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How To Proofread a Book

how to proofread

Maybe you’re a self-publishing author. Maybe you’re trying to cut down on some of your external editing costs. Or maybe you’re trying to break into the publishing industry and you want to know how to proofread a book. Proofreading is one of the most difficult components of polishing up a manuscript for publishing. No matter how many times you can read through a document, you will almost always find an error or two [or 10] have managed to sneak through.

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One of the easiest ways to overlook an error in the manuscript is to assume the cover, table of contents, and other title pages are free of errors. These initial pages often have printed errors because of this assumption. When you’re proofreading a book, make sure that you check every page.

Then you’ll be ready to follow these additional tips to help make sure your document is as close to being free of errors as possible.

#1. Give yourself some time before starting to proofread a manuscript. The importance of having fresh eyes for your document cannot be overstated. You will approach proofreading differently if you give yourself a 7-14 day break away from your manuscript before you start to correct it. If you jump into proofreading immediately, you’re more likely to miss errors because your mind isn’t as engaged.

#2. Be honest about your writing weaknesses. Even the best writers tend to use the same sentence structures. Similar words are often used for descriptions. You might find yourself using run-on sentences, compound sentences, or other structures in every paragraph. When you’re aware of a specific weakness in your writing, you can look for it and then correct it on a consistent basis.

#3. Make sure that you read your work verbally. How you read something silently is much different than how you read something verbally. When you read something out loud, you are mentally catching errors that your eyes alone may not see because you’re speaking those errors within the text. If you don’t feel like reading your document to your pets or to an empty room, there is text-to-speech software that can help you catch errors pretty consistently.

#4. Become familiar with style and language rules. Proofreading requires you to check for grammatical consistencies, misspelled words, and context consistency throughout the manuscript. This means you must become familiar with all of the style and language rules you’ve used to create your manuscript. This includes common slang terms that may be used. The style of your language conveys just as much about your manuscript as the actual words do, so you’ll need to make sure the tone of your words are as accurate as your grammar and spelling are.

#5. Avoid contractions whenever possible. Contractions are used a lot today, but if you are using a formal tone of voice, you should not use them at all. Compare this paragraph to others that do have contractions to see the difference in tone. Formal writing also avoids apostrophes and homonyms as much as possible. If your work is conversational, then contractions and other informal language rules are appropriate. Otherwise knowing how to proofread a book means spotting them to remove them whenever possible.

#6. Don’t underestimate the value of your spellcheck. If you’ve written your document on word processing software, then you’ve got a helpful spellcheck tool that can help you correct obvious mistakes. Your misspelled words will be underlined, often with a red line, so that you know you need to go back to check this word. Your software can only check for words that are contained within its dictionary, so think of this as a tool instead of relying on it alone for proofreading.

#7. Mark the end of each sentence. Although this part of proofreading is tedious, it is also necessary for consistency. Each punctuation mark must be evaluated for accuracy within the context of the words being used. For example: “An inappropriate question mark can be confusing?” Each point of punctuation lends to the tone of voice the reader will use when engaging with your manuscript. By marking the end of each sentence, you’re forcing an evaluation of this tone.

If you’re proofreading your own manuscript, then you may wish to have someone else proofread it as well just to be on the safe side. You may also with to proofread a printed version of your manuscript since some people see things differently on paper than they do on the screen. When you follow these steps, then you’ll know how to proofread a book.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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