Welcome, everyone. I’m interrupting my vacation to give you some advice that I think will make everyone’s lives better. Listen up.
In my time, I’ve read a lot of stuff. Essays by fellow students during peer-editing, papers written by my brother, and short stories on Inkpop, just to name a few. There is one ridiculously simple thing you can do that may very well mean the difference between an A or B, or a publication contract versus a rejection.
This thing is: proofreading.
This never ceases to astound me, especially when people post their writing online. Inkpop, Fanfiction.net, etc… my stomach clenches every time I see a word spelled wrong. I mean, you are basically putting your work out for all the world to read… and you don’t even bother checking to make sure it’s perfect?
Here are the big three classes of errors I run across:
1. Misspelings. These may take the form of an ommitted lettr or transposed lettres. Word processors usually fix these – unless you formed another word by accident. Autocorrect is also a major pain.
2. Improper use ofspacing. Pretty self explanatory.
3. Oops, I picked the wrong word. Hear does not equal here. Spell check won’t catch that.
4. Screwed up punctuation? Don’t you think a question should end with a question mark. Also, apostrophe’s aren’t used to make plurals. They’re to make possessives. For the love of all that is legible, don’t, misplace, commas!
There are a few simple ways to proofread your work. Chances are, one method won’t catch every error. But by putting them together, you should feel confident that you’re turning in your best work.
1. Re-read. I like to print off my work and go over it manually. While looking for misspelled words, try reading backwards. When you read in the regular direction, your brain knows what the paper should say, and tells you that’s what you’re reading. If you read the story backwards, you’re more likely to catch errors.
2. Let the story sit. Chances are, you’ll catch errors with fresh eyes.
3. Let someone else read it. They don’t know what the story is supposed to say, so they’ll read what’s really there – and sometimes there’s a difference. A friend or family member beta-testing can really help.
Take this lesson to heart, and please, please use it. There’s only so many times I can stand to read a manuscript peppered with errors. *eye twitches* The next time I see a question that ends with a period, who knows what I’ll do. 😉