Ruminating On: Proofreading

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because proofreaders are expensive. Truthfully, though, they should be paid a great deal more than they are.

Proofreaders are your last line of defense between editing and publishing. Proofreading is exactly what it sounds like. You are reading a proof—a completed project. A proofreader’ job is to find the errors left behind by the editing process. Proofreading should not involve plot line, sentence structure, word choice, or style. It should only involve errors the likes of missing words, leftover words, AWOL punctuation, and other such problems. Nothing drastic should change in a proofread. Well, that’s the hope anyway; because any plot holes or other inconsistencies should have been caught by your beta reader(s), content editor(s), and line editor(s). And yes, you need every one of those services mentioned. Remember, it takes a village to write a book.

I love proofreaders for two reasons. Firstly, my work being in their capable hands means that I’m that much closer to publication. Secondly, they’re part of the team that makes me sound good, and anyone who strives to make Edward Lorn readable is a hero of mine.

Over the course of two years, I have had the pleasure of working with a vast number of proofreaders. Some know their role, and others don’t. Sad but true. Even those that mean well can try too hard. Those proofers that drop their own personal preference and story ideas may believe they’re doing so to strengthen the work but, in the end, they’re causing more problems. If everything else in the editing process has gone the way it was suppose to, by the time the work has reached proofreading there should be no room for debate. Fix the errors leftover by editing and call it a day. Honestly, you’re not getting paid enough to dilly-dally on whether or not I should be using foul language in my prose, or using vernacular in my dialogue. Neither should you concern yourself with the religious beliefs of the person on page 96. These things might sound like specific complaints of mine, but they’re simply hypothetical. Don’t get me wrong, I love people that point out problems, but, in that stage… there shouldn’t be any problems.

I shall end this with a few words of advice. Just because your proofreader finds numerous missing words does not mean your editor sucks. You must first go over the manuscript and find how much was changed. Editing can create just as many problems as it fixes. This is not your editor’s fault. It’s yours, plain and simple. Also, if your proofreader does in fact correctly highlight plot problems and other such things they shouldn’t have concerned themselves with, do not freak out. Do, however, reevaluate your relationship with your beta readers and editors. You may need to try a different service. If all these people work together, you might want to talk to their boss.

I wrote this blog post for one, very specific reason. One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, “What’s the difference between editing and proofreading?” Well, there you have it. If you feel anything in this blog was written in error, call me on it in the comment section below.

E.

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4 thoughts on “Ruminating On: Proofreading

  1. My guess would be the proofreaders who are finding “mistakes” beyond their “job description” are relatively new to proofreading. By relatively new, I mean have been doing the job less than 7 or 8 years. I’m sure some of them feel they have a handle on things after doing the job for 6 months or maybe a year or two, but I can tell you from experience as a newspaper editor … nah, they don’t. I’m not suggesting they don’t know how to do their job, nor that they aren’t good at it, but I am saying that like writing, it can take a good long while before one becomes a truly proficient line editor or proof reader. I can imagine some proofreaders reading this and bristling at it, but it’s the truth. On the flip side, editors and proof readers can also be at the job too long, burning out after a couple of decades.

    Also, Edward you mentioned an edit accidentally bringing errors into a manuscript, and that’s the truth. No matter how experienced an editor might be, the thing to remember when editing is whomever last had their eyes on the page. Each step of the editing process generally includes different levels of correction … maybe a pass for grammar, another for plotting, yet another for punctuation, etc. … and it needs to be remembered that each step can introduce new mistakes. My guess would be most professional book editors (the firms, not necessarily the individuals) have a check list for each pass through a book or story, and each notch on that list is quite important and should be used to recall what was being checked before.

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