Proofreading your book 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 gives your audience the impression you’re unprofessional, lack an eye for detail or simply too slapdash to care.
Not great, right?
So don’t leave it to chance. Bookmark these 10 top tips to ensure your manuscript sparkles and wows your readers.
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 work 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.
Keep a dictionary/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.
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.
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?!).
Use a ruler & 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.
Consistency is key
Make sure you spell words, names, 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 book’s published.
Do several separate proofs
Sorry to break the bad news but proofreading your work isn’t just a one-round-and-you’re-out 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.
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 biccys (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 or paragraphs or mistakes will be much easier to spot.
Check your chapter titles/numbers/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 skewwhiff. 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?
If you are working from your screen, rather than on paper, increase the zoom size. It makes it much easier to focus on each line individually this way; especially if and when your eyes get tired.
Feel free to share some of your proofreading tips too!
And remember, if you want to wow your readers, call in an expert proofreader/editor.