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Dec 30 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: Top 10 online writer mistakes (Part IV)

Continuing this month’s list of the top 10 mistakes we typically help writers fix. Here are Part I, Part II and Part III.

Writers often …

7 ) Expect the editors to clean up their mess.

If you think that it’s your editor’s job to be your best proofreader, then you’ll probably never land a job where you would get that kind of editor in the first place.

Be your own best proofreader.

Despite the fact that I know a LOT of B/R writers who are very dedicated to this facet of their craft, a cursory glance through any 10 articles on our site would indicate there is still plenty of work to be done.

Not every reader will hang up when a writer isn’t using commas before conjunctions that introduce clauses with a new subject AND verb. Many won’t realize WHY a sentence sounds so clunky after the writer used double, triple and even quadruple(!) infinitives in the same sentence. Others may not have a clue that the writer forgot what a synonym is, repeatedly using the same noun, verb or adjective throughout the entire article.

But many will.

Litte errors rack up quickly. A writer’s credibility flies right out the window when readers realize, “If the writer didn’t care enough to proofread his/her work, why should I care to read it?”

Don’t let your insight, content and style be drowned out by the sloppy noise of misused and missplaced words, improperly spelled names, comma errors and so on.

Proofread your work AT LEAST three to five times during the writing process.

I like to do the following:

1. Proofread once upon completion of each slide (or article, if writing a standard article), looking for basic grammar errors.

2. Proofread the entire article through my own eyes prior to publication, looking for my lead to directly paraphrase the headline, use of full keywords and other general mechanics.

3. Proofread the entire article again, this time through the eyes of an expert fan. Now I’m looking for hanging statements, innaccurate information and whether I took a clear and decisive stance that I’m willing to prove.

4. Proofread the entire article AGAIN, this time through the eyes of a casual “outsider” who just stumbled across my work. Now I’m looking for awkward phrasing, and whether I have a complete and engaging story that would draw in this reader.

5. Hit the “publish” button, and then go back to read through the article one more time, just to see what else catches my eye. Some of my favorite edits have occurred during this stage. You can always go back after the fact.

8 ) Don’t read their own work out loud.

If it doesn’t pass the “sounds good” test, then it’s not going to read well either.

Simply scanning through your own work isn’t good enough. Your eyes and brain may catch the mechanical and content errors, but they’re rather unlikely to catch the phrasing side of things.

After all, YOU wrote the piece, so your biased brain automatically wants to accept what it produced. It assumes that its first production contained genius analogies and turns of phrase that transcend art.

Reading your work out loud will quickly dispel this notion. Adding your voice and ears to the mix makes things much more objective.

Ignorance is not bliss in this case: Your ideas may be good, but if your execution doesn’t hold up in the real world, then it’s all for naught.

The reader walks away.

Yes, I realize that I’ve just told you to pretend like you’re multiple people AND talk to yourself.

Nobody ever said writers weren’t weird.

I’ll be back next week to share two more critical mistakes online writers often make.

Joel C. Cordes is Bleacher Report’s Sportswriting Internship Program Feedback Editor. Along with fellow editor Greg Pearl, he mentors B/R interns by reviewing articles, answering questions and providing guidance, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog.

  • Anonymous

    “If you think that it’s your editor’s job to be your best proofreader, then you’ll probably never land a job where you would get that kind of editor in the first place.”

    So right, haha!