By Beth Crosby
Rock Hill Chapter Member
Because I’m an editor, people say they are afraid to send me anything in writing. So I assure then that I am by no means perfect, and my texts and Facebook posts will prove it. Unfortunately, most of what I write has typographical errors. Even when I proofread for myself, I miss things.
So I’m confident in recommending that you take advantage of your friends who will edit and proofread your work. In fact, have someone proofread after EVERY revision, especially the final version. If you’re like me, you edit as you write. Then review, rework and rewrite. I know how easy it is to delete a comma, add an extra period, or type the WRONG word!! Even if your writing is not the best, eliminating careless errors presents your work in a better light.
Three Ways to Proofread Your Work
- As you know from SCWW groups, reading aloud is a great way to catch errors, duplicate words or cumbersome phrases.
- Try reading your manuscript backward. Yes, backward. It seems crazy, but you can spot duplicate words quickly.
- Use the grammar and spelling editor built into most word processing programs. If you don’t understand what the green or red underlines mean, ask a friend who knows about grammar what change the document is recommending.
- Understand that everyone who says they are good in English, or even grammar, is not. Some people are better than their friends at grammar, or might have been top of their class. But everyone’s skill must be measured against the rules of grammar more than how they scored in literature or a class with limited opportunity. (Who hasn’t met a teacher whose grammar is appalling?) I understand that I have always been recognized for strong grammar skills, but a fifth-grader could have better math skills than do! Still, I’m better at math than a four-year-old. Everything is relative!
Whom Should You Ask to Read Your Work?
After explaining that you are writing an unpublished book, tell your prospective readers that they should not discuss the book/short story/ poem outside of your discussions. Your thoughts are private and what is worse than someone scooping your work is someone overhearing your conversation, embellishing and writing it better than you did! Or getting it published earlier.
- Friends and family will generally tell you that your writing is “really, really good!” So ask them to read it so that you get warm and fuzzy feelings.
- People who enjoy the genre you are writing. Beta readers are first-round readers who will point out issues from continuity, grammar and plot development as well as what they enjoyed or felt strongly in your initial drafts before you rewrite and send a final submission to a professional editor, agent or publisher. (Then you will go through more edits.)
- If your work is specific to young adults, fantasy readers or any other group you can pinpoint, have readers who meet those demographics give you honest feedback. Several websites share resources for finding beta readers. But be sure you use a contract if someone you don’t know is reading your work.
We have talented writers in SCWW. Present your best by having someone you trust proofread your work before it goes out to people who don’t appreciate the work that goes into our craft.
Beth Crosby is a freelance writer and editor based in Rock Hill, SC. She contributes to several blogs, including her own, dialysisgal.com, and writes a monthly column for YC Magazine in York County. You may contact her at EditorBethCrosby@gmail.com.