Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cringe Factor: The Importance of Proofreading

As some of you may have noticed, I've had "formatting issues" with my excerpt in the ABNA contest. Indents were lost, bullets disappeared, and line breaks didn't break. I'm certain that the fault is mine: I probably did not submit the document in the correct format, and the formatting got lost during the electronic transfer.

But as I read the excerpt, there are some mistakes I can't blame on technology. Like misspellings. Like using the word "taught" when I meant "taut." Like using the wrong name when inside a different character's head. One reader-reviewer rightly expressed amazement that this writer thought the manuscript was ready for prime time.

Well... it's almost ready. I should have done a much better job proofing the document before sending it on its way. When I come across some of those stupid mistakes, I cringe.

It's hard to proof your own writing. But that's no excuse for not carefully proofreading several times before submitting. A few ideas:

1. Start proofing from the end of the document to the beginning. This way, your brain won't automatically fill in missing words or phrases. (I got that idea from my brother Rick, a professor, avid reader, and excellent proofreader.)

2. Always get another set of eyes to read it. Every writer needs an editor/proofreader. Get your spouse, a friend, a trusted colleague to look over your masterpiece before you press "send."

3. If you have time, let the document/manuscript sit for awhile before proofing it yourself. This will give you the "distance" needed for a fresh look.

4. Read it aloud. This is a sure-fire way to identify missing words and awkward constructions.

The more comprehensively you proof, the less you cringe.

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