#Proofreading is not #editing

Epic Fails signWhile some people will dispute this, proofreading is not editing.

Proofreading is done after the final revisions have been made, and hopefully it is done by someone who has not seen the manuscript before. That way, they will see it through new eyes, and the small things in your otherwise perfect manuscripts will stand out.

Anita Campbell, in her May 28, 2015 guest post for the SBA’s Blog-Industry Word says: “The first step of effective proofreading is understanding that not every typo or issue is alike.  Each needs to be attacked in a different way.” While she is speaking of editing blogposts, and short works, that profoundly true of longer manuscripts.

Even though an editor has combed your manuscript and you have made thousands of corrections, both large and small, there may be places where the reader’s eye will stop. Words have been left out, punctuation is missing–any number of small, hard-to-detect things can occur even after the most thorough of edits.

After the final edit we go over our work with a fine-toothed comb, trying to proof it ourselves. We read it aloud, and we read it from the bottom up, but our eye sees what it expects to see. We catch many things, but we don’t catch it all.

This is where the third person in the process comes in–the proofreader.

First of all, proofreading is not editing. Editing is a process that I have discussed at length elsewhere, and is completed long before we get to the proofreading stage.

SO, at the outset, the proofreader must understand that no matter how tempting it may be, they have not been invited to edit the manuscript for content. That has already been done and done again. If they cannot refrain from asking for large revisions regarding your style and content, find another proofreader.

What The Proofreader Should Look For:

Spelling—misspelled words, and homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently). These are words that spell-checker may or may not catch, so a human eye is critical for this.

  • Wrong:  Bobby wint out the door, slamming the screen.
  • Right:  Bobby went out the door, slamming the screen.
  • Wrong: There cat escaped and he had to chase it
  • Right: Their cat escaped and he had to chase it.

Repeated words and cut-and-paste errors. These are insidious and damned difficult to spot, and spell-checker won’t find always them. Sometimes they seem like unusually garbled sentences.

  • Wrong: First of all, First of all, it is accepted practice to italicize thoughts.
  • WrongFirst of all, it is accepted practice to practice thoughts.
  • Wrong: First of all, it is accepted to ot  thoughts.
  • Right: First of all, it is accepted practice to italicize thoughts.

Missing closed quotes:

  • Wrong: “Doctor Mendel, you’re new to the area. What do you know about the dead man? asked Officer Shultz.
  • Right: “Doctor Mendel, you’re new to the area. What do you know about the dead man? asked Officer Shultz.

Numbers that are digits:

  • Wrong: There will be 3000 guests at the reception.
  • Right: There will be 300 guests at the reception.

Dropped and missing words:

  • Wrong: Within minutes the place was crawling with cops, and Officer Shultz was sitting at my kitchen table me gently while I made hot water for tea.
  • Right: Within minutes the place was crawling with cops, and Officer Shultz was sitting at my kitchen table grilling me gently, while I made hot water for tea.

keep clam and proofread

Each time you create a new passage in your already edited manuscript, you run the risk of creating another undetected error.

At some point your manuscript is done. You have been through the editing process, and the content and structure is as good as you can get it, but you need one last eye looking for small flaws. Before you upload that masterpiece to Kindle or wherever, do yourself a favor and have it proofread by an intelligent reader, who understands what you are asking them to do and who is willing to do only that.

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11 Comments

Filed under Books, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

11 responses to “#Proofreading is not #editing

  1. Message taken. If you every ask me again, I promise to refrain from slipping into the beta reader or editor role.

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  2. THANK YOU!!!!! I should bookmark this post so as to inflict it on certain of my honored clients. (Would that be too, too passive-aggressive?) You might add, too, that your editor is not your secretary. Which is to say, “I am not your typist.”

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    • @Plainandsimple–I am fortunate to have wonderful editors who work miracles, but they are not the last eye on the manuscript. My final revisions sometimes create problems that weren’t there when my editor last looked at it. (I’d laugh out loud, but it’s too painful.)

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  3. It’s apparent that you have been pulling examples from my manuscripts, but I will let it go this time.
    Meanwhile, my damn textbooks always lump editing together with proofreading and my students think they are the same even after I meticulously explain the difference. Along the same vein, we authors are capable (I do believe) of doing both editing and proofread in the same sweep.
    The most important advice ever given is this: The Spellchecker on your computer is an idiot; do not trust it.

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  4. P.S.–Note to students: Proofreading applies to everything, especially emails to professors when you are begging for favors.

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  5. Pingback: Divas Rec: Proofreading is not editing - Write Divas

  6. This one is hanging up in my cubbie at work. Thank you, ma;am . . . 🙂

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  7. Pingback: Divas Rec: Proofreading is not editing | Write Divas

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