A Short Guide On Proofreading 

By Des Menz posted in WRITING FOR PROFIT

In the article How To Become A Good Writer, I touched on proofreading. This is a very important subject, so I thought I'd give it more attention.

We've all done it at some time; submitted a written piece before checking it, and then to find out later that there are errors, points that have been missed, grammar that could have been improved, incorrect spacing between words, and much more.

Such small things, but very significant.

It should have been PROOFREAD.

There's only one occasion where proofreading is almost intentionally overlooked - at examination time! Remember those horrible exams and tests?

With these, there's not the time to review the final work before having to submit it.

Any of your writings, whether they are research papers, an info-product, ebook, report, email, a book destined for Kindle, a letter, a speech, presentation, your great fiction piece … it is vital that you proof-read it. 

What is "Proofreading"?

It is merely the act of careful reading, and rereading, of a written piece of work that is intended to be published, so that any errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar, can be detected and corrected. 

Proofreading also involves checking of layout, relevancy of content, flow of the written work, and formatting. 

A couple of these elements illustrate that Proofreading is related to Editing.

But they are different. Editing is where there could be substantial changes made to the text of the document. 

We'll discuss "Editing" in a future article.

When a job is on the line

One of the most essential documents that must be proofread is a CV - Curriculum Vitae. These days it doesn't matter what type of job is being applied for, a CV is a necessity.

Let's say that you were in a position where you were employing others. You would agree wouldn't you, that if you were reading an applicant's CV you wouldn't want to see too many errors, omissions, mistakes, and poor layout. 

If you are a blogger, or a website owner (and I hope you are), you are a content publisher. 

Contrary to what some bloggers might say, it is not sufficient to merely publish any content that has been knocked out in a rush, without having scrutinised it thoroughly. 

Why is proof-reading essential? 

Because it is the final step before you can absolutely say that your work is complete.

Complete means … comprehensive, relevant, ordered, and error-free.

First steps in proofreading 

There are two ways to assist with proofreading.

cleanRead your publication on your computer and make changes as necessary.

cleanPrint the publication so that you can mark it, make changes, and place notes anywhere. This is a good method, because it could be an important part of your strategy to get an independent pair of eyes to read the physical product. 

Preliminary Steps

When you read and re-read your work, apply the following steps.

  • Search for spelling errors, correct word usage and grammar, correct use of punctuation, and (this is a common "virus" infecting the written word today) correct use of apostrophes. Go to Getting Words Right for some very common examples of apostrophe abuse.
  • Ensure that all your referenced resources are included.
  • Is the formatting suitable for the particular work? Check font size, font type, line space, paragraph spacing.

Next steps - a detailed examination

The following steps in proofreading could be considered to be part of the Editing process, however when you're reading your work to detect all those small errors, be aware of what might need to be done in terms of editing. 

This is called Overview Editing.

Here are five steps.

  • Read the work slowly and carefully. Is it communicating your intended message?
  • If there's a Table of Contents, or an Introduction, make sure that all the intended parts of the work are included.
  • Do the Chapters and paragraphs flow? If not, make a note of changes that will need to be made. 
  • If you have planned to use your own research or experiences, have they been used appropriately to reinforce what you are communicating? Have you properly identified the use of other resources?
  • Is further research required to place greater emphasis on a particular aspect of your work?

Do it yourself? Or get others?

With some written work, such as ebooks and info-products, technical reports, and products destined for online consumption, it might be an advantage to get another pair of eyes to examine your work.

This is where a friend or colleague can help. But they would need to at least have some familiarity with the subject matter.

You might think that it would be better if you did your own proofreading, but be mindful that you would be so familiar with what you have written that your eyes might not detect a simple error. I have experienced this myself; it is only on the sixth or seventh reading (or whatever) that the pesky error or omission is suddenly realised. 

Why is that so? 

Errors, omissions, mistakes - these can sometimes be difficult to detect in your own work because you read what you intended to write and not what is actually on the page. There's a big difference here - intention and actuality.

It is a common human trait where the obvious can not be seen until the channels in the brain (and the receptors) are open to receiving a new message.

Another proofreading option is to use the services of a professional proofreader.

When to use a professional proofreader will depend on a couple of factors. 

  • How much you want to spend
  • How far you want to push the quality of your publication

A professional proofreader who can also provide editing, can;

  • release you from concerns about the overall quality of your publication
  • give you a totally independent view of your work
  • ensure that readers will understand what you are communicating
  • allow you to see how improvements can be made to your work, for subsequent use 

Final word

In my ebook WRITE TO PROSPER I didn't discuss proofreading. Although I did my own proofreading (and I reread the completed work about 5 times), during the course of writing that book, I would have gone back over segments of it dozens of times. 

But somehow it didn't occur to me to write about proofreading and editing. So I'm going to add another chapter for republication of the ebook, and there will be more information included such as using proofreading software.

Remember, if you decide to get a copy of Write To Prosper, there's only one cost. And whenever new material is added, you will be sent an email to download the updated copy.

In the future, a video course will be added as a complement to the ebook. I'll let buyers know when that's available, because I'd like to offer Master Resell Rights.

Happy proofreading! And tell us about your own proofreading experiences below.

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