P is for Proofreading

We’re just starting Week P in our A-Z series of writing. I’m going to talk about Proofreading today.

First of all, professional proofreaders exist. These helpful individuals have trained eye that can spot errors in every line of your manuscript. From missing commas and incorrectly placed apostrophes to spelling mistakes, they help you polish your writing so that your readers get a great product.

The truth is that many new authors are unable to afford the services of a proofreader and end up using the word processor program’s spell check and grammar check instead. While this can be a good way to start cleaning up your pages, it leaves room for serious issues. For example, the problem with homophones, or words that sound the same but have different meaning and are spelt in a different way too often, is that they can be hard to detect. You could easily substitute one for the other and not even realise it because it isn’t a wrongly spelled word. Spell Check is NOT going to catch it.

So even before you or your editor begins the editing process, you need to work on the surface errors that include problems with grammar rules, spelling, punctuation and other language matters. Here are some tips to master proofreading.

  1. Take a Print Out: Have your writing in your hands, not on a device that can distract you with social media and email and what not. Your eyes get too used to seeing your chapters on screen during the long writing process, so you need to see them in a new way.
  2. Read it Out Loud: When you’re writing your draft, it’s easy to lose yourself in the act of typing and reaching word count goals. Reading your work in your mind can make you hurry, taking your attention from one line to another quickly. No matter how much you focus, chances are that you’ll be missing out words here and there. Once you start reading out loud, slowly, you can detect problems with your eyes and ears. Imagine reading out a sentence and finding an unwanted word stuck at the end of it. Ouch, my ears! What were you thinking, right?
  3. Use a Piece of Paper: Use a sheet of paper to cover up the lines after the one you are reading at that moment. One line at a time. No more. This keeps you attentive since the best of us has a wandering eye when it comes to reading long documents.
  4. Identify Repetition: I see writers on Twitter talking about their proofreading activity all the time. A few days ago, one of them shared her most repeated words in her current work-in-progress – ‘just’ and ‘very’. That got me thinking about my current manuscript; oh my gosh, I use ‘so’ and ‘seemed’ way too much!
  5. Re-check Your Facts: If you’re writing nonfiction, chances are that your document will be filled with facts. Google and Google well and make sure it’s all legitimate from reliable sources. I mean checking educational resources, journals and news sites and not glancing over a Wikipedia page. Talk to an expert if you have any doubt.
  6. Get A Reader: A beta reader is NOT a proofreader but if you have fellow writer friends or major bookworm friends, you could ask some of them you trust to give your manuscript a read. You’ll be surprised at the typos and sentence construction issues a sharp reader’s eye can find.

Be careful. You want to put your best work out there.

Hope this helps!

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