Friday, November 1, 2013


     Have you ever visited "Selling It" on the back inside cover of Consumer Reports? If you haven't, you really should check out an issue in a bookstore or library. "Selling It" is this publication's euphemism for "goofs, glitches, gotchas." It is monthly fodder for the proofreader inside of me. At first, I'm struck by outright laughter––talk of things gone wrong because someone failed to proofread! Then dismay settles in.
     I shake my head wondering how many customers are turned off by grammar or spelling errors. Perhaps it's naiveté that prevents a marketing department from reviewing each word in each line in detail––assuring no typographical or caption mistakes accompany a product's path to the consumer front lines.
     And it's not just Madison Avenue, manufacturers, or promoters who commit these transgressions. Banks, department stores, signage companies, grocery and drug store chains engage in the same. Good, bad, or indifferent, writing errors interfere and compete with messages. They undermine credibility and drive away customers. Costly, costly, and on many levels.

     Then there's you and me, writers of prose. Writers of poetry. For the majority of publications, authors are considered the primary proofreaders.

     Proofreading is the process of reading a text and scrutinizing all its components to find errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, illustrations, and tables. We're the ones who bear final responsibility for errors and inconsistencies in our published works. Proofreading takes time, extra painstaking time––but it pays off in the end.
     We may be tempted to proofread our own writing, but readers will spot the errors we missed. Even the best writers overlook mistakes in their own writing, and they value a fresh set of eyes to proofread their work before publication. To help mitigate this responsibility, a professional proofreader may be hired by either the author or the publisher.

     Basically, I fall back on a golden "eleven" checklist:
  • I allow for my writing(s) to simmer on the back burner for a while. When I return, I've acquired  a new perspective.
  • I use a printed copy. I can't do proofing/editing/revising on a computer screen.
  • Believe it or not, I read backwards from right to left, one paragraph at a time.
  • I take frequent breaks to remain fresh.
  • I examine one problem at a time––grammar; punctuation; spelling; redundancy; sentence cadence.
  • I've created a checklist.  Punctuation √, Grammar √, Spelling √, Redundancy √, Cadence √
  • One line at a time, I chant. I tackle one line at a time.
  • I use a spellchecker BUT recognize its shortcomings.
  • I trust my dictionary. 
  • I trust my thesaurus.
  • I ask for another set of proofreading eyes.
     Many websites and books provide guides and checklists for how to proofread or what to expect of a hired proofreader. Check out what I've provided below.
     The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published
     The Writer's Essential Tackle Box
     The Copyeditor's Handbook

     Proofreading is the last chance to correct mistakes before our readers see them, and the last opportunity to make sure our writing presents the image we want.
     Don't forget: Keep CLAM and Proofread!!!!