Thursday, May 24, 2012

Proofreading 101

Confession Time:

I type fast.

And when I type fast, I make a LOT, and I mean a LOT, of mistakes in my writing.

My first drafts are horrendous.

The thing is, when we type, sometimes, at least for me, the story is going along in my head and sometimes my fingers just don't obey, and other times my head and my fingers get "off" on timing, so one of them ends up suffering.

Usually it's the typing.

But the same goes for reading too. When we are reading, most of us naturally skim the page. It's why we can read those crazy should-be unreadable Facebook status's that say something in seeming jiberish but most people can actually understand what it's saying.

If we skip a word in typing, or even type the wrong word, when we read to edit, it is easy for our mind to compensate for it.

Especially when they are words we are familiar with because we wrote them!

I recently turned in my proofing edits to my publisher for Sandwich, with a Side of Romance. The amount of errors in typing was, to be quite honest, embarrassing. I have to remind myself that it's the very reason we HAVE proofing edits.

But when we are unpublished, we also want to set our best foot forward and send in as polished a manuscript as we can.

So what steps can we take to accomplish that?

A few tips I used during my recent edits:

Tighter is Better

I'm the queen of adding fun extra words and prepositional phrases. In these proofing edits, I can't tell you how many words I put the little "delete" curly cue over that in previous versions sounded absolutely perfect.

When in doubt, read the paragraph without the questionable word/phrase. Does it still work and not take away from anything? Then delete that puppy!

Search for "bad" words

No, I don't mean cuss words. I write Christian fiction anyway... :-)

When you are doing edits electronically (which, personally, I always do BEFORE I print out my manuscript) I do a search for common words that are sometimes no-no's. Like the word JUST, or WAS, or a variety of -ly words. I don't delete them all, but making myself justify each of them and cut as many as I could was a super good exercise.

BEWARE of the dreaded compound

Another common error I found involved---

- hyphenating two words together in error
- separating two words together when really, they love each other, and want to get married and become one...
- putting two words together when really, they despise each other and just need their space.

Usually, #3 gets underlined as a wrong spelling. Yeah spell check. But I found that when in doubt on #2, put it together, and ask the divine spell check whether or not it would be a good pair. Think of this as an engagement. Same with #1... like a promise ring, "If we're meant to be together... we won't need this stupid hyphen!"

Then you have words like, ironically, spell check, where it seems that no one knows whether or not it needs a hyphen or two separate words... not even spell check can give me a firm answer! (It gives me the hyphenated version and the separated versions as options only... I foresee no wedding bells in its future!)

Other fun ones

We all have issues.

And we all have grammar issues that we just can't shake.


using the word "that" instead of "who" after a person...
Or using "towards" instead of "toward"
Or typing where instead of were (or a billion other same name, different spelling/meaning words)
Or using "you're" instead of "your"

Keep a list of your common mistakes that you find. Then in your proofing stage, use your lovely "find" feature to double check that you didn't goof up. Or at least keep your list handy as a reminder as you edit!


Editing in print IS better

I've tried to print out then edit before, and it just never worked for me well. This edit was different though. This was a "small" stuff edit. Changing wording in a sentence, noting typos, not big story changes like all my previous editing attempts.

You know how when you read a book you can spot ALL the itty bitty typos? I'm not sure I've read a book yet that I haven't spotted at least one. Seeing a book in print really can help you catch those little mistakes.

Make this your last step (although some print out earlier for the big edit too, which is fine, too) but make sure you print out AGAIN after you've made all your big edits to be able to get rid off all those!!

Discussion: What things do YOU look at while you are editing?

Bonus: How many errors can you find in this blog post????


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Excellent tips, Krista! Editing is my least favorite thing to do and so every little bit of help helps!

Help Helps! Help-Helps! Helphelp!'s going to be a long day for me, I think.

Joanne Sher said...

Super tips. I LOVE proofreading. Truly. ;) And it NEVER ceases to amaze me how many typos I catch on the printed page. Uuugh.

Turndog Millionaire said...

good tips :)

My typing is awful, and although improving, my grammar is pretty poor too

It makes for some interesting edits, I can tell you that much ha

Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

Jeanne T said...

Krista,thanks so much for your tips. I'll be heading into my first time really editing my ms in the next few weeks. I hadn't thought to do most of what you're suggesting. So, thanks! I'm looking forward to reading what others do in their editing process too. :)

Krista Phillips said...

I'll be honest, proofreading isn't like my most favorite thing to do. But I don't mind it too bad:-) Especially this time, I'd been a while since I read my book so it was fun to revisit it all and find all those crazy errors at the same time! Hoping I caught most all of them (although my publisher will be having someone else proof it as well, *PHEW*)

Which is another good point... having another set of eyes to help check for this is not a bad idea!!

Krista Phillips said...

Oh, and has no one caught any of my mistakes???????

Lindsay Harrel said...

Great tips, Krista! I'm an editor in my day job, which should make editing my own work easier...still, I find I like to use those -ly words. I like your tip of using the find feature.

And since you asked, it should be Facebook statuses, not status's. (I never correct other's errors because I think it's rude, but you asked!)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I actually like the editing process but dislike finding a stupid error in the 5th run through. Really? Why didn't I see that the 4x before?

Heather Hart said...

I always find more errors in print! It's also helpful to read it aloud so that you are forced to listen to the way it is actually written. That helps me identify places that don't make any since, or are poorly worded.

Angie Dicken said...

Ugh. Editing is my enemy! I have written before how I always find something wrong with a submission after I send it. I am a skimmer...not so good.
Sorry, I did not catch any of your typos, thus evidence of my problem above!! HA!

Jeanne T said...

Okay, I caught a couple mistakes, but I didn't want to point them out. :) Since you asked, though, one was the misspelling of "jibberish." :)

Great post, Krista. Thanks again.

Krista Phillips said...

Ohhhhh, we have two fun winning editors here! (For the record... I put some in there on purpose to see if people would catch them... muhahaha!)

The errors in all my OTHER posts in the past, however, have been strictly mine!

Pepper said...

Great post, Krista.
oh wow, my spelling is atrocious in my first...and second drafts too. Fast brain, poor typing skills :-)
Thanks for the tips - and for the fun story to read :-)

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