The First and Second Manuscript Reading

I estimate it takes 40 hours to seriously proofread an 80,000 word novel. It’s a daunting task, so here are some tips to get you through it.

At least this is the process that works for me.

1) PASS ONE: Read entire novel or short story before proofreading.

Why is this step important? I find if I don’t allow myself time to read, especially if it’s a good story, I don’t concentrate on proofreading, and I get engaged in the story.

I allow myself to jot quick comments as I read, but try not to do too much at this stage. Once I’ve done this, I can concentrate on the detailed proofreading.

2) PASS TWO: Check Basic Formatting:

Before checking for formatting, I get the document into a format that works for me. I:

  • Zoom in on the document. I go to the largest size my screen can take. This enables me to see each mark on the page.
  • Turn paragraph marking on. This allows me to see paragraph breaks and extra spaces.
  • Go into review mode and turn on track changes.
  • I’m heavy on the comments. When I make a change, if it’s not obvious why, I tell the author by using the comment function.

Things I check and correct (make consistent) during PASS TWO:

  • Are all chapter headings formatted the same?
  • Are the headers and footers formatted the same?
  • Do the same number of lines appear before and after each heading?
  • Is each chapter heading in same font and size?
  • Are italics consistently used?
  • Are paragraph indents formatted the same?
  • Does the first paragraph of each section or chapter have 0 indents, while the rest are consistent?
  • Are there any double or triple spaces between words?
  • Are there any double spaces after a period?
  • Are times formatted the same – am, a.m. AM?
  • Is the spacing between ellipses consistent (. . . and not …)?

I check these things because I think it gives the manuscript a professional feel. It shows the author took the time to check the details, even the ones that are boring to check.

I don’t like to write long blogs, so I’ll publish part two of The Proofreading Process on Thursday.  So yup, you guessed it. There is a pass three.

I hope this helps your proofreading. :)

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7 thoughts on “The First and Second Manuscript Reading

  1. Thanks for this helpful and detailed list. Most of the time, I enjoy revising, but editing is an extra challenge due to being dyslexic. I have now found a great copyeditor for my final drafts. I just ran a mystery contest and was shocked by all the grammar and copy errors.

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    1. I never would have guessed from the high quality of your blog that you have any issues. It’s great that you work hard at it. I am going through a phase where typos and grammar errors in published novels are annoying me. I don’t mind them so much in a blog, but a published novel? Maybe I’ve spent too much time editing.

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  2. Just when I was about to give up, I stumbled on your wonderful blogs. I have a novel, a 102,000 novel, I’m proofreading by myself. OMG. You deserve a hug for spelling out the basics in such a clear, concise way! You may have saved my sanity.

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