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Apr 27 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: How to proofread betterer

You better edit yourself before you discredit yourself.”

I’m not sure Ice Cube ever thought he’d be paraphrased for copy editing purposes, but every writer can avoid the wrecking with some careful checking.

A lead or intro-slide error is more damaging than a handful of gaffes later on, but both will cause readers to question your professionalism.

Once they start doing that, they don’t really care about your sports opinion too much either.

We talk about this all the time on the B/R Blog, and I’ve shared this advice with you before, but as our brand standards continue to rise, we’re all invested in improving content quality.

There’s no perfect method, but our internship system has proven very effective: Proofread three to five times before publication, with at least one of them being out loud.

Rather than robotic read throughs, jumping into “character roles” when proofreading and copy editing can help you stay more alert and thorough:

1. Your Eyes

Stay in the writing groove throughout an individual slide or short standard article. Don’t stop at the end of each sentence or paragraph as you write. However, by slide or short article’s end, go back for your first read-through, looking for most of the mechanics and phrasing stuff.

2. The Diehard

Once the whole article is completed, read with the eyes of an avid fan for that particular team/player, etc. Assume that everything you’ve written will be vehemently disagreed with. Especially focus on adding depth, completing any hanging statements, fixing content errors, etc. Are your assertions defensible? Did you provide specific evidence, analysis and/or logic to ensure this?

3. The Lay Person

Next, become an outsider to the topic. Look for accessibility and strong transitions that tell a complete story, connect all the dots and provide enough entertainment value for the most casual of readers.

4. Your Ears

Before hitting the “Publish” button, read your work out loud to yourself or some willing person nearby. ANYTHING that doesn’t pass the “sounds good” test isn’t going to read well either. Any sentence that requires multiple breaths is probably too windy for the online genre. Fix it.

5. The Masses

No matter how well you’ve done up to this point, the minute you hit “Publish,” it seems magical gremlins will sprinkle one or two more errors into your work. Revisit your latest article once it’s been published. Read it on the “big screen” and see what catches your eye. You can always click “Edit This Article” on the right hand side under “Editor Tools” to make a quick fix.

Treat every work as if it will be viewed by half a million or more readers. Polish that article to a shine, then let your sports knowledge, enthusiasm and style light the way.

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Joel C. Cordes is Bleacher Report’s Sports Writing Internship Program Feedback Editor. Along with fellow editor Greg Pearl, he develops B/R interns by providing feedback and mentoring, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog.

  • Kgk914

    Joel, many good points. After working on an article for several hours, my eyes are tired and it is easy to miss things. The other side of the territory is how fast the news cycle is. News is often old news in 12 to 24 hours. At B-R we are also competing against each other to have the first story posted on a game or news development. The first story seems to take most of the hits. Very good point to keep checking after publishing.

    • Joel Cordes

      It’s certainly a razor wire tight-rope walk between speed and polish. Practice makes perfect, but I know exactly what you mean when it comes to insanely quick turn around times for Breaking News. My advice is to give it your best 1-2 proofreads, publish to hit your deadline, THEN go back and give it the rest of your edits once done. (and before you move on to the next article) This way it still winds up polished for the vast majority of your readers AND you got it in on time.