Quick Editing Tip: An Easy and Effective Way to Proofread

As I mentioned in my previous post, iUniverse sent me the proofs for Imminent Danger last Thursday. As such, I have spent the entire weekend going through the proofs and making sure there aren’t any typos, odd formatting, random blank pages, etc.

I thought I’d share my proofreading method with you, since it worked out pretty well.

Step #1

Print out your book. Since this is your final proof before the book is printed, make sure you print it in its final format — e.g., two novel-sized pages printed on each 8.5×11 sheet.

The reasoning here, of course, is that if you just print out your book as a normal Word document, it doesn’t have the feel of a real book, plus you won’t be able to check that your novel formatting is correct.

Step #2

Get a red pen and a bunch of sticky notes.

Step #3 (this is the most important one)

Starting on the first page of your book, read backwards up each page, going paragraph by paragraph.

At the proof-reading stage, you’re no longer making big changes to the book. Everything is where it should be. Now you’re just looking for typos. And by reading the paragraphs backward, you’re removing yourself from the story and just concentrating on the text. I actually tried reading the entire book backwards, paragraph by paragraph, but flipping the pages was annoying so I started at the beginning instead.

Step #4

Whenever you find a typo, or just a small something you want to change, correct it with red pen and put a sticky note on that page. Then continue reading.

Step #5 

Once you’re done reading the entire book, go back and look at your suggested changes. You might not agree with some of them once you’ve had a chance to think them through. Remove the sticky note from discarded changes pages so you aren’t confused later on.

Step #6

Open up your manuscript file and make those changes! Do a quick scroll through of the document to make sure you didn’t mess up any formatting by adding/deleting things.

Voila! My foolproof proofreading method.

Unrelated image of the day:

Click here for more guinea pig hybrids: http://imgur.com/a/5bU0g

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Categories: Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

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35 thoughts on “Quick Editing Tip: An Easy and Effective Way to Proofread

  1. kanundra

    Great tips, reading backwards is a brilliant tool, I also read out loud. 🙂

    • That’s a good one! I tried that, but I got half a chapter in and my throat hurt, lol. It’s good for when you have a lot of time, but as I was trying to get an entire novel done in a single weekend, I unfortunately couldn’t read it aloud. Next time!

      • kanundra

        Yes, I must admit, reading an entire novel in a weekend must be pretty tough. (I look forward to that… soon)

        Keep us posted on the progress. I’m going to have to buy it now. 🙂

        • Yay! And yeah, you are getting close to the weekend o’ proofreading, aren’t you? I’d suggest spreading it out a bit more, lol. I accomplished absolutely nothing else this weekend. Well, except for proofing my novel, lol. So I guess that’s something.

      • What you forgot to mention, Michelle, is that you were reading with a Russian accent.

        • Well, for the two pages I read aloud, yes. Usually I save the Russian accent for figuring out math equations, but I felt it was appropriate in that particular circumstance.

  2. Great advice. It’s hard to edit your own text when you are seeing what you expect, not what’s actually there.

    Per Kanundra’s commrnt above, I’m a fan of the read-out-loud method, but more so for making sure the dialog feels real, which is much earlier in the process.

    • I’ve definitely read the entire book out loud a couple of times, although definitely not all in one setting. Sometimes you just need to get that verbal element thrown in to make sure the writing is conveying what you want.

  3. Great tip. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I remember reading backward in grade school and always wanted to use it again, but I never knew why it worked so well. Your explanation cleared all that up and restored it as a valued part of my editing process! I love the sticky notes, too, so you can keep going without getting caught up anywhere. Excellent post!

  5. Pingback: Unwanted Good Advice « Audrey Driscoll's Blog

  6. I’ll have to try reading my MS backwards. I bet I would find mistakes. Thanks for the great tip!

    • Do it! It really does work surprisingly well. It’s crazy how a manuscript can get to the final, final stages, and you can still pick out three or four typos. That’s always my problem when friends ask me to edit their work — if the story is interesting, I get caught up in the story and make fewer corrections as a result.

  7. I love this picture! Oh, he’s so fierce. Thanks for the tips. The backwards method is something I’ve tried before, but not with a whole book. That must take some patience.

    • Not patience so much as boredom, lol. By which I mean it was extremely boring. Because you’re not really following on the story, just focusing on the individual sentences. And I agree about the fierce. If they make another Lion King sequel, he should be the lead character.

  8. Nice ideas, especially the reading backwards one! Except I’m always loath to print anything out. Seems like a waste of both paper and ridiculously expensive ink.
    If I may go off topic this may be a prompt for a blog post: http://www.news.com.au/news/price-of-ink-just-stinks-chanel-no5-is-cheaper-than-printer-ink/story-fnejlrpu-1226538234618

    • It really is crazy how much ink costs. I don’t suppose you know why it’s so bloody expensive? Are they using ink squirted from actual squids?

      • Haha! yeah, squids are getting rare. Or they’re charging through the nose! 😉
        I think it’s a marketing ploy by the manufacturers to make more money, pure and simple. Apparently they make very little profit on the hardware and make it up with the consumables because they know they can sell more.
        I found a god way to get cheap ink. Search your printer’s model name on eBay and there are some really good bargains. $25 for generic (2 complete sets of CMYK) vs $85 for 1 set of genuine CMYK. Ridiculous. And I haven’t had a problem. Yet. 🙂 There are rumours about non-genuine ink stuffing your printer but I’ve heard that if you leave even genuine ink sit for weeks without using it the capillaries will still clog up. Apparently a good idea to print a test page once a week if it’s not being used much.

        • Oooh nice tip! I shall inform my mother, who is in charge of ink purchases. And I’m pretty sure we’re guilty of not using the printer at least once a week, so I’ll have to fix that as well. You know a somewhat suspicious amount about ink, did you realize that?

          • Apparently so! Another one is a trade-ff of power consumption vs ink usage. If you leave the printer on all the time (most should have standby mode) it won’t do its clean cycle as often. This might vary amongst printers but some will do a clean (maybe a quick one) every time you turn it on. I’m pretty sure my old one did that. You would expect them to be smarter these days and more efficient. Worth checking details for your particular model though.

            • Well, my mother’s theory is to play the warranty game. Her printer always breaks a few months before the warranty expires, so she brings it in to Staples and, since they no longer carry her old printer model, they have to give her a brand new one. I don’t think she’s paid for a printer in about six years.

              And yes, you would expect them to be smarter, wouldn’t you? I read somewhere that printers are the one piece of technology that inexplicably refuses to catch up with modern society. We’re using ipads and smart phones, and yet we’re screwed if our printer decides to have a paper jam. Sheesh.

  9. Great post and equally great pic.

  10. Your guinea lion alone makes me say “Yes, I will follow this blog!”

    Nice ta meetcha!

  11. I think I’m right with you on #2-#6. I like your #1. I never thought to print in a two-page spread and read like a book. I’m definitely trying that next time.

    • I would say it’s a life-changing experience, but mostly I love it because you get a sense of what your book will look like as a … you know … BOOK. I had to go into a print centre and get the nice lady at the desk to help me, though, because printing things double-paged confuses me.

  12. great recommendation. I will do that next time. I skipped errors because I was reading story, and alas, read right through the mistakes. I’ll have to post this one to twitter.

  13. Margaret Sullivan

    good post

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