Editing Tips Part 6: Proofreading

Congratulations! You have a finished manuscript; you’ve been through possibly many rounds of editing, and your overall story as well as the word choice and sentence structure are now finished. It’s been a long journey, but you’re finally ready to publish.

Well, almost.

There’s one final editing step before you put your story into the world: proofreading. And this step is crucial. If you’ve ever picked up a book or magazine and started to read only to find typos, misspellings, or other grammatical errors, you know the disappointment you feel as a reader because you expected something… well, better.

Now, remember, the goal with any editing stage, including proofreading, isn’t perfection. Perfection is an ideal that can’t be achieved (look carefully—it’s likely every book you’ve ever read has at least one typo!), and you can spend years attempting to achieve it. However, you don’t want readers to open your book and start keeping a tally of errors, either.

Here’s our top tips for proofreading to ensure you’re publishing polished material while keeping your sanity.

#1: Take a break.

That’s right—take a break from your manuscript. You’ve been working on your story, whether drafting or editing, for months now—possibly even years. This means that you know your story inside and out… but it also means that your mind is going to gloss over errors because you’re too close to the material. While you can’t “forget” your manuscript, you can help counteract your brain’s automatic error-correcting by creating some distance from your manuscript. Take at least a week or two (better yet to take at least a month) and read or work on something else or spend your free time however you’d like, but don’t even open your manuscript. If you can manage it, try not to even think about it. Give your brain a nice long rest so when you come back to do your proofreading, you’re fresh and primed for catching as many mistakes as possible.

#2: Re-run spelling and grammar checks.

This one will be familiar from our copyediting tips post and is just as important at this stage. Whatever writing platform you’re using should have a “spell check” or “editing” function, and ideally, you’ve already run this during the copyediting stage, or a plugin program such as Grammarly. Once you’ve finished making tweaks and adjustments, perhaps rewording a sentence or paragraph and changing a word here or there, it can be useful to run this function again to catch any new errors that cropped up while performing copyediting. Remember that these programs can also make mistakes, and that you may have stylistic differences that don’t follow grammatical rules to the letter, so be sure to review each change individually before deciding whether to accept or deny.

#3: Read the manuscript out loud.

If you’ve been following along in our editing tips series, you’ll have seen this one before as well. While your purpose was primarily word flow and diction previously, the reason for reading the manuscript aloud is the same: it allows you to catch errors you miss when you’re reading silently. Our minds can automatically fix errors and fill in gaps when we’re reading in our heads, especially when we’re really familiar with the content, which you will be at this point. Even if you’ve taken a break before diving into the proofreading stage, your brain will try to be helpful by autocorrecting what you’re reading, but it’s much less effective at this when we read things aloud. Of course, you can also utilize the Read Aloud function in your writing software like you did during the copyediting stage.

#4: Adjust the formatting.

Maybe you’ve been typing and editing into a word document using size 12 Times New Roman font, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins. That formatting is great for those early stages, but now it’s time to spice things up a bit in order to make errors become more apparent. Try shrinking your margins, changing to 1.5 or single spacing, reducing your font size and changing your font entirely. If you know what font and size is going to be used for print formatting, you can try that. The purpose is simply to change the way the content appears. Because it will look different from how you’ve been viewing it up to this point, it can highlight errors you were missing previously.

#5: Proofread a printed proof.

This is more than just printing your manuscript out (which you can also do); this is getting an actual printed proof of your book. This is the last stage of proofreading you’ll do—at this point, you should expect to find very few errors because your print formatting will need to be completed, but you will certainly find a few. Just as with several other tips, the change in format and size, as well as the change from screen to printed, will allow your brain to pick up on errors it was glossing over previously.

Approaching the date on which you get to share your hard work with the world is exciting and can make you feel a little impatient—you’ve been working so hard for so long, after all! However, it’s important that you take the time to perform this final stage thoroughly to make sure you’re putting out the best work you possibly can; doing so will ensure that readers aren’t distracted from being able to connect to the story you’re telling. Hang in there: the finish line is just around the corner!

Editor’s Note: Josha Publishing, LLC, only considers completed manuscripts during the submissions process, which means that it should have already been through at least one developmental edit before it has been submitted. However, our editors do take on freelance work and may be contacted via their websites for developmental work independent of their roles with Josha. Please note that the editing process discussed in this post may or may not reflect the process an author experiences if they’ve submitted their manuscript to Josha for publication, as the editorial needs for each manuscript vary.

Josha Publishing, LLC is a woman-founded, woman-owned, and woman-run company that is passionate about booksstories, and the power of words to change lives. Learn more about us here and remember to sign up for our newsletter to find out about new content, new books, and submissions update.

Editing Tips Part 6:

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