Proofreading: What Makes a Great Reader?

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Taking an idea and turning it into a written work is no easy task. The process is long, arduous, and riddled with interconnected steps. It can be easy to overlook proofreading. You’ve written a book after all! The excitement to get it into print and out there for the world to see is tremendous.

But don’t put the cart before the chicken!

Chicken_with_Cart

Or something like that. Anyway, don’t get ahead of yourself.

It’s vital that you get some eyes on your work before you publish.

Proofreaders serve a variety of critical purposes:

Keep calm and Proof read
  1. Spelling and grammatical errors
    This one might seem obvious, but you shouldn’t let anything go without notice. Get as many trusted readers as you can to give feedback regarding spelling, grammar, word choice, and syntax.
  2. Plot, pacing, and organizational feedback
    A topic or story you’re passionate about might hold your interest indefinitely, but if the pace is crawling, the plot languishing, or the content organized in a counter-intuitive way, readers are not encouraged to stick with the book.
  3. Overall opinions about the work
    Presumably, you had a goal in mind when you started the book. An endpoint for your characters. A piece of information you want to convey to readers. A bit of historical data you want to commit to writing. Whatever the content’s purpose, you need a holistic opinion about how what you’ve created works as a book.

With the above roles in mind, you’ll want to seek out individuals you can trust to give honest opinions. I cannot stress enough how important diversity is here. As an example, my ideal proofreading group would include:

  • 2 or 3 people familiar with you and your writing
  • 2 or 3 people unfamiliar with your writing (friend of a friend, member of a local writing group, etc.)
  • Someone with a strong editorial and/or publishing background (this might require paying someone)

Local writing groups are a great place to start. You’ll find like-minded writers and in most cases eager proofreaders. Family and friends work too, though there is a good chance they’ll be more supportive and less critical than you need. But you should absolutely get the opinions of BOTH. You need a variety of voices, with all the associated motivations, to truly get the most from your book.

There’s a few specific attributes to look for

  1. Patience
    Reading a rough draft, no matter how well written, is a lot of work. Your proofreader needs to have the patience to stick with your work from start to finish, without wavering or losing interest.
  2. Avid reader
    It is not necessary but is quite beneficial, if your proofreader is familiar with the type of writing you are doing. If you’ve written a fictional tale, you might not want to engage someone who primarily reads non-fiction to proofread.
  3. Thorough
    Alongside patience, your ideal proofreader will be thorough and detail oriented. Someone who always seeing a thing through to the end, and puts in the same effort from start to finish. Proofreading a book is no easy task, and your proofreader is going to be a critical player in helping you create a book readers will want to pick up.

Proofreaders are crucial to perfecting your manuscript prior to publishing. Don’t overlook the value of unbiased observes.

7 thoughts on “Proofreading: What Makes a Great Reader?”

  1. Martin L. Sullivan

    I have a few things to say and need to get busy. Real life of a four star General, Dr. Death and overdosing in Georgia and Lewy Body Dementia

  2. I agree! I had to learn that lesson the hard way, but thankfully, Lulu’s format makes it easy to fix any errors that a reader might find even after your work has been published. Thanks, Lulu!!!

  3. In my experience, a proof reader is the one who makes sure the word usage, grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. It’s a level of review dealing with technical errors. Editors make these corrections, too, but have a greater scope to revise a work, correcting substantive errors having to do with the flow and readability, plot, character development, and consistency throughout the manuscript. Another level of editing, especially for non-fiction is fact-checking for accuracy and looking for plagiarism and copyright infringement issues. And yet another editor may go through a manuscript to make sure it complies with the publisher’s house style. Friends, family or writing group buddies do not fall into the category of either proof reader or editor. Yes, it’s nice to get feedback, but proof reading and editing require skills, experience and extraordinary attention to detail.

  4. Hi Alice,
    Thanks for your insights!
    Its true that all written work can benefit from the touch of highly experienced and capable editors, proofreaders, fact checkers, and even graphic design experts.
    But with self-publishing, finding and employing a paid editor or proofreader is not always an option. The alternatives are to find friends, family, and willing participants to provide opinions you wouldn’t otherwise find.

  5. Despite our best efforts sometimes we may need to submit our work for professional editing. I can’t think of anyone better than a WordsRU.com editor to work their magic on the copy.

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