So, I’ve been proofreading and editing my latest story The Between. Its the story of lost and sadness and where that deep emotion can take us. Proofreading and editing this material has held a mirror up to my inadequacy. No matter how carefully I examine this story, it seems there’s always one more little blunder waiting to be discovered. Yet, it seems I’m not alone in this. It happens to even the best of writers.
This is an excerpt of a blurb for ” Mistake-Free Grammar and Proofreading,’ from an online University’s continuing education site. They place this quote by Mark Twin, see if you can spot the problem. “ The difference between the almost-right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightening-bug & the lightening.” Yes, the word lightning is misspelled twice. Mark Twin had little patience for grammar errors. He was quoted saying. “In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proof-readers.”
Even though he said that, Mark Twin was an old newspaper man. He knew how hard it is to proofread effectively your own work. He wrote a letter to a friend stating this very fact. Here is an excerpt:
You think you are reading proof, whereas you are merely reading your own mind; your statement of the thing is full of holes & vacancies but you don’t know it, because you are filling them from your mind as you go along. Sometimes–but not often enough–the printer’s proof-reader saves you–& offends you–with this cold sign in the margin: (?) & you search the passage & find that the insulter is right–it doesn’t say what you thought it did: the gas-fixtures are there, but you didn’t light the jets.”
Have I given up proofreading and editing this story, I have not. Although I will get an editor to look at my work, I feel that, as a writer I should be aware of common mistakes and correct them before they get to an editor. I know there is no foolproof formula for perfect proofreading. With that said here are a few tips of the trade that I’ve learn in my search to improve my craft.
Give it a rest.
I found this one hard to do, but its a good way to catch a lot of errors. Taking a few hours or days away from your work, will give you fresh eyes. You will see what you actually wrote, instead of that perfect paper you meant to write in your head.
Look for one type of problem at a time.
Another hard one because as you go along you will see a typo, but be diligent, read through your text several times, concentrating first on the sentence structure, then word choice , then spelling and finally punctuation.
Double-check facts, figures, and proper names.
In addition to reviewing for correct spelling and grammar, make sure that all the information in your text is accurate.
Review a hard copy.
Print out your text and review it line by line. Rereading your work in a different format may help you catch errors that you previously missed.
Read your text aloud.
Or better yet, ask a friend or colleague to read it aloud. You may hear a problem (a faulty verb ending, for example, or a missing word) that you haven’t been able to see.
Use a spellchecker.
The spellchecker can help you catch repeated words, reversed letters, and many other common errors,but it’s certainly not goof-proof.
Trust your dictionary.
Not, your spellchecker can tell you only if a word is a word, not if it’s the right word. Look out for homophones; like desert or dessert. Go to another source for your dictionary or go to a site for Commonly Confused Words.
Read your text backward.
It sounds strange but it helps to catch spelling errors. Reading backwards you are allowing your mind to think different, it will help you to focus on the individual word rather than the sentence.
Create your own proofreading checklist.
Its important to keep a list of the types of mistakes you commonly make. this way you can refer to the list each time you proofread.
Ask for help.
After you have reviewed your text. It makes commonsense to get a new set of eyes to look at the finished product. They may immediately spot errors that you’ve overlooked.
My final word.
It’s just too tempting to see what we meant to write rather than the words that actually appear on the page