Copywriting Tip: Hard-Proof Your Way to Word-Perfect

Here’s a basic but often overlooked copywriting tip that can save you and your clients both money and aggravation.

It’s called hard proofing. If you’re not familiar with the term, it means that you print out the actual pages of your copy for proofing and editing purposes. When you work for a publisher, corporation or ad agency, hard proofing is mandatory and a major part of the copywriting and design creation process.

Why hard proofing is important:


We all want to save time (not to mention money on printer supplies!) by relying on spell check and reading through our copy on-screen. But when we forgo the hard proofing process, errors manage to find their way in. For example, sometimes an author will accidentally type “thing” when he meant to write “think,” or “through” instead of “thorough.” Spell checkers don’t pick up on these types of errors because they recognize the words but can’t decipher their context or meaning.

Printing out your document gives you a psychological advantage over proofing on your screen. When you’re working on a project, and proofing on screen, you’re in rush mode. You probably scan for typos on the fly. The problem with this method is that you’ll likely skim over the piece without giving much thought to meaning or clarity.

Print once, to edit for context.

When you’ve got a hard copy in hand, you get the benefit of being able to mark it up with corrections, ideas or notes that you may want to add to your final draft. This will greatly improve your writing and work to get your message across. You may find unexpected problems like repeated words and ideas, underdeveloped supporting paragraphs, or key points that need slight rearranging and reordering.

Print again, to edit for syntax.

When you’re mostly satisified with your draft, sit down away your computer with the printed pages for another look. This will put your mind into editing mode. Once you can see the printout in your hand, you’re consciously better able to catch spelling, grammar and style mistakes because that’s your primary goal – not re-writing.

It seems simple, and like everyone should know it. But judging by the amount of errors that get published today, it’s clear that more copywriters need to ease up on the on-screen editing, and shift to the tried-and-tested hard proofing mode.