Even well-written and targeted website content won’t have the desired effect of converting leads into sales if it’s riddled with typos. And it’s time-consuming to constantly have to fix individual errors after publication – it’s much more efficient to thoroughly proofread all new content before you get to this point. But how do you do this? Here are the seven steps to proofreading your website copy that you’ll learn in this guide:
- Create a master document
- Ensure the copy is free of formatting
- Proofread for errors (twice!)
- Check for appropriate brand voice
- Ensure consistency throughout the entire text
- Get a different perspective
- Return the text to your website
If you’re not at the proofreading stage yet and still need help crafting your website copy, check out this article.
1. Create a Master Document
Depending on the size of your business, you may be working with a website that has multiple sections and pages. Rather than trying to proofread each part separately, compile a master document containing all areas of your site for you or your proofreader to use. Don’t forget to include the words that search engines use as a preview of your website (i.e., meta descriptions). Even though these aren’t visible on your site, they’re an important part of search engine optimization and should be a well-written representation of your brand.
In addition, be sure to include any image captions in the master copy, leaving out the images themselves. It will be easier to work without the clutter of photos, charts, and tables – but don’t forget to proofread the text that accompanies infographics.
2. Ensure the Copy Is Free of Formatting
If you’ve copied and pasted the content directly from the website to a word processing program (such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs), it will probably be formatted with a variety of font and heading styles, colors, and paragraph spacing. To make it easier to catch errors and focus on the text, clear all the formatting and apply a basic universal font. You may be able to do this in some programs just before you paste by selecting the option to “paste only unformatted text”, but if not, clear it as soon as you’ve pasted it in.
You should also highlight all the text and apply universal spacing to the entire document to avoid getting distracted by uneven sections. The formatting can always be reapplied once the website has been updated with the proofread copy.
3. Proofread for Errors (Twice!)
Now that you finally have a master document that’s easy to read, it’s time to start proofreading. Before you begin, it’s a good idea to turn on revision tracking so that all the errors that need to be corrected in the actual website copy are clearly visible.
It’s also a good idea to give yourself a refresher on your business’s style guide before you begin. And if you don’t have one, now might be a good time to think about creating one. A style guide ensures that any communication that comes from your business, whether that’s emails, product descriptions, or marketing copy, follows the same guidelines.
When proofreading, it helps to know exactly what you’re looking for. Keep a checklist to hand for the following issues:
- grammatical errors, such as incorrect subject–verb agreement, tense misuse, or missing prepositions
- spelling mistakes or typos
- punctuation issues, such as inconsistent serial commas or missing punctuation
- word repetition and redundancy
4. Check for Appropriate Brand Voice
While the above points are the basic things to look out for when proofreading, they aren’t the only issues you’ll come across. Make sure your website copy (throughout all sections and pages) reflects your brand voice and tone. For example, you may prefer to use the active voice when describing how customers use your business’s product – which means you should eliminate any instances of the passive voice when proofreading.
You should also read the text from the perspective of your target audience. Is the language friendly and approachable, or is it too much of a “hard sell” approach? Depending on the type of product or service you’re selling, you may need to consider adjusting the complexity of the language used and cutting down on technical jargon. However, try to avoid making substantial structural changes or rewrites – this would fall into the category of editing.
5. Ensure Consistency Throughout the Entire Text
Another thing to keep in mind as you’re reading is to check for consistency. If a word is capitalized or hyphenated in one part of the website, make sure that it is throughout as well. And you should also ensure that there are no dialect inconsistencies or errors as that could be confusing to potential customers, no matter where they’re from. For instance, if your “About Us” page is written in US English but product descriptions are written in UK English, your audience might get the impression that your business practices are disorganized and therefore doubt your brand’s reliability.
6. Get a Different Perspective
After you’ve completed the full proofread, it’s a good idea to read it through one final time, possibly out loud to get a fresh perspective. As it can be difficult to proofread content that you’ve written yourself, it’s often helpful to have this step carried out by someone completely unfamiliar with the text, such as a professional freelance proofreader. Another tip is to read the content on a different screen, such as a mobile device, to trick your brain into thinking you’re reading the text for the first time.
7. Return the Text to Your Website
Once you’re confident that you’ve caught every error and typo, it’s time to begin transferring the content back to your website. How long this process takes often depends on how many errors you’ve found. Copy and paste sections of the text from your master document directly into the interface you use to edit your website. If a lot of corrections need to be made, start with small sections and compare them to the master text. Be sure to re-format the text back to the original, for example applying the appropriate heading and font styles and checking the layout of any bullet lists or image captions.
It’s vital to thoroughly proofread all website copy before it’s published. Proofreading ensures you’re putting your best foot forward to potential customers and saves you from having to spend time correcting errors one by one after publication.
If you’d like to learn more about how to increase sales and conversions using your business’s content, check out our essential guide to creating effective and memorable web copy.