How to proofread your manuscript

Just when you think the hard work is over and you write the last sentence of your manuscript, it suddenly dawns on an author that it will need to be proofread for errors.  Although it’s always been there in the back of your mind while writing your book, once your manuscript is finished, the long and often boring process of proofreading begins.

On average it takes 3 or 4 drafts to completely proof your manuscript and get it error free.  If you’ve been correcting mistakes as you go along, it should make it a bit easier.  If you can afford it, hiring a professional proof-reader is by far the best scenario; if you can’t then you will need to be both analytical and creative.

Once you are happy with your manuscript, and your plot, character changes, and phrasing is finished, proof-reading through it is a must.  Usually your first proofing of your book will focus on the layout.  If you have a book with chapters, check that they are linear; if you have any tables, graphics or images check that these are placed correctly and any data you’ve included.

On the second review, proof your manuscript for any typos and grammatical errors.  Remember that spellchecking features include UK-English and US-English, so make sure if you’re writing in one format that whatever language variation you use is consistent.  It’s also worth checking that you have not over-used any word(s).  Over-use of words is hard to spot at first and you may want to run an additional proof through of your book for any you may have overlooked.  One of the biggest myths is using the built in spell and grammar check that most word processing programmes feature.  Depending on this feature as a standalone proofing strategy will not work by itself.  As most are grammatically correct, sometimes they’re overly correct, it’s like entering a world of ever so English-grammar perfection, and just because the programme says a word or sentence is wrong, doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.  It’s all about the context you intend.

Third Reviews are very similar to the second review and proofing through your manuscript should not only be a grammatical one, but you should be looking for readability.

It can be very exciting to have completed your manuscript and to have thoroughly proofed it, and you may want to send it immediately to your publisher, but a lot of authors prefer to leave the book for a few weeks and sit on it.  Because you may have become too close to your project, sometimes a fresher pair of eyes can search out errors and plot defects when you stand back from it for a little while.

There does come a time when proof reading that you have to say ‘enough is enough’.  Authors will always find something in their manuscript they will want to change, even years after their book is published, whether it be a plot change or a character.  In the end it’s your decision when you choose for yourself that your manuscript is finished, polished and gleaming

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