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I have no idea why I can’t proofread worth a darn

“Nothing can affect my voice, it’s so bad.” – Bob Dylan

Likewise, nothing will help my proofreading because it’s so bad. Fortunately, an Internet program called Grammarly has weeded out most of the typos from my Facebook posts. But, I’m cheap and have a free version. That one doesn’t seem to help much with Word files.

So, today I’m going through the manuscript for an upcoming short story collection for the 5th time looking for typos. I keep finding them. After I go through the manuscript, I always think, “Finally, it’s now error free.”

Except it isn’t. If I go through it again, I find more typos. I don’t know I miss them. My publisher sends my books to an editor and she always finds more.

I feel slightly better about the situation when I read that many experts think the worst person to proofread a manuscript is the person who wrote it. S/he always starts reading for a sense of the story and misses the same errors that got missed the first time.  Typos are a big problem with many self-published books because authors try to proofread them and miss a lot of mistakes. They’re advised to hire editors, but many editors charge more than the authors think the books will earn.

My editor has been doing her job for a long time, so I’m pleased to say that she catches what I miss. Thank goodness. My publisher relies on our editor as well. When I send her a new story, she’s reading it to see what happens in the story and whether that story will be a reasonable addition to the catalogue. So, she misses some of the same stuff I miss. She grumbles at this because she’s also a writer and thinks, as I do, that at some point our proofreading will be worth a darn.

Some authors have a team of beta readers who go through manuscripts in progress and make suggestions. Naturally, these readers will catch a lot of the errors. However, I dislike the concept. I never know where my stories are going when I start writing them, so the last thing I want is a committee making suggestions about what’s happening and what ought to happen next. That would totally screw up my chaotic writing process.

My wife is a big help, though. She worked for a daily newspaper and has also done a lot of writing. She finds many of the errors in my work that I don’t see. Sometimes she catches continuity problems such as “Hey, didn’t Bart die in chapter three? If so, what’s he doing sneaking around in chapter eight?” Oops.

In my Florida Folk Magic trilogy, my conjure woman Eulalie claims she’s older than dirt. I’m not that old yet, but I’m getting close. That means that I’ve been writing long enough to have figured out how to be a better proofreader. What I think happened is this: James Patterson and Nora Roberts started worrying that I’d knock their books off the bestseller list. So they put a hex on me. That’s the only reasonable excuse I can think of.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “At Sea” which is free on Kindle for a few more hours.

 

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5 Comments
  1. Most of the errors I miss are around the edges of the page. As readers, we’ve trained our eyes and minds to see the center of the page and extrapolate the whole page from that. So, next time you have to proofread your own work, concentrate on the top two lines, the bottom two lines and the first and last word on each line. That’s where the typos hide. (Alternatively, you can change the margins so the what was in the center is now on the edge.) Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll still miss things. That’s why I get others to proofread my work. One woman was amazing — she was the last to do the proofing and found errors that everyone else had missed.

    November 17, 2018
    • Sometimes I temporarily enlarge the type on the page, and that helps. Maybe in doing that, I’m doing what you suggest. There always seems to be somebody who finds errors nobody else saw.

      November 17, 2018
      • And there are those who look for errors so they can feel superior.

        November 17, 2018

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