Proofreading your novel is a crucial step in every publishing journey. Since you only get to make that first impression once, you can’t be sloppy when it comes to proofreading. Poor spelling, grammar and presentation give your audience the impression you’re unprofessional, lack an eye for detail or are simply too slapdash to care.
Not great, right?
So don’t leave it to chance. Bookmark these 10 proofreading tips to ensure your manuscript sparkles and wows your readers.
Proofreading Tip #1: Don’t rely solely on your spellchecker
Of course you should make your computer’s inbuilt spellchecker your first port of call because it will pick up typos. However, don’t rely solely on your spellchecker – your novel isn’t completely error-free just because you’ve used the F7 key. I find the editor (even in the most up-to-date version of Microsoft Word) still highlights ‘inaccuracies’ that aren’t inaccuracies.
Proofreading Tip #2: Keep a dictionary or thesaurus handy
Keep a dictionary/thesaurus handy, and always query any suggestions made by your spellchecker. As you proofread your work, you might discover you overuse particular words/phrases too. If so, do a search (CTRL+F) to see just how many times you’ve used that phrase or word. Then make a list of alternatives you could replace it/them with and start fixing.
Proofreading Tip #3: Read your work aloud (and slowly)
Reading your work aloud and at a slow, controlled pace means your brain is less likely to auto-correct mistakes. You’ll be more likely to spot missing words, get a better feel for the flow, and see if you need to step up your punctuation. You could always try the ‘READ ALOUD’ function in Word too.
Proofreading Tip #4: Work from a paper copy
Reading from paper is much easier than your computer screen – and it’s better for your eyes and your concentration levels. Plus, you get to play teachers and use a red pen (tell me it isn’t just me who likes to play teachers?!).
Proofreading Tip #5: Use a ruler and check line by line
The key to catching every mistake is to work slowly and focus on each word and line. One way of doing just that is to take a ruler and go through your text one line at a time.
Proofreading Tip #6: Consistency is key
Make sure you spell words, names, and locations consistently. Is your formatting uniform? Do your chapter headings use numbers or words, and are they all the same? All these little things add up and keep you a step ahead of the competition once your novel’s published.
Proofreading Tip #7: Do several separate proofs
Sorry to break the bad news, but proofreading isn’t just a one-round-and-you’re-done process. Firstly, you should focus only on your spellings. Next, look for any inconsistencies, then check your formatting, and then double-check those chapter headings.
Proofreading Tip #8: Team up with a proofreading pal
Working with someone else (preferably another professional writer or author) makes the proofreading process much easier. So grab a pal, a cup of tea and some really nice biccies (go all out for the choccy Hob Nobs if necessary), and get to work. Have one person read aloud while the other person follows with their copy. This way, any missing words, lines, paragraphs, or mistakes will be much easier to spot.
Proofreading Tip #9: Check your chapter titles, numbers and sequences
This is something I find in so many of my authors’ books, and it’s so easy to overlook. You see, during the writing process, you may have written out of sequence (ie chapter 10 and then chapter 5). You may have added new chapters and/or sections at a later date. So it’s important to make sure your chapter numbers haven’t gone skew whiff. An easy way to do this is to look for the word ‘Chapter’ using the search tool in Word (CTRL+F). Check the navigation menu and ensure your numbers are in sequence without having to trail through the entire book again. Also, consistency is key, remember? Don’t give one chapter a number and a title, and another chapter just a number. You’re a professional, right?
Proofreading Tip #10: Zoom
If you are working from your screen, rather than on paper, increase the zoom size. This makes it much easier to focus on each line individually, especially if and when your eyes get tired.
Feel free to share your proofreading tips too!
And remember, if you want to wow your readers, call in an expert proofreader/editor.