One of the most common editing mistakes is the lack of proofreading. Granted there is no one hundred percent perfect proofreading job, or at least very few, but it is obvious when reading some books that there was little to no proofreading. It can put a reader down and turn them away from your book and any future ones you send out. You don’t want lack of proofreading to be why you don’t find success as a writer.
Let’s start by understanding what it means to proofread. I tend to find that most people think they understand it, but get it confused with editing. There is a big difference though they are tightly woven together.
Proofreading is looking for a manuscript for grammatical and punctuation mistakes. It is the final touch to any piece of written work and gives the reader something orderly to look at. Proofreading is the last and lightest touch of the manuscript.
Editing involves plot analysis and sentence structure. A sentence might be grammatically correct but could need better wording. Editing would catch that while proofreading would not go that in depth.
I’ve had some authors and even small publishers say that if the book was edited then that included proofreading. Oh, no!!!! Proofreading occurs after the book is formatted and right before it goes to final print.
If you proofread as you edit and think that is enough, you will miss so many mistakes. It is easy to make mistakes in formatting and miss things that are very small but make such a big difference to a reader.
In all the reading I do, which is a lot, I see several proofreading issues that occur over and over. Even with well known authors under traditional publishers these mistakes are happening way too often.
How many authors, editors, and publishers let the powerful comma run amok? Sadly, the vast majority are guilty. People tend to either ignore commas completely or put them wherever they want.
Commas need to be used with clauses appropriately as well as in compound sentences. Get a Chicago Manual of Style to get the latest rules and such on commas.
It seems that many self-publishers and even small presses don’t proofread after formatting. This is a big mistake. Mistakes happen when formatting a book that proofreading can easily catch. It can involve spacing, indenting, font sizes, and anything else involving appearance. Also, after formatting, other issues might be more evident than they were in the raw version.
This is an easy mistake for any writer to commit. It can be as simple as your fingers typing a more familiar word or your mind just not picking the correct spelling. Honestly, how often have you typed ‘form’ when you meant ‘from’? I do it all the time. Drives me crazy. But my fingers seem to have a mind of their own. I even type ‘hear’ for ‘here’. My mind knows what it wants to say, but my fingers only hear the word and pick the wrong ones. It happens all the time.
You need to be aware that spellcheck with not catch the problems. They are real words. They are just used incorrectly.
Let’s start by explaining what these are as so many people have no clue. When it was pointed out to one author that his dialogue tags had to be corrected, he had to ask what they were. Dialogue tags are the extensions of dialogue that explain who spoke and how.
“Look up,” he said.
“What is this?” she asked.
The dialogue tags are ‘he said’ and ‘she asked’. They aren’t always needed, but at times they can be helpful. Everyone now knows what they are, but they still can use them incorrectly.
I have noticed some authors always capitalizing the first word in the tag. It should not read:
“Look up,” He said.
Only when the actual name of a person or formal title is used should this capitalization appear.
Then you have the authors who never use the appropriate commas.
“Look up” he said.
There should be a comma just inside the last quotation mark. You’d be amazed how many authors miss that. Always put a comma, exclamation point, or question mark (depending on what is appropriate) with the dialogue tag.
Dangers of No Proofreading
I’ve actually heard authors say, “What’s the big deal about proofreading?” This is one of the most important things you need to do before publishing.
Readers can get turned off when they see a book that has not been proofread. I’m not talking about a misplaced comma every hundred pages or so. Things get missed by the best of editors, but a misplaced comma on every page will turn readers off.
Not proofreading will lead to a sloppy piece of literature. Seasoned readers who buy the most books are used to professionally edited and proofread books. They are also the ones more hesitant to read an indie author or self-published author as they see too many mistakes in them. They see them as poor quality. Do you really want that image?
If you want to be viewed as a professional writer, you need to produce a professional product. It can really hurt your image and your book sales.
Also, remember that writing is a form of communication. If you write something incorrectly including the punctuation or the correct form of a word, you could be communicating the wrong message. Get it right by having it proofread.