5 Tips For Successful Proofreading

For someone who is a writer, I’ve done very little of it lately. This is because I’ve been spending the last few months editing and proofreading the four books that make up my YA supernatural series. As a result, I’ve become pretty apt at revising drafts, or at least I’ve learned enough about proofreading to share some valuable tips.

Make A List

Before you start proofreading, you should have a list of what you want to tackle; such as…

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Physical Character Descriptions (eye color, hair color, tall, short, etc.)
  • Settings/Locations
  • Dialogue

Make a basic list of common proofing goals (like those above), as well as a list of things to check that are specific to your book. No one knows better than you which words or phrases you repeat, or that Timmy fell down the well in chapter three so he can’t be at school in chapter four. A list that helps you narrow down what to look for will be a big help as you make your way through your edits. Plus, you’ll get to tick off a to-do list, which is always fun.

Concentrate On One Task At A Time

Success is not about speed, as any writer playing the waiting game with a publisher will tell you. The same goes for proofreading. If you try to speed up the process and revise dialogue while hunting typos, checking commas, ensuring that your main character’s eye color doesn’t change, and that the abandoned house they revisit in the final chapter is still located in the same section of town (unless it’s a mysterious, traveling abandoned house), then checking everything at once is only going to result in mistakes.

Concentrate on only one proofreading task at a time. It will take longer and you will hate having to read your manuscript again when you reach the lower end of your list, but it’s the best way to pick up errors.

Utilize All The Help That You Can

Have a thesaurus and dictionary within reach or bookmarked for easy access. Run spell check and grammar programs. Use apps that will read your work to you. We’re in a technologically advanced age where help with grammar and spelling is just a click away. Run those programs and let them pick up the errors that your tired, mere mortal eyes can’t. Just don’t rely on these programs to pick up everything or to choose the right word. After all, “dessert” is the correct (and yummy!) spelling according to your computer, but not what you intended when you left your protagonist “wandering the desolate, sand-covered desert.”

Double Check Your Research and Facts

You might have made sure that everything was correct when you started writing your first draft, but now it’s been two years and you’ve aged twenty. Some of your facts may have changed, especially if your plot is tech-heavy. By allocating at least one proofreading pass as a double check for your research, you’ll ensure that all of your facts are still relevant, or get the chance to update the ones that aren’t.

Mix It Up

For my final tip for successful proofreading, the advice is to mix it up! Read your book backward. Check chapters out of order. Get a fresh set of eyes on it by swapping manuscripts with a fellow writer. This should find any lingering problems—which then leaves you with only one hundred more proofreading passes to go!

Do you have any proofreading tips? If so, share them around by leaving a comment below!

— K.M. Allan

33 thoughts on “5 Tips For Successful Proofreading

  1. Fantastic advice, and hugely valuable now that I am also in the editing stage.
    I find myself highlighting times and facts to double check on my next edit, if they’re not my main focus this time round.
    Will definitely be taking these tips!

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Therese Ralston

    I love writing and hate editing. I think they’re completed by separate parts of the brain. For 10 years when I edited my first novel, I took out 100 words, only to write in 250 new ones. One book became 2, a monster of a book. When editing, edit, don’t do anything else. And whatever you do, don’t Segway into writing more words in straight afterwards. It was the worst habit. By the way, I LOVE your line: ‘Writing will help you, writing will save you, writing will heal you…’ Here’s hoping in 2018.

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