If you’re like me, you don’t look forward to proofreading.
It’s time-consuming; you’re trapped while you go over words you’ve already read multiple times; you feel as though your creativity is in stasis until you’re finished.
But smart authors have learned techniques to streamline the task.
Before we begin, do you know the difference between editing and proofreading?
Proofreading is the final step after you’ve made your editorial revisions. It’s the stage where you detect and correct errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Ideally, you should complete all other modifications first.
You can shorten the proofreading phase by using spell-check and grammar-check while you write. You’ll identify many mistakes as they occur. If you haven’t already done so, fine-tune your word processor’s proofing settings. Do you want to check for fragments and run-on sentences? Passive sentences? Do you prefer to ignore words containing numbers? Set the options before you compose your first line.
Some authors don’t worry about mistakes during the initial draft. However, I’ve found that early errors sometimes escape undetected, only to flash their ugly faces after a book has been published.
Begin with the basics.
Allocate specific time for proofreading, and anticipate potential interruptions. Put away your smartphone, turn off the radio and television, forget social media, and ignore your email.
Rather than proofread an entire book during a weekend, dedicate smaller sessions over several days. Your mind will be fresher, and you’ll be more likely to notice mistakes. Pause once every hour to do something like walk the dog, spend two minutes on the treadmill, eat a snack, or go outside for some fresh air.
Make a copy of your document so you can refer to it if necessary. Back up frequently as you work. This allows you to recover from blunders like erroneous search-and-replace operations or unintended deletions. I keep several backups, naming them StoryName001, StoryName002, StoryName003, etc. as I revise.
Scientific research reveals that a moderate level of noise, about seventy decibels, stimulates concentration and creativity. This is comparable to what you’d hear in a busy coffee shop. Capitalizing on this research, sites like Coffitivity.com provide streaming audio you can listen to while you work.
Increase the zoom of your word processing software to about 120 percent. If you need to move your head from side to side while you read a line, the percentage is too high. Try different settings until you find one that works for you.
Perform a separate review for errors such as omitted punctuation marks at the ends of sentences, missing closing quotes or parentheses, and formatting errors that force words onto new lines. This review is easier if you activate your word processor’s option to reveal paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols.
Some authors copy and paste their work into a new document. Then they switch to a different, larger typeface and/or change the font color. However, I prefer the percentage method in the previous tip. It doesn’t alter the formatting of your novel, which means you don’t have to change anything after you complete the proofing process. Edits are made in the main document, saving time and aggravation.
An alternate approach is to change the font face in your main document with each proofing pass, restoring it to your font of choice before publication. This often helps pinpoint quotation marks that face the wrong way, and other irregularities that might otherwise be missed.
Refer to a dictionary, thesaurus, or grammar textbook if you’re unsure of anything.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with fellow writers? Please mention them in the comment form.