Proofreading produces professional products


Proofread, proofread, proofread

Proofreading produces professional products. It is the final step before your manuscript gets writ in stone and it cannot be ignored.

After you finished writing your first draft, then rewriting and rewriting and rewriting, you sent this “finished” work out to a copy editor for review. At least I hope you did. Copy editing is generally considered an essential step in the publishing process. I’ve covered that subject twice in these blogs because copy editing is so crucial.

When you got your manuscript back, you made the necessary corrections as proposed by your copy editor.

Generally speaking, we make most of these changes but not all. After all, this is our work and we know our story best. So while the copy editor may suggest modifications, we do not have to agree with all of them. I made about 90% of the suggested changes, but I left alone those that I felt best expressed my original intent.

So, finally, we are done.

Not so fast.

As you corrected your work, you may have found, as I did, that some of the wording had now become clumsy and needed further revising. Sometimes I was also visited by the inspiration genie while making these changes. This entailed adding or, in some cases, removing copy. So now what?


You can proofread your manuscript yourself, but having read and reread and reread it so many times you have probably become word-blinded and will be unable see your own mistakes. So it’s probably best to have fresh eyes read your work for you, to see if they can find any errors.

And they will, which will then entail making these additional, final corrections. A renown author of numerous books once informed me that the last step he took before sending his work out to the publisher was to read it BACKWARD. You are allowed to groan here. I did.

I did read my manuscript backwards, as difficult and boring as that was, and I did find mistakes. Don’t ask me how the brain knew, but it did.

Guess what? Since that backward read, I have made additional changes (can we ever let go of our darlings?) necessitating a final proofread. I am now in the process of making these final (please let this be true) corrections which will then require another backward read. Groan.

This is proofreading and we cannot do without it.

One last note:

Proofreading and copy editing are, apparently, not exact sciences. Below, I have included examples of how different experts corrected my work according to their own styles and interpretations of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS).

I have the luxury of knowing several professionals. I sent my work for proofreading to a PhD, a MFA, and an English teacher with 50 years of experience. This is in addition to the copy editor I hired to review my work and whose changes I had diligently (90%) employed.

Here are examples of how these proofreaders differed:

Example 1:

“Do not let the word hostile frighten you, Will. How about the word challenging?”

“Do not let the word hostile frighten you, Will. How about the word challenging?”

“Do not let the word ‘hostile’ frighten you, Will. How about the word ‘challenging’?”

Example 2:

“First you have two different systems; one for time and one for distance. Now, within your distance system you have two separate systems; miles and/or kilometers.

“First, you have two different systems — one for time and one for distance. Now, within your distance system, you have two separate systems — miles and/or kilometers. (; here is wrong)

Example 3:

“Any agent of the BGK, that is who.”

“Any agent of the BGK that is who.”

“Any agent of the BGK. That is who.”

So, which variation should you choose? Google any confusing issues and use those results, tempered by your own common sense. You must use precise wording in order to express the exact sentiments that you are trying to convey to the reader.

This does not mean that you will not get your manuscript sent back to you all marked up in red again. This is my best understanding of the process of proofreading, and I have no other advice to offer.

I welcome your experiences. Please share your take on the proofreading process so we can all become better writers. Thanks.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

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