Written by Julia Gibbs
As a proofreader, I will correct the following, among other things:
- Spelling errors
- Punctuation errors
- Grammatical errors
- Obviously missing or duplicated words
- Misapplied or inconsistent tenses
- Wrongly-assigned dependent clauses (dangling modifiers)
Editors will perform services such as: suggesting cutting out characters; changing or omitting dialogue; changing the narrative arc of the novel; moving chapters around; various other suggestions that will in their opinion improve the book. I don’t alter the writer’s work apart from correcting it. However, I include copy editing (another offshoot!) in my brief; for example, I will point out anomalies of plot or continuity if I notice them. I will also comment if I think that a word or phrase is repeated too many times in a paragraph, and sometimes suggest alternatives.
Therefore, I emphasise that proofreading should take place as the final stage before your work is ready for publication. All editing and rewrites should be done before proofreading. The only stages that come after proofreading are formatting for Kindle, and cover design. (By the way, here’s a definite ‘don’t’ for authors – I recently sent a finished manuscript back to an author, and she was very pleased with it. She then decided to add a few sentences here and there to her work, as a result of which another 40-50 errors were unintentionally also added. The reviewers picked up on these, much to her annoyance – and that’s why proofreading must be the last stage for your book!)
NB – please try if you can to give your proofreader a bit of notice when sending your MS to be worked on. Any proofreader (or editor/cover designer etc) worth their salt will be booked up for a few weeks ahead, so although we appreciate that art cannot be rushed or work to a deadline, it’s great if you can let us know some time in advance that you will be requiring our services. Thank you!
Here come the FAQs:
Why can’t an author proofread their own work? I can do that, I can use spell check, I’m educated and I’m not stupid!
I say, you can try, but it’s not a good idea! Spell check was once described to me as ‘a false friend’. If you’ve written a word that is spelled correctly, spell check will let it through, even if you’ve written ‘naked’ when you meant to write ‘named’ – try getting out of that one!
Also, no matter how educated or assiduous a writer may be, the fact is that the author is too close to their work and can’t see the wood for the trees. When you read your own work, you see what you expect to see, not what’s actually there. Apparently, the brain picks up on the first, fifth and tenth words of the sentence, and just assumes the rest is OK. I’ve been given novels to work on that have been read through by their author multiple times – and I’ve still found scores of mistakes! Everyone makes typos, there’s not a writer alive who doesn’t.
My friend will proofread my novel for me, she has a degree in English, and it won’t cost me anything.
I would say, by all means ask a friend or two to look through your work for typos. They will probably spot quite a few. But your friend has a different mind-set to me; I don’t know you, I don’t know anything about your work, it’s all completely new to me. I don’t know what to expect – but I will find those pesky typos, it’s a whole different ball game when proofreading is your job! Not only that but, with the best will in the world, one’s attitude changes when one is being paid to do a job, rather than doing it as a favour. It is quite possible that a friend will wish to say only nice things about your book, and will not be willing to give any criticism, even though it would be constructive.
Quite a few of the proofreaders I see on Twitter are authors, too. Does this mean they’ll be good proofreaders?
Not necessarily – although some authors may indeed be very good proofreaders, it’s not a good idea to assume that this is the case. I recently looked at the ‘look inside’ bit of a book on Amazon newly proofread by an ‘author turned proofreader’, and found 12 errors in the first few pages alone. Being a writer yourself is no more a qualification for being a good proofreader than is being a librarian.
What’s a quick way to tell if an author will be any good as a proofreader? Easy! If they have even one review for their own book that questions their grammar and punctuation, be wary!
Readers don’t mind a few typos, it’s the story that counts. They can see that I’m a good writer.
A handful of readers don’t mind or don’t notice typos, that is true. But the vast majority do notice, and a small percentage of those will leave a review that helpfully points out all those mistakes, thus bringing them to the attention of all your potential readers. Don’t forget, the reading public doesn’t care how long it took you to write the book, or how hard it was to produce it – if they’ve paid even a small amount for your book, or even if it was free, they’re going to get pretty annoyed if they think they’re not getting their money’s worth, however unfair that may seem to you.
How much does it cost?
I charge £3.75 per 1,000 words. For my US clients, this is $5.50. I can also invoice in the currency of your choice, whether it be Euros, Canadian dollars etc.
I will not invoice you until I’ve finished the work, which I aim to complete in 10-14 days for novels or long works, or less time which I will advise you of in the case of shorter works.
How can I find a proofreader?
I wrote this blog post, and I hope you find it helpful:
A few typos may look like a little matter – but they can cost you big business.
(And just to save you looking for them later, in case you want to know, here is the link to my testimonials!)
More From Julia Gibbs:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ProofreaderJulia