DIY Proofreading

3 min read

Happy Editing Month: DIY Proofreading

Proofreading is an important topic these days, particularly for indie authors. Just this week we caught sight of a conversation on Quora that started with the thread: “What does it say about you if you are terrible at proofreading?” What we’ll say is that self-proofreading is very challenging, but doable. So, we thought we’d provide some tips.

Once you’ve edited your text and you’re 100 percent confident as to your content and narrative, it’s time to proofread. Self-proofreading isn’t optimal. Look at it this way: self-proofreaders inevitably see what they want to see. In other words, if you’re not serious about finding errors and typos, then you’re probably not up for the task—there’s that and let’s face it, if you don’t know something is a mistake, then a different set of eyes can make all the difference. That said, while it’s not ideal, it can be done. Editing expert Ellie Maas Davis is back today to give some tips on self-proofreading.

First things first, give yourself a wide berth and don’t be rushed. Depending on your book’s word count (really large manuscripts may demand a different approach), it’s better to knock out a proofread in fewer sittings than sporadically or piecemeal. If your manuscript is under or near 70,000 words, clear a three-day weekend and get to work. Start with spellcheck. Once you’ve exhausted the helpfulness of your word processor’s spelling and grammar function, start the self-proofreading process by tackling one issue at a time—concentrate on sentence structure, then paragraph structure, word choice, spelling, and then punctuation.

As a checklist, here’s what I would do:

1. Proofread one sentence at a time.

2. Use your “find and replace” tool to your advantage—be careful with this, but once you identify an error ensure you didn’t make the error repeatedly. Use “find and replace” to correct it if you have.

3. Read your text aloud—this is especially helpful in discovering missing words, things you inadvertently or incorrectly spelled phonetically, dangling modifiers, and faulty verb endings; it’s also useful to ensure a novel’s dialogue is believable.

4. Print the entire work, either on your home printer or by publishing a private-access book on Lulu. Staring at the same words over and over again on your screen, you start to see what you want to see—perfection. Printing or changing the font fakes a fresh set of eyes, and you’ll be more prone to catch mistakes you’ve skimmed over previously.

5. As a final stopgap effort, read your text backward—this helps you focus on individual words rather than whole sentences.

For extra help with writing tips, the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a fantastic resource.

For most manuscripts, a proof-read is a great first step, but only a full copy edit by a professional editor can make sure the content is clear, concise, and appropriate for your audience. After you’ve polished the manuscript to the best of your ability, Lulu editors can help you take it to the next level. This process starts with an Editorial Quality Review, performed by one of our professional editors, and provides an objective analysis of your manuscript from many angles: mechanics, audience, style, organization, development, etc. The editor also provides a recommendation for one of three levels of copyediting that Lulu offers, a 4-8 page sample edit at that level, and a price quote. A full copy edit would cost between $0.02-0.03 per word. You have the option to purchase the edit, or make changes on your own.

You also have the option of skipping the Review and purchasing a full copy edit at the middle level, at a cost of $0.03 per word. For manuscripts under 7,500 words, the fee is a flat $225. This copy edit will correct all mistakes with grammar, spelling, punctuations, word choice, syntax, paragraph-level organization, and comments on the text as a whole in the margins.

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  1. Best article I have read on proofreading…looks like I have more work to do!

  2. Morgan, Lulu

    @John Great comment, thanks!

  3. These are some great tips that I will keep in mind next time I am proof reading some of my writing content. Over the years I have found a few other proofreading tips very helpful. Here they are.
    1. Make sure to print out a hard copy of your work to proofread. I find it easier to proofread a hard copy of something so you can make notes and changes with a pen.
    2. Leave your work for a half hour after writing it and then go back and re-read it once more.
    3. Read your work out loud. I feel this help a lot with grammar mistakes, for example run-on sentences.

    I hope these tips help, thanks for the helpful information and letting me contribute.

  4. Morgan, Lulu

    @Jack, thanks for the helpful tips! These are great suggestions.

  5. Proofreading your own work can be a major challenge. But with the right tools, it is possible to make a reasonable fist of it.

    One such tool is a list of ‘thorny’ words. These are the kind of words that spell-checking software will, on the whole, fail to notice. Keep these by your side whilst proofreading.

    Thorny Words List:

    A lot/Allot
    All Ready/Already
    All Together/Altogether

    Hope you find the list useful. Good luck with your proofreading!

    Kind regards,

  6. Morgan, Lulu

    @Mike – Great list! Thanks for the resource.

  7. Great article. Have to agree on the importance of proofreading, as a poor finish will take the shine off your message. I always encourage two passes. On the first pass, make any amendments to repair errors and improve readability. On the second pass, read though and check the flow, while snagging any cunningly disguised errors in the text.

  8. You people give great suggestions. Brilliant article.

  9. Thanks for this resource. I read it, and for some reason it kind of inspired me.

  10. nice..i totally agree

  11. An excellent website for perfect proofreading.

  12. Nice info. I love to proofread several times just to make sure!

  13. Very impressive article.

  14. I like what you guys tend to be up too. Such clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the very good works guys I’ve included you guys to blogroll.

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  1. By Lulu Blog » The Editorial Process on July 25, 2012 at 4:16 am

    […] So, to help you bring out the best in your book, follow these tips to make the most of your editorial process: […]