The Proof is in the, er, Reading

Magnified (8/365)

Phil: Candice mentioned on Tuesday that both our manuscript and query letter had been through a professional proof-reader. We think this is a vitally important step towards getting published.

I’ve recently donned my anorak and have been working on a bookazine . When setting out the budget for this, a chunk of the money was set aside to pay for proof-reading services. I wasn’t going to go ahead with anything that will appear in front of a group of pedants as large as the intended audience without at least a little protection from my own stupidity. I am the man with a publication to my name where a mis-spelling of the word “diesel” appears on the contents page. In a large font. Ouch.

Anyway, my reader checked all the pages sent over and I think every single one came back with suggestions. Some were worse than other but I considered each bit of red ink and most of the time applied the change it represented. The result will be a much better read than if I’d ploughed ahead without the check.

Now, I’ve read internet forum discussions on proof reading and in every one, a contributor has huffed that “some of us can proof read our own work.”

I take great heart every time I read this, for a simple reason. That is one person out of the race to be published. One person who will undoubtedly submit a manuscript that doesn’t read well, contains spelling mistakes or simply isn’t as good as it could be. Proof reading is not optional. You are far too close to the words you have written and it doesn’t matter how disciplined you are, you can’t avoid reading what you want to read, not what is on the page. Possibly the biggest source of errors is editing. I am a terror for re-writing a sentence and accidentally leaving odd words from the older version hanging around. Wordy processors make text-fiddling easy and this type of error even easier.

Just as importantly, as we have discovered, you can write bits of story that make sense to you because you know your characters inside out, but aren’t clear to the reader because they don’t. The proof read, even by a friend or relative, will highlight these.

All this is so that once our words find themselves in front of someone who could change our writing lives, or are containing in a book that has been paid for, they will be as good as we can possibly manage. It’s been a lot of effort to get this far. The cost of the service isn’t too scary high. We don’t want to fail thinking, “If only we’d had the text checked”.


Filed under Phil, Writing

2 responses to “The Proof is in the, er, Reading

  1. I proofread a 174-page ebook written by a friend and found, in his words, “an embarrassing number of typos.” He was pleased with my work, and yes, I got paid for it.

    • Not sure the number of typos was really embarrassing – just an author getting down with the story and worrying about that aspect. Typos can be fixed. No one ever read a dull book because the text was perfect.

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