Copyediting – Proofreading: Summary of Comments (Part One)

Now that I have completed  my five-part blog on copyediting and proofreading, I’ve grouped the comments into topics and ended up with too much information for one blog, so . . . I’ll split it into several. I’ll add information that I didn’t include in my original blogs and that was kindly contributed by readers of my blog.

I collected the comments from the blog series and from the LinkedIn writing group called Crime Fiction managed by Theresa de Valence.

The topics from the comments are:

  • DON’T TRUST YOUR SPELL CHECKER
  • Having Others Proofread Your Work
  • The Eye Sees What it Wants to See
  • Read it Backward
  • Read it Out Loud
  • Read it Big
  • Adjectives and Adverbs
  • Split Infinitives
  • E-Readers
  • Computer versus Paper
  • Templates
  • Taking Breaks
  • Proofreading versus Copyediting

And yup, you guessed it. I’m going to cover the bolded topic today.

DON’T TRUST YOUR SPELL CHECKER

One theme among the comments was the quest for a list of the most common words authors have issues with. You can find that list a little farther down in the blog.

The following is a humorous excerpt (paraphrased a little) from one comment I thought summed up why we have difficulty seeing the typos, and I’ll call them typos, because most of us know how to spell and we know the correct word choice, but our fingers seem to have a will of their own and type what they want.

Never met a spelling you didn’t like, eh? Well they’re (their?) hard to (too?) spot, even for those of us who can spell some and know lots of words. They hide or just sit there defiantly, while your integrative, Gestalt brain fills in the gaps and skips over extra letters on its own, without telling you. That’s why proofing is so difficult, aside from the tediousness. And you’re (your?) usually doing it at the 11th hour, under time constraints, and all your (thy?) helpful friends have abandoned you to your dire fate.
What happens to me kicking out the stops on the mighty netbook, is letters get omitted due to detritus among the keys, and the spell checker thinks “ad” instead of “and” is good to go. Etc., or is it Ect.?

There was consensus that homophones and typos that create a correct word, but not the word you want,  are a problem in manuscripts. The following are the words I received in the comments to the blog. This list contains words that other authors have stated they have issues with. I’ve bolded the ones that I didn’t include in my original blog.

  • Ad/And
  • Aisle/Isle/I’ll
  • Barely/Barley
  • Calf’s/Calves
  • Ect./Etc.
  • Here/hear
  • Heard/herd
  • He’ll/Hell
  • It’s/Its
  • Flee/Flea
  • For/Fro
  • Form/From
  • Grown/Groan
  • Manor/Manner
  • No/Not/Now
  • Own/Now
  • Series/Serious
  • So/Sew (use needle and thread)

  • Sit/Sight
  • Then/Than
  • Then/The
  • There/Their
  • There’s/Theirs
  • Throne/Thrown
  • Thin/Thine/Thing
  • Thy/Thigh
  • To/Too
  • Were/We’re
  • Whelps/Welts
  • Where/Were
  • Who’s/Whose
  • Wringing, Ringing
  • Your/You’re

For those of you who dictate your copy, you may find the dictation software created homophones throughout your manuscript. So guess what? You get to be especially careful when checking for them.

To help find this type of error, one reader suggested: the smaller your device or viewing window is, the better it will be for proofreading. Also, since such narrow focus is both tense and tedious (contradictory, but true), take frequent breaks – maybe alternate with another task that has nothing to do with this or any other book.

Another reader said: this isn’t 100% on topic, but I use the “Add to Dictionary” and “Ignore” feature in MS Word to stop the software from picking up odd character and place names as mistakes in my manuscript. If I don’t do that, then those words get flagged so frequently that I start ignoring Spellcheck completely…and then miss things like “teh” and “tihng.”

Thanks to everyone who shared how they create an error-free (okay – so as close to error-free as possible) manuscript. It’s helpful to learn how others work.

If you have other words that are often a problem, don’t be shy. Please share them with me.

Thanks for reading . . .

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Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Five)

What a week! I can’t thank everyone enough for their contributions. I’m going to have to work hard at getting the comments and ideas summarized.

So you’ve finished copyediting – proofreading the manuscript, and it’s time to send it back to the author. This is usually when I think about the work I’ve done and have I done what the author asked of me. It’s a good time to pause and re-read ALL the comments. I ask myself:

  • Are the comments clear?
  • Are the comments consistent?
  • Have I introduced any errors?

If I am working on a computer copy of the document, I’ve asked the author not to touch their version until I’m done (I probably should have mentioned this in part one). With only one version active, the author can accept or reject changes without introducing new errors. Also, I figure if I’m going to spend the time editing, the author should wait for me and not create another version of the manuscript. It’s frustrating to have to repeat the editing process.

I usually summarize my detailed comments in an overview. I remember to tell the author what I liked about the story. This is important. Every writer needs to hear what he/she does well. It’s easy to focus on criticism, and my goal is to motivate the author to continue to write. I don’t want to de-motivate them because I made too many comments.

In the summary, I remind the author to do the following before shipping the manuscript to an agent, publisher or uploading it to an e-book site (if they are self-publishing):

  • accept or reject suggested changes
  • delete any remaining comments
  • turn off mark-up or track changes
  • remove bookmarks
  • check under properties that the title is correct

When you’re ready, ship the manuscript back to the author and see what he/she thinks. I’m usually nervous at this point. It’s an honour to read and work on another author’s manuscript, and I hope I’ve found a balance between being helpful and not being overly critical.

One final caution: I find it difficult to edit my own work. My eye reads what I think I wrote and not what I actually wrote. I do my best to correct my manuscript before I give it to someone else to edit, but I try to have a sense of humour and laugh at myself when errors are found. Nobody’s perfect ☺

Thanks again for reading . . .

Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Four)

First – thank you to everyone who has contributed thoughts on my blog and in LinkedIn. I’ve enjoyed putting my process out there and improving it based on the new ideas I’ve received.

We’ve made it through two readings of a manuscript. During the third reading, we get to propose changes that are subjective, and even though, as an editor, I want all my suggestions included in the next version of the manuscript, I have to accept that the author gets to decide how to handle each idea I put forward.

The first three blogs in this series are: Proofreading Process (Part One), Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Two) and Copyediting Proofreading Process (Part Three).

So here we go . . . Things to check during the third reading:

PASSIVE versus ACTIVE

Point out passive clauses but don’t change them. Passive or active is the author’s choice, but what if the author slipped into passive without noticing? I comment and then move on.

TENSE

Keep an ear out for tense and check for consistency. Tense can change during the course of a novel. Linwood Barclay uses past tense and present tense in his new novel Trust Your Eyes, but he keeps the tense consistent in each scene. The result is a fast paced, exciting novel. My point: It’s important to understand the author’s intent for tense and then edit accordingly.

FIRST, SECOND or THIRD PERSON      

This can change throughout a novel, but is it consistent per scene? If switching person takes away from the story, mention it to the author, but again, the author gets to decide whether to change it or not.

THAT

Check every use of that and decide if it’s needed. If that is not needed for clarity, suggest its removal. Here’s an example of when you don’t need that:

I used to think that it was easy to use a comma.

I used to think it was easy to use a comma.

The meaning of the second sentence without that is clear. Now compare the following two sentences, and I think you’ll agree that is needed.

Ignoring the shadows that vaguely reminded him of his long dead relatives, . . .

Ignoring the shadows vaguely reminded him of his long dead relatives, . . .

The meaning changes in the second sentence. That is needed  for clarity. The first sentence tells us the shadows remind him of dead relatives. The second sentence tells us ignoring the shadows reminds him of dead relatives.

ADJECTIVES

Are there cases where more than one adjective describes a noun? Yes? Then I ask if the author could pick the most important one and delete the others.

REPEATED WORDS

If a word jumps out at you as overused, it probably is. It’s okay to suggest alternatives, but it’s the author’s job to come up with a new word (if he/she agrees the word is overused).

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ll post the final touches on Monday . . .

Thanks for reading 🙂

Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Two)

Today’s blog focuses on a list you can create to help you copyedit.

Creating a list is part of my process when reading another author’s manuscript. I use the list for my work too, but if you’ve edited your own writing, you’ll know how hard it is to find your mistakes.

Before I start – thank you to the people who pointed out the difference between proofreading and copyediting. Their definitions are in the comments of Proofreading (Part One). Also, thanks to everyone else for their comments. I had fun reading them all.

Monday’s blog took us part way through the second reading of a manuscript, but there’s still work to do on this pass.

While reading the manuscript for the second time, I create a list that includes:

  • Words with hyphens or words I think should have a hyphen.

While writing a novel, it’s easy for an author to forget which format they used for a word. It’s better to keep word formats consistent, which can be difficult, especially when the dictionary offers a choice or two dictionaries disagree with each other.

  • Words that are easy to type incorrectly, but the spell checker won’t find the error. There are many, so here are a few examples:

It’s/its

Their/there

Hear/here

Heard/herd

Where/were

Then/than

Then/the

This list grows with each new manuscript I read. Heard/herd came from the manuscript I’m currently editing.

  • Words that are spelt differently in Canadian or American spelling. This is hard to catch because some spell checkers allow both forms.  A difficult situation occurs if the author uses a Canadian spelling for one word and American for another.  For example:

My pyjamas are the color of green olives. Pyjamas is in Canadian spelling. Color is in American.

Search for words that can be spelt with ‘ou’ or ‘o’ and words where a consonant may or may not be doubled, such as:

Favourite/favorite

Travelling/Traveling

  • Words that can be spelt (spelled in the USA) two ways.

Toward/Towards

Backward/Backwards

Both are correct, but again consistency is important.

But what do you do with this list?

Even if you have read the manuscript in printed form, this is the point where a computer can help you eliminate errors.

In whatever word processing program you use, turn tracking on. Search the manuscript for each word in the list you’ve created during your second reading and make the appropriate changes. The author can decide to accept or reject the changes when he/she reads the suggested corrections.

Call me crazy, but I thought I was going to finish this subject in two blogs. We’re still not on to the third reading, but we’re getting there.  My next post on copyediting will be on Monday.

If you have any tips to share, I’d love to add them to my process.

Thanks for reading . . .