In the quest to publish new listings in a timely manner, especially when agents and administration staff are ‘under the pump,’ proofreading your real estate copy can be overlooked in the rush to get listings uploaded.
But while errors are often invisible to the person who wrote the real estate listing, they stand out like a flashing neon sign to people reading the copy.
Clear, concise, and error-free copy ensures your reader isn’t distracted by mistakes. It also reflects well on you as a professional who is a cut above the rest – you don’t need to search too hard to find real estate copy that could do with a polish.
Nobody gets everything perfect 100% of the time – professional writers usually have professional copy editors to correct mistakes! If you’re trying to juggle it all as an agent, marketer, copywriter, editor, admin, and more, it’s hard to take the time to sit down and properly proofread your copy.
That’s why we’ve shared the proofreading techniques to make it easier and common mistakes to look for.
Proofreading Round One - Fact Check
The first round of proofreading should always include checking the accuracy of your writing.
People are relying on your copy to make one of the biggest financial decisions of their life, so the details must be correct.
Having the vendor read the copy as a second set of eyes is a good idea, so nothing slips through the cracks. Ask them specifically to fact-check, so they know what feedback to give.
Proofreading Round Two - Use a Spelling and Grammar Checker with Caution
Spelling and grammar checkers have come a long way since the early days. They now use AI to help you improve your writing and are invaluable for picking up a plethora of small mistakes.
So, the next step is to use a spelling and grammar checker (or two) to review your copy and check for obvious mistakes.
Before letting your spell check make changes, evaluate whether those changes make sense. Because while modern spelling checkers are good, they can also get things wrong.
Grammar checkers aren’t perfect at understanding context or Australian ways of speaking. While you should avoid slang in your copy, it’s ok and often recommended to use conversational English.
A great example is the word ‘verandah.’ Verandah, spelt with an ‘h,’ is considered archaic and rarely used, except in Australia and generally only by older generations. Your spelling checker may flag it as incorrect. Whether you spell veranda with or without an ‘h’ will depend on your target reader and vendor. As the writer, you need to know when to override the checker and when to approve its suggestion.
To make things confusing, if you use more than one grammar checker, they often disagree, which is why understanding the rules of grammar yourself is essential.
Did you know we offer proofreading services as well as copywriting? If you’re not sure about all these grammar rules, we can help.
Proofreading Round Three - Read Your Real Estate Copy Aloud
Reading your copy aloud helps you pick up awkward sentences, phrases that don’t make sense, and words you’ve repeated too many times.
When you read out loud, you can tell immediately if your copy is clunky, doesn’t flow, or just sounds boring. Good writing is like music, it has a rhythm, and you can hear this rhythm (or lack of it) when you read aloud.
If reading out loud feels awkward, or is inappropriate in a busy workplace setting, here’s a tip: plug in your earphones and use a text-to-voice service to read your copy for you.
Microsoft Word has a free read-aloud feature in the ‘Review’ tab, so you can listen to your copy. Take the time to adjust the tempo to get the voice to sound as natural as possible. As Word reads your copy, it highlights each word, helping you to focus and pick up more errors.
If you don’t use Word, there are dozens of text-to-voice services on the web. Many are free, and you can choose different speakers, including voices with Australian accents.
Like AI grammar and spell checkers, voice-to-text reading isn’t perfect, but the combined tools will help you pick up most errors.
Pro Proofreading Techniques
Three rounds of proofreading using the above steps will improve your copy. And if you’re under the pump, they are solid techniques for getting your copy done and done well.
But if you have extra time, here are a few proven techniques to help you proofread.
- Take a few hours (preferably overnight) between writing and proofreading. It’s easier to spot errors with fresh eyes and a clear mind.
- Ask someone else to read your copy. A second pair of eyes will pick up things your eyes gloss over.
- Read your copy one sentence at a time, backward. Start at the end of your copy and read the last sentence, then the second last sentence etc. Reading backwards stops you from glossing over copy you’re familiar with, helping you spot errors you’ve missed.
- Use a pointer on the screen or a ruler on the page. This forces your eyes to look at each word.
- Take your time and read in a distraction-free environment when you’re most alert. Proofreading needs focused attention, which is why it’s good to do it after a night’s sleep.
- Keep a checklist and look for one type of problem at a time. A systematic approach will help you spot mistakes.
Common Mistakes to Look For
We all have little writing foibles and predilections. Words we like to use a little too much. Grammar mistakes we make over and over. My little finger is trigger-happy on the apostrophe, even when I know one doesn’t belong. Bad pinkie!
When you know your quirks, you can keep an eye out for them and make sure they don’t slip through.
We see common mistakes crop up over and over, so here are a few things to look out for.
Common Grammar Mistakes
We’ve written a whole post on grammar mistakes that crop up in real estate copy, so rather than list them here, check out our article on the most common grammar mistakes.
In particular, look at the section on wrong word choice because spell check won’t always pick them – for example, complement v compliment or stationery v stationary.
Another thing it won’t pick up is the overuse of adverbs and adjectives. Real estate writers are particularly prone to adjective abuse when writing property copy. Readers won’t trust your copy when it’s bursting with adjectives, so it’s good to comb some out during proofreading.
Repetition is when you use the same word repeatedly in your copy. Maybe you’ve described the layout as spacious, the bedrooms as spacious, the kitchen as spacious, and the yard as…spacious.
Repetition is easy to pick up when you read your copy out loud or have a text-to-voice service read it for you.
Another technique is to use the ‘find’ function in Microsoft Word to look for words you tend to overuse. It will show you how many times a word is used in your copy and highlight each iteration to make them easy to find and fix.
An online thesaurus can help you find synonyms, so you’re not repeating the same word. But you may also want to rephrase your copy with specific details that show, not tell. For example, instead of saying the backyard is spacious, you can give the exact square meterage of the block and let the facts speak for themselves.
When you use a grammar checker, it’s important to set it to Australian spelling. If you’re writing for an Aussie audience, you need to use Australian spelling.
Organise, not organize. Colour, not color. Neighbourhood, not neighborhood.
Australians also have a few different grammatical conventions to Americans that a grammar checker may not pick up. We sometimes use prepositions differently. For example:
Australian: The office is open Monday to Friday.
American: The office is open Monday through Friday.
We prefer the present perfect tense to the simple past tense in Australia (although either is fine). For example:
Australian: The photographer has taken photos.
American: The photographer took photos.
We also use quotation marks differently, punctuate quotes differently, and don’t add full stops after titles (Dr, not Dr.). And the Oxford comma? It’s an essential but controversial piece of grammar that court cases have been won and lost over.
Inclusive, non-discriminatory real estate copy is essential. While good copywriting speaks to a particular target audience, it’s important to do so without discriminating.
One example that is very common in real estate writing is the use of the word ‘master’ when talking about the main bedroom, which is considered non-inclusive language.
Another example, which we see crop up surprisingly frequently, is a reference to mum in the kitchen or the workshop being perfect for the ‘man of the house.’
Talking about sipping a cool drink is more inclusive than talking about drinking wine (not everyone agrees with alcohol consumption). Referring to family celebrations is more inclusive than referencing specific religious celebrations like Christmas.
This language is not as precise; it doesn’t paint as vivid a picture, but your copy will be more inclusive.
Cliches are difficult to avoid when writing property copy – there are only so many ways to describe a kitchen. But if you can substitute a cliche with an original phrase, your copy will sound less generic.
One way to avoid cliches is to be specific.
Instead of ‘close to transport,’ write ‘500 metres to the nearest bus stop’.
Instead of ‘location, location, location,’ state exactly what is so good about the location. For example, ‘five minutes to the beach’ or ‘walk the kids to school.’
Cliches are shortcuts that communicate a lot of information in a few words, so they have their place. But use sparingly and combat with specificity.
Taking the time to proofread and polish your real estate copy will mean your vendors are happy, and your professionalism will shine through all your marketing materials.
If you’re short on time, we can write polished copy for you, taking all the hassle out of writing, editing, and proofreading.
It’s our job to know when to use the Oxford comma, when to hyphenate a compound modifier, or when to use a semi-colon, so you can rest assured that all your real estate copy will come to you proofed and polished.