Misspelings are annoying. They pop up at inconvenient times and you’re more likely too see them after hitting the publish button.
You probably found it painful to read that first part. Sorry about that. In general, people don’t care too much if you’ve made a few mistakes when writing the text for your online courses. You might have missed a typo or two, which is normal and human.
However, foregoing proofreading altogether will most likely lead to many errors. Learners will be too distracted by misspellings to actually focus on the learning material. Landing page typos can lead potential future learners to judge a course based on your writing. Surely, if you can’t be bothered to read the course description twice, what does that say about the course itself?
I know that’s not your intention! While even the smallest typo can make you cringe, you’re not the only one with this problem. Apparently, the reason why it’s so hard to spot our own mistakes is that we’re so busy conveying meaning through writing, so much so that we lose sight of the smaller details. That pesky “too” instead of “to” doesn’t mean you are so careless after all.
The best proofreading shortcuts for busy entrepreneurs
So, if you’re pressed for time — who isn’t? — you can find someone to read the text for you, a friend or a professional proofreader. If you’re still interested in doing it yourself and don’t want to go to someone else for every course text or description that you write, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are some shortcuts that you can use when proofreading your online courses:
Have a proofreading checklist
It’s best to be methodical when proofreading instead of skimming the text. As we’ve seen before, your brain will have a hard time finding those mistakes since the words are already familiar. That’s why I look for one thing at a time when I edit any text.
Start by searching for spelling errors, then look at punctuation, and don’t forget to fact check one more time. You can make sure that nothing goes unchecked by creating your own proofreading checklist. Here’s how a proofreading checklist might look like:
- Run-on sentences
- Fact checking
- Check photos/videos
A common piece of advice says that we should give the text some rest, and come back to it after a few days. I don’t know many people, myself included, who actually have the time to do this every time they need to proofread something.
Reading the text backwards might seem like a silly thing to do, but it really works: read the text from right to left or left to right, depending on your language. You’re more likely to detect misspelled words since you’re tricking your brain into paying attention to every single word.
Sure, you can use a spellchecker, but spell checkers aren’t perfect — more on that later.
Consider using a style guide
Journalists, business people, marketers, or anyone that writes online nowadays follows a certain guide. Style guides such as the Associated Press Stylebook or the Web Style Guide can be used as a reference even for writing online courses.
How is this a shortcut? By establishing rules from the beginning, you are less likely to go back and change things all the time. It gives consistency to your writing, so you can always check the guide when in doubt.
Read in a different font
Remember, we’re trying to find ways to trick your brain into believing that the text is brand new so you can detect the errors. This can be as simple as changing the font and size of your text and re-reading it.
You can also read it in print form or use another device such as a tablet to achieve more or less the same effect.
Spellchecker to the rescue?
I’m all for using a spellchecker. A good one can also help you with grammar so that is a big plus. Unfortunately, a spellchecker isn’t perfect, mainly because it can’t read the context in which a word is used.
Accepting every suggestion can leave your readers baffled sometimes. What I like to do is read the text and consider every suggestion that my spellchecker offers. Then, I proofread to see if there are any mistakes left.
Highlight for later
Editing is as important, if not more important than writing itself. When writing an online course, you should focus on teaching people and not stop to double-check every reference, fact, or name.
Referencing something that turns out to be untrue can leave people with the wrong impression about your course. That’s why you should highlight certain parts and check them later to make sure that you’ve got it right.
Use find and replace to check some words
This is pretty simple to do and doesn’t take much time. If you frequently misspell a certain word or repeat words such as “the” or “to”, use the find and replace function to check them.
Warning: you might be tempted to use this function to actually replace a word, which in turn can make some unwanted changes throughout the text. Use this carefully and sparingly.
Video content needs proofreading as well
This is something that’s rarely talked about actually! As the popularity of video content increases, online course creators need to learn how to proofread for them as well. Writing scripts for videos is not necessarily easier than writing a module.
For optimum results, specify the right pronunciation between parentheses. Example: “misophonia (miss-o-phonia) is a more common disorder than we think.”
Red marker ready
Not many people think that Copy Edit This! is a fun way to pass the time. That’s fine! In the end, most learners will probably let one or two typos slide, so you shouldn’t obsess over having everything look and sound absolutely perfect.
Proofreading carefully shows you care about your learners and it communicates that you’ve created a quality course. It doesn’t have to be a painstaking process, especially if you take the nifty shortcuts that we’ve talked about today!