Many authors dread the thought of proofreading their work. After all, writing a book is hard enough. However, book editing is so important because it is a factor that can either make you or break you as an author. Whether you’re publishing your first novel or fine-tuning your hundredth nonfiction manuscript, errors and inconsistencies will always distract from the quality of your content. The following are a few tips you can take into consideration to polish your editing skills.
Rewrite and Revise
Rewriting and revising is an essential step in the proofreading process. When editing, look for sentences that sound and read wrong. Realize that shorter sentences are better than longer sentences. Organize your information in a structured way. The information you wrote should read well and be informative to the reader. When editing, also check for grammar and spelling errors. Write in active voice. When you write actively, it’s a lot easier to understand.
Read the Piece Aloud
This tip may sound like overkill to you, but it works. Reading your manuscript out loud will give you the opportunity to make sure the words flow soundly throughout the entire piece. If you pause while reading but there is no comma, put one there (only if it makes since grammatically of course). If a certain word or phrase causes a rise in your tone, either throw an exclamation point there or rewrite the word or phrase in all caps. In the proofreading process, using your sense of hearing to complement your sight will allow you to catch a good majority of your errors.
Approach Editing in Phases
There are a lot of different things to be on the lookout for when you’re proofreading, therefore, it doesn’t make much sense to try and watch for all of those things at once. Instead, do it one at a time:
- Edit for Content and Cohesion – look for gaps in information, ensure clarity of the subject matter and identify jumbled ideas
- Edit for Formatting and Structure – make sure your content is readable and easy to digest (no large and intimidating paragraphs and run-on sentences)
- Edit for Typos and Grammatical Errors – see if your subjects and verbs agree, vary sentence structure, delete duplicate or unnecessary words, check for misspellings and incorrect punctuation
Don't start editing your manuscript immediately after you’ve finished writing it. It's just too fresh in your mind. Proofreading too soon may cause a mirage of words – i.e. you read what you think you wrote and not what you really wrote. Rushing to edit can also make you miss minuscule and/or crucial errors. The more time your work sits, the easier and more productive your editing efforts will be.
When it comes to proofreading, there is no room for slacking. While self-editing is ultimately one of the biggest challenges you will face as an author, it is also vital to your success. So before you start distributing the final product, you must closely examine your work for errors. Don’t stop the editing process until you are 100% satisfied!