Ten Proofreading Tips

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.

Hard Copy
Some prefer to proofread a printed copy, this may work for you.

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.

Organising and Analysing v Organizing and Analyzing
Use your Spellchecker function, but remember it will probably suggest American spellings: theater, mold, jewelry, etc. Your Spellchecker may offer the American spellings of organize, analyze, etc. This may be what you want, but don’t mix with the 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’. I prefer ‘ise /yse’ as it’s conventional in the UK and looks better in the usual fonts. Using the UK spelling also 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.

On Your Own?
Read your work aloud. This helps 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 here.

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 typing quickly I find I type ‘webiste’ for ‘website’ and ‘inovice’ for ‘invoice’ (doh). If you finetune your ‘Autochecker’ function you can pick up your regular typos, but nothing beats a painstaking readthrough.

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 ‘it’s and ‘they’re’ for ‘there’ or ‘their’. Find and check.

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.

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.

Increase Your Wordpower
Consult style guides: BBC, Telegraph, Guardian – they are all available online. They are helpful for established opinions on usage, spelling of controversial words, use of hyphens, etc.

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