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Need to do some fine tuning before submitting your MS? Nail those niggles with this list of links to the assortment of Proofreading Tips by Catriona Tippin for Words & Pictures over the years.

Proofreading and editing your work in progress? Happy with punctuation, grammar and use of figures of speech? Here are some handy guides.

If you don't feel confident with apostrophes here's everything you need to know. Remember, it's always worth trying a ‘search’ for every example.

Check your sentence structure with a look at commas, and semi-colons, colons and brackets.  
Check your use of dashes and  hyphens and your use of plurals.  Here’s a look at a couple of figures of speech - metaphors and onomatopoeia – more planned for future editions of Words & Pictures.
Checking your vocabulary? The English language specialises in homophones and heterographs so here are four batches of ‘false friends.’ False friends one includes Asterix versus asterisk and currant versus current, there’s false friends two for grisly versus grizzly and geezer versus geyser. In false friends three  meet principal versus principle and redolent versus resonant, and finally false friends four includes reluctant versus reticent and trooper versus trouper… “Trooper: All effing, all blinding. Trouper: all singing, all dancing” according to The Economist Style Guide.  Contronyms are worth checking in context too.

There are two lists to ponder at common mistakes one and common mistakes two. The word ‘mistakes’ is pejorative and you can argue that these rules are constantly changing. For instance I’ve listed the traditional difference between rebut and refute, but the English language is awash with polysemy – the coexistence of more than one meaning for a word. There’s been a lot of refuting in the news recently.

Though some of these ‘false friends’ and ‘common mistakes’ definitions are a tad pedantic, and the English language is always changing to include new words, is your fresh new book the place to push the boundaries of orthography? You want reviews of your plot rather than picky comments about your spelling and grammar.  Thankfully, many changes in the way language is used are for the better – you might like to think about how gender and jobs are looked at these days.

How about Americanisms… how will your story read across the pond? Latin may have its de facto place in your work in progress, and are you delving into constructed languages? Good luck with that!

Important aspects of the shape of your story, and the various choices you have to make include fact checking and character naming.  With domain names and hashtags in mind, look at your title and character choices and also check for any unfortunate anagrams.

Designing a comic book or graphic novel? You’ll have some different proofreading priorities.  While your work is in progress you might find filler text useful.

Self publishing means choosing the look of your book – body copy and cover design. You have a lot to consider as there are so many fonts available.  If you’re designing your book cover you may need to think about the history of typescript. Here’s a look at vintage fonts one and vintage fonts two

I hope you’ve built up your personal library with useful books on writing. Accidence Will Happen by Oliver Kamm is an interesting look at contemporary use of English and Modern Tribes by Susie Dent is an entertaining roam around descriptive sociology. This interview with Oxford English Dictionary Editor Fiona McPherson reveals some of the thoughts and priorities of a lexicographer.

Just for fun… you might recognise Sheldon’s ‘Fun With Flags’ logo from the television series Big Bang Theory? Here’s fun with fonts and fun with words plus a miscellany of the nonsense known as fumblerules.

And, finally, here’s the most useful post of the lot – my  top ten proofreading tips.


Catriona Tippin has been a member of SCBWI since 2006. Details of her writing and illustrating can be found here

Helen Liston is Words & Pictures' KnowHow editor. If you have any suggestions for future KnowHow posts, you can contact Helen at

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