This week I'm talking about proofing. Proofing is, basically, about typographical correctness.
The reason I'm talking about it (again) is because I absolutely suck at it. Every time I think I've done an okay job, the next time I look - oops! there's another mistake. Mistakes are BAD. They turn readers off the book and they make your work look amateurish.
I find proofing really really hard. It's incredibly difficult to check for errors in a script that you I've read hundreds of times and that, to be honest, I'm well and truly over.
Tips to Prevent Proofing Errors
1. Relax. A manuscript can be easily changed - it's not as though manuscripts are physically laid out with little metal letters any more.
2. No-one's perfect. Most books contain at least one error. It's unrealistic to expect a 100,000 word manuscript to be without fault. Some errors have made their printers famous (or infamous). Take the Wicked Bible. It contained a typographical error advising readers to commit adultery. Copies of the Wicked Bible are now extremely rare; the authorities, perhaps concerned about the popularity of this edition, ordered it burned.
|The Wicked Bible. Image from Wikimedia|
3. Decide on US or UK spelling. New Zealand uses UK conventions but most of my sales are in the US. So I've decided on US spelling. I find this quite tricky as some these aren't immediately evident. Everyone knows about colour/color but skilful/skillful was a new one.
4. Do a final spellcheck. Sounds obvious, but I've had a real problem with spellcheck on a Mac, particularly because I have a character named Will. The spellcheck kept telling me I was using a verb incorrectly, so in the end I turned it off, and missed a whole lot of duplicate words.
5. Read in hard copy. Proofing a manuscript on a screen is quite difficult. I print out the final pdf and read it with a pen in hand. Sometimes I run a ruler under the lines as I read, to make me slow down. I also order a paper proof from Createspace. This has been invaluable, as reading as a book format changed my attention and for some reason it's a lot easier to concentrate. It's a little expensive, but it's definitely been worth it.
6. Some writers use the text-to-speech function on a computer (this is particularly good if you write using a voice-activation software). Hearing the words read aloud makes it easier to spot things like word duplicates. I haven't tried this myself but it seems a good idea.
7. Use a professional eye. I engaged a copy-editor for Inner Fire. This was relatively expensive, although very useful. I haven't used Jean for Necklace, as it had been through a thorough edit by harperCollins. After getting the proof from CreateSpace I wished I had, as there were a lot of spacing errors.
8. Use a second, or third, pair of eyes. I often ask my husband to do a final proof. He edits a scientific journal and is a very slow reader, so he picks up spelling errors. I also request advance readers - that's those readers who have kindly offered to read an early copy in exchange for a review - to let me know if they find any mistakes.
9. Do your own formatting. If you know how to construct a good epub and mobi file, you'll be able to make the changes to ensure mistakes are removed.
10. Use print-on-demand. If, like me, you are prone to proofing errors, print on demand seems a lot more sensible than paying for large print runs!
And finally - See Point One. Remember, even if one or two or three errors have crept through, at least you haven't altered the Word of God.