Does your proofreader charge by the hour? If the answer is yes, you may be able to reduce your bill by taking steps to find and repair basic typo-type errors that slip by during the editing phase. Let’s face it, when we’ve read a (fiction or non-fiction!) manuscript a thousand times, we miss a lot. This is my basic run-through before I send my baby to beta readers, then again before I submit for the final proof.
Um, bad news, it’s a manual process. It can be time-consuming. You’re going to hate it. It offers the best payback when you scroll through your document several times, focusing on one type of problem with each pass. But good news, it works! Use this as a template to create your own proofreading checklist. Note: Before you begin, you might want to make a copy of your mss and rename it to retain the previous version.
Start with a Word document in standard format (portrait one column):
Add character names to the Word dictionary
Before I begin the process I add all character names to my Word dictionary so the mss won’t be cluttered with squiggly red lines when I do a visual review. HOW: find a character name Word has designated questionable spelling. Right click on the name. Choose “Add to Dictionary.” Be sure to add a sample that’s spelled correctly!
Visual spelling and grammar check
Scroll through the entire mss and review every squiggly line that denotes a misspelled word, grammatical error, etc. Repair everything you find that is incorrect. Do not read for content during this process unless adjusting a grammar issue. Move through the doc slowly! You can also use this run-through to verify that the info in your story is accurate by double-checking the spelling of proper names, cities, book titles, historical figures, and everything else you’ve used.
Use the find (or find and replace) function
Word’s “find” and “find and replace” (F&R) functions are indispensible. You can use them to locate overused words and phrases, locate and delete extra spaces, and all sorts of cool things like that.
- Remove extra spaces mid-sentence. This is a simple way to remove extra spaces in the midst of a sentence: Click the word “Replace” in the Word menu. (Word 2010, top extreme right) in the “find” box, type in two spaces (hit the space bar two times). In the replace box, type in one space (hit the space bar one time.) Then choose “replace all.”
- Remove extra spaces after a period. If you’re my age, you were taught to type “period-space-space, new sentence.” That doesn’t apply to novels, of course, so you need to remove any that may have crept in. Use the F&R function and type “period-space-space” in the find and “period-space” in the replace boxes.
- Check for habitually misspelled words that spell check won’t get. I consistently type “form” in place of from; obviously I don’t want to replace every “form,” so I use the find function to review the mss.
- Check for over-used words and phrases. For some reason, I suspected one of my characters was apologizing too much in my current WIP so I used the F&R function to locate every “I’m sorry.” Yep. It appeared about 100 times. I also consistently over-use the word “gorgeous” and “nice” in my first drafts. I consider these placeholders and search and destroy – er, I mean edit them out.
Scroll through again with the pilcrow enabled
The pilcrow is also called the “paragraph mark, paragraph sign, paraph, alinea, or blind P.” It’s a character or icon that denotes the end of each paragraph. It looks like this: ¶. You can use it to find and delete the extra spaces that creep into hard returns in your mss. The F&R function won’t get these for you, and they can mess with your ebook formatting.
Note: I’m so excited! Here’s a tip from Belinda Pollard – see below in comments: “I use this to find those pesky spaces at the beginning of a paragraph when I edit a book: In Find/Replace, enter ^ + p + space in the Find field, and ^ + p without the space in the Replace field, and click Replace All. ^p is the code for a hard return. The ^ is above the number 6 on my keyboard. Saves me lots of time!”
Here’s how to use the pilcrow:
- Enable the pilcrow by clicking on the ¶ sign in the top menu bar. In Word 2010, go to Home > Paragraph section > ¶
- Your entire mss will now display the sign at the end of every paragraph, and at the beginning of every blank (white space) line.
- Enlarge your mss with the zoom function to about 125%, which will increase the font size enough that you can easily see the TINY dash that denotes an extra space that has weaseled its way into the beginning of a graph. The dash indicating an unwanted space will look like this: – (only much SMALLER!) Manually remove them, or try Belinda Pollard’s F&R process (see above and in comments).
- You should also remove the extra spaces that appear at the end of the sentence, after the period and before the -¶ sign. These are a bit harder to see, so watch for them!
WARNING: This process is not mentally challenging, but it’s time consuming and tedious. I recommend a glass of wine and a good TV program in the background.
What are you left with?
This process won’t help you ferret out missing words, commas that need to be swapped for periods (and vice versa), and other incorrect punctuation (don’t even let’s get started on the overall comma issue). You’ll also miss words that are spelled right but used incorrectly, such as my “form” that should be “from,” or “too” that should be “to.” Here’s how I find (most of) those:
Proofing in booklet layout
After the manual review (whew!), I put the mss aside for a few days to a week, then read it again in a booklet layout, also called key line layout, which is a Word doc formatted “landscape, two column” and try to catch what’s left.
Proofing an ebook
If you’re a diehard, you can add one more review, which is to read and proof an ebook file – this will really make issues jump out. You can make an ebook using Calibre or Mobipocket. Both are free. Yay!