Should you proofread your own work? It’s a question that many authors will answer with a resounding NO! However, for those people who are a very tight budget, and therefore have no choice but to proofread their own work, this article will provide some very useful tips.
Writers spend just as much time editing their own work, as they do actually writing.
The road to literary success is strewn with torn up drafts, red pen scribbles and deleted material. This is a fundamental process, that the reading public don’t see. However, simply proofreading your own work isn’t enough. In order to write a really successful book, you need to make sure that you are proofreading your work correctly.
So, how can you do this? In this blog, we’ll provide you with some top tips for proofreading your own work.
PROOFREADING TIP NUMBER 1 – Read it out loud.
This might seem simplistic, but from experience, reading your own work out loud is a fantastic way of checking for errors. The reason it’s so reliable is that when you are reading, you are actually speaking the words. This means that if a sentence doesn’t sound right, or catches, or is too long; then you’ll hear the error in your voice. You’ll pause and think, ‘oh that needs to change.’
Sometimes reading out loud can also help you to identify errors in the text, where you might have glossed over them. Read the work out slowly and clearly, making sure you don’t skip over any words. Think about how each sentence is meant to sound, the impact that you want it to create. When you are speaking, does that come through?
You might think of reading as a purely visual exercise, but this is actually not true. When you are reading, you are speaking the words in your head; therefore reading your work out loud is a great way to identify whether it’s working or not.
PROOFREADING TIP NUMBER 2 – Get other opinions.
Writing a book is tough, and not just because of the actual writing part. When you release your book to the world, you are opening yourself up to people’s opinions and criticism; and that isn’t always easy to take. Similarly, when you are writing the book, you need to remember that your reader counts. This is sometimes hard to do, and often when writing, we can’t see the wood through the trees. You become married to your own ideas, dedicated to what you are creating.
Authors are often stubborn, because their own work means so much to them. This means that we can sometimes become blind to the faults with our own work; and it’s only through exterior opinion that we can recognise and amend these.
How many of you have attended workshops or given work to a friend, expecting them to gush with praise, but instead been disappointed when they criticise the work? It’s a tough thing to accept, but you need thick skin to write a novel.
Find someone who you know will be honest with you, and ask them for constructive feedback. Taking a step back, and letting others review your work, is a really important part of the writing process.
PROOFREADING TIP NUMBER 3 – Take a step back.
I think this is really important, and goes a long way to ensuring that your final product is great. If you are struggling to proofread your own work, then take a step back. Retreat from the work for a short period, even a month or so, and then come back and look at it again.
The reason this works so well is similar to the last point. At the time of writing, you might be absolutely delighted with what you have produced. We are emotionally invested in the work we have just created.
Creating distance, before going back and reviewing, can sometimes be the difference between a good piece that could have been improved upon, and a great piece that received the improvements it needed.
PROOFREADING TIP NUMBER 4 – Focus on the words.
One mistake that many people make when proofreading their own work is that they don’t narrow their scope enough. That is to say, you’ll almost skim read your work, section by section; making small changes along the way. This is a terrible thing to do. If you want to proofread your work properly, you need to sit down and focus on the text. Elements like sentence structure, narrative theme, imagery and the sound that your work makes are crucial, and many authors gloss over them altogether. Writing a book is very much like painting a picture. The final product is a result of hundreds of thousands of small strokes/touches; that combine together to make a greater whole. Get the small things right, and the larger things will fall into place.
PROOFREADING TIP NUMBER 5 – Change it up.
Everyone has a different way of doing things. Some authors like to proofread their work as they go, some like to write huge chunks and then proofread big sections at a time. Personally, I’m in the former camp, but I’m fully aware of the drawbacks of this. This means that every once in a while, I will try something new and edit larger sections instead.
Editing as you go is extremely painful, it makes the process of writing laborious and difficult, however I’m not someone who can move on till I’m completely happy with the section that I’m writing. With that being said, if you are in the opposite camp, then your work could really benefit from editing as you go. It’s always helpful to mix your methods and refresh.
PROOFREADING TIP NUMBER 6 – Find a proofreader.
Now, this is more costly, and for some people really scary. However, I can personally vouch for the idea of finding a professional proofreader to look through your work; and I believe it’s totally worth the money.
Your friends and colleagues will be a great source of help and will provide reviews, but proofreaders make a living from getting things grammatically correct. This means that if you find a good one, you have a really reliable service to hand. Here’s a secret: being a writer doesn’t necessarily mean that you are an expert at grammar or formatting!
Professional proofreaders are trained to put things into book format, to sort out the bumps and grammatical niggles that many writers simply won’t pay attention to. This gives you more time to focus on what really matters to you – producing great content!
PROOFREADING TIP NUMBER 7 – Be open to change.
This is something that a lot of writers struggle to get their head around, but I believe it’s really important to approach your work in the right way. That is to say, the first time you write your content, approach the work as if it is a first draft.
Be prepared to go back through the entire product and make sometimes sweeping changes. A lot of writers don’t want to do this. They see the process of finishing their content as ‘the end’, when in reality they are only half way through! It’s such a relief to finish your book, but in some ways that is the easy bit. What comes next, redrafting and editing over and over again, is extremely hard and many people aren’t prepared for this.
If you go into the process knowing that this is the next stage after completion, then you will have a much easier time of things.