EDITING KNOWHOW Top Ten Proofreading Tips Revisited

Catriona Tippin (A.K.A Proofreading Tips) revisits Ten Tips to consider when proofreading your work in progress. Regular Words & Pictures readers will recognise these – but it’s good to be reminded of how to get the best from a proofread...

1 Get in the mood 

Put your work to one side for a while. Don’t attempt to proofread immediately after writing The End with a flourish. Your creative brain isn’t the same as your proofreading brain and you need to be in the zone.

2 Hard copy 

Some prefer to proofread a printed copy. This may work for you. Keep your concentration focused by using a font you don’t like. Curlz? Comic Sans? More on fonts here

3 Margin call 

Read through, make corrections and remember to ‘Save’. Then change the font size, or the margins, and read through again. Typos hide at the beginnings and endings of lines, so changing the font size or the margins will flush them out.

4 Organising and analysing v organizing and analyzing 

Use your Spellchecker function, but remember it may suggest American spellings: theater, mold, jewelry, etc. Your Spellchecker may also offer the American spellings of 'organize', 'analyze' etc. This may be what you want, but don’t mix with the usual UK English use of 'organise', 'analyse' etc. The choice of  'ise’ or ‘ize’ is up to you – just be consistent. Most British publishers use ‘ise / yse’. British newspapers and the BBC use ‘ise / yse’. If you’re using Oxford spelling, as used by Oxford University Press -  for historical and etymological reasons, then it’s ‘ize / yze’ (except for advertise, televise and a few others). Using the UK spelling means you can use your ‘Find’ function to look for ‘ize’ and if it isn’t in ‘size’ ‘seize’, ‘maize’ or ‘capsize’… it probably needs checking.

5 On Your Own? 

Read your work aloud. This helps you find sentences that need shortening and/or dividing. Obviously, if your WIP is a picture book rather than a lengthy novel, you’re a winner. There are read aloud programs, such as Word Narrator, to try too.

6 Search and Ye Shall Find 

Use your Find function to look for your weaknesses. We all have regular mistakes, for instance typing ‘adn’ for ‘and’. When inspiration hits and you’re typing quickly it’s easy to transpose letters. If you fine tune your Autochecker function you can pick up your regular typos, but nothing beats a painstaking read through.

7 Greengrocers Apostrophe’s 

Use your Find function to look for apostrophes and check them. Check all your possessives – ‘the greengrocer’s apostrophe’, ‘the cat’s whiskers’, ‘the footballers’ wives’. Check all your contractions – ‘don’t’, ‘won’t’ etc. Regular typos I see include ‘you’re’ for ‘your’,’ ‘it’s’ for ‘its’ and ‘they’re’ for ‘there’ or ‘their’. Find and check. More on apostrophes here

8 !@&!#?! 

Use your Find function to look for exclamation marks and think about them. Colin McNaughton’s Preston Pig can get away with ‘Suddenly!’ and ‘Boo!’, but exclamation marks can nearly always be deleted. Your writing should get the reader exclaiming, not the punctuation. F Scott Fitzgerald: “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

9 Facts Facts Facts 

Check your facts as well as your spelling and grammar. You can use Wikipedia  but only for the links to actual sources listed as footnotes in each entry. Yes, you need to scroll right down the Wikipedia page to the small print, follow those numbered links and check them. If your research involves travel etc. remember all expenses incurred are tax deductable, so keep your receipts. More on fact checking here

10 Increase Your Wordpower 

Consult style guides: BBC, The Economist, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Times if you subscribe. They are helpful for established opinions on usage, spelling of controversial (or topical, or foreign) words, use of hyphens etc. Dictionary websites are useful too.

Here’s a new word for your vocabulary. Featured in New Scientist 3 October 2015, it was included in “readers’ suggestions of feelings they lacked a word for” – Lexnesia: for when you write a word and suddenly it looks weird and you’re not even sure if it’s a proper word...

*Header photo credit: Green Chameleon on Unspalsh 

Catriona, aka Proofreading Tips, will be co-hosting a Friday Fringe event on comics at the SCBW-BI 2017 Conference next month.

Catriona Tippin
Browse 40 Proofreading Tips articles by Catriona featured previously in Words & Pictures here 

Catriona Tippin has been a member of SCBWI since 2006. Details of her writing and illustrating can be found here (SCBWI). She’s @proofreadingtip on Twitter, and her Proofreading Tips for Words & Pictures can be found here.

Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures.
Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy

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