Tuesday, January 19, 2016

PROOFREADING ISN’T FOR THE TIMID

“There were grammatical errors even in his silence.”
Stanislaw Lec


I’m on record that the hardest of all the technical aspects of writing, for me, is finding and discarding typos.

It isn’t a matter of poor typing (no court stenographer, I) or missing le mot juste. It is about seeing, or NOT seeing, to be exact.

Here are some helpful hints from wise and experienced people who write. These suggestions apply to proofreading one’s own writing. For some reason proofreading another’s is much easier, and may not necessitate all the techniques below. But for my own writing I find that I need all of them, twice.


·         Enable mechanical spell/grammar check programs, but don’t count on them nor follow slavishly
·         Read out loud, correcting on the spot
·         Change the font and font size, and re-read
·         Put away in the drawer and re-read a few days/weeks later
·         Get a kindly friend to read and correct, specifically one who is a good proofreader

Obviously the last two suggestions can’t be practical for sending quick Emails or posting replies on chat boards. The last one, enlisting another pair of eyes, should only be called upon for the most important writing, as you’ll risk running out of friends.

And here’s the kicker: even after all that^, let go of the idea of perfection. The average number of typos in published books by major publishers is seven per book. Those were read by editors and line editors.

Doing what I can… Good luck.

15 comments:

  1. We can do the best we can do and not stress over the 7 typos that slipped into print.

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  2. 7 per book! Oh, that's so good to know. I consider myself more creative than grammarly :) Great post!

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  3. I stand by my assertion that the text to speech feature on my Kindle is my hero. Your brain will fill in missing letters and words. The Kindle will not. You'll hear the mistakes. I love it.

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    1. Time to look into getting a talking Kindle?

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  4. I'm sure you've seen that bit of text that makes the round on emails where all the words are misspelled, and most of them pretty drastically. And yet, if at least the first and last letters are correct, we can read it. Our minds just fill in the gaps. That's especially true, as you noted, when we're reading our own writing, because we already know what it's supposed to say. I'm making more and more typos as I get older, and I cringe to think of all the ones I've missed when I reread. (Won't tell you how many I corrected just in this short post. If you notice any left, I did it on purpose to see how good your proofreading is. LOL)

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  5. That last cartoon is hilarious!

    After you've read for sense, if you're reading just for typos, you can read each line backwards, word by word. That makes you see each word separately and critically.

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  6. I'm always amazed that a typo (or 7) slips past all those eyes, but cringe every time I've found them in my own. I console myself by thinking, oh, surely I'm the only one who'll ever notice (or care).

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  7. Sometimes I catch those misspelled words in books, but certainly not always. With my own work, I can read and reread a piece ten times and on the eleventh I find a mistake. Go figure.

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  8. I feel better now. I cannot see my own typos. My mind fills them in with the correct words. One tip I sometimes use is reading my text backwards. Yep, start from the last word and read up the paragraph. Thanks for the great ideas.

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  9. That's a good idea to change the font. I've often wondered why published books who go through editing and copy editing have typos! Thanks for helping to proof my stories, Mirka!

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  10. So true. I've often found typos and punctuation errors in books published, even one published by the big houses. I don't let that keep me from being a fanatic about proof reading my work, though.

    Love the Stanislaw Lec quote. Too humorous!

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  11. I proofread so many times then still seem to find something I missed. I'm going to try the change of font technique--never heard of that one, I like it.

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  12. Writers can always hire me. I'm the sweet and adorable editor. I'm pretty good at finding errors, which irritates some people. Something important about spell check: Pay attention to it. Some people turn it on and ignore it because they think it's wrong. Sometimes it's telling you that the way you think a word is spelled is incorrect.

    Love,
    Janie

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  13. Yes, there's nothing more difficult to proofread than one's own writing!

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  14. I did a lot of proofreading when I was supervising technical writers who wrote user manuals. My nickname was "Eagle Eye" but there were few errors on my watch.

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