Author Solutions – February 12, 2019
for Effective Proofreading
Whether you enlist the services of an editor or not, you still want your book to leave your hands looking as professional as possible. These ten techniques (compiled from previous articles) will help you find embarrassing manuscript errors before your reader does.
1. Have someone else read your work.
This is probably the most important tip! There’s nothing like a second set of eyes checking your work (not just for spelling or punctuation errors, but for clarity or inconsistencies).
2. Read it aloud.
This will reveal mistakes you missed when you simply scanned the page silently. If the draft isn’t too long, consider having it read aloud to you (especially if it’s a screenplay).
3. Read it backwards.
This technique won’t help you with sentence construction errors, but it’s useful for finding spelling errors. Starting at the last line and working backwards breaks up the sentence “flow,” and allows you to focus on each word individually.
4. Proofread a printed copy of your work.
Many writers find that they are more successful at finding errors when they take a break from their monitors and use paper instead. This also allows you to focus entirely on proofreading, without the temptation to make creative changes.
5. Use your word processor’s spell checker, but don’t trust it completely.
While not perfect (and not a replacement for a second set of eyes), a spell checker is still effective at calling attention to things you may have missed.
6. Put your writing aside for a while.
Whenever possible, you should try to wait a few days (or at least a few hours) before you edit or proofread your work. This allows you to see things with fresh eyes that are more likely to spot errors.
7. Proofread several times, for different types of errors.
Don’t try to find everything on the first pass! Scan your work several times, with a different focus each time (spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, etc.)
8. Keep proofreading materials handy.
Make sure your dictionary, grammar and style guides are close by, but don’t be afraid to ignore these references when you’re “in the zone” with your writing. When you write, just write; when you proofread, just proofread.
9. Know your own strengths and weaknesses.
As you write, you’ll probably notice that you tend to make the same types of mistakes again and again. Take note of these! When it’s time to proofread, briefly review your list of “Achilles’ Heels,” and give them their own scan.
10. Double-check facts, figures, names, and dates.
The problem with factual errors, proper name misspellings, etc., is that they can undermine the writer’s credibility in his subject area. Attention to detail!
In today’s world of e-publishing and blogging, where the “Publish Now” button is always close at hand, the potential for errors to make it into your final draft has never been higher. By following these tips, you can maximize your chances of catching them before your readers do.