Being a self-publishing author, you have to do a lot of tedious tasks by yourself, one of which is proofreading.
No matter how many times you go through the manuscript as carefully as you can, you will realize there’s always a surprising number of errors to be found. This is partly because of how familiar you are with the text.
There are tons of techniques and tips that can help you find errors in your manuscript more effectively. But, since a lot of people likely don’t even know the difference between proofreading and editing, let’s start from there.
What is the Difference Between Proofreading and Editing?
Proofreading is usually the last part of the editorial process after a book editor has done their job. Regardless of how cautious the editor and writer have been with the manuscript, there’s always something that they miss, especially if it’s a large document that’s over 80,000 words.
The proofreader is tasked with sorting through the manuscript thoroughly, to find and correct spelling or grammatical errors that were missed by the writer and editor.
Book writers are often tempted to proofread and publish straight away by themselves, but having a professional proofreader go through the finished product at least once is recommended. This is so book writers can maintain the utmost quality. You can easily find proofreaders for hire on sites like Fiverr.
How to Proofread Your Own Book
Take a Break Before You Start
Immediately going to proofread your work after you’re done writing isn’t a great idea and will likely yield low results. To proofread effectively, you need to have a fresh perspective and look at your work objectively.
So, after you’ve finished writing the manuscript, take a few days or weeks off to refresh your creative spirit and come back with a fresh pair of eyes. If you have a strict deadline to meet, take at least a few hours off before you start proofreading.
Note Down Common Errors
Most writers tend to make a few repetitive mistakes and misspellings due to their usual speaking habits. Since you’re likely to make the same few mistakes throughout your work, it’s best to note them down so you have an idea of what to check.
These mistakes usually include struggling with passive voice, problems with commas, “your” and “you’re”, etc. Once you make a list of these errors, you can also hand it to your editor or professional proofreader.
This infographic from myenglishteacher.eu should help you get an idea of the most common grammar mistakes made by writers.
Read Your Manuscript Aloud
Eyes can be quite deceiving at times, especially if you’re going through a lot of words at one time. Reading your work aloud while you go through it can make a lot of errors and grammar mistakes more noticeable than silently reading it would.
Other than grammar problems, reading your work aloud can also help you get a sense of the sentence flow and structure, allowing you to make changes and improve your writing style.
Print a Physical Copy
Looking at a screen for hours is certainly not good for your eyes and there are a lot of mistakes that are hard to notice on a screen but become clear on paper. If your manuscript isn’t too long, consider printing a copy of it on paper.
Having a physical copy will let you proofread even when you’re away from your computer. Have a red ink or ballpoint pen with you to highlight mistakes so they can clearly stand out.
Use a Proofreading App
While it can’t substitute for actual proofreading, a spell-checking and grammar-fixing app can help you get rid of common errors you made while typing.
They can save you a lot of time by showing you obvious mistakes and quickly fixing them for you. Some apps like Grammarly also have a grammar check function that can suggest shorter sentences and better word choices.
Keep an Eye Out For Fact-Checking
There’s more to proofreading than simply checking for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and overall readability. As a proofreader, you need to ensure that every sentence of the manuscript makes sense and isn’t irrelevant.
If a sentence can be written with fewer words, do it. No one likes to read long sentences that go on for half a page. Edit out the wordiness to make your writing more precise, crisp, and to the point. Naturally, some writing requires longer sentences, but if you can write something more succinctly, don’t be afraid to do it.
Have Someone Else Read Your Book
Reading your work, and expecting to find errors can be quite difficult for some people and there’s certainly going to be little bias. That’s why a second opinion or a fresh perspective from another person is needed when proofreading and editing your work.
Getting help by sharing your work with people in the industry or a group of writers on the internet can help you finalize your word choice with their suggestions and polish your work. You could also ask a friend or family member that is skilled with grammar to give their clearcut opinion.
Should You Hire a Professional Proofreader?
Of course, it’s your manuscript and you’re the only one that can make it look exactly as you want it, but getting expert help on top of that isn’t a bad idea. If you go through the manuscript multiple times and still aren’t satisfied, it’s time to bring in a professional proofreader.
An experienced proofreader can do a lot more than just fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. They can:
- Confirm the layout flows steadily throughout the work
- Ensure that sources and links go to the correct webpage
- Verify that the manuscript follows the author’s given style guide.
If you don’t want a random guy making changes to your manuscript then you should rest assured that proofreaders don’t edit anything unless they’re permitted to. All they do is highlight errors that they notice and leave it up to the writer to make the final decision.