By Joseph Young
Some authors might be tempted to skip hiring a proofreader before their manuscript goes to press. But after working in the small press world for 15 years, I beg you, don’t be one of them!
Proofreaders are the last bulwark against errors that can surprisingly easily occur in some of the most accomplished writers’ work. Even a John Grisham novel is likely to have a an error or two in it, despite the fact that many, many people have looked it over. Mistakes have a way of getting through!
You may know all about the difference between “their” and “they’re” but you’d be surprised how many times the most seasoned writers make this mistake in the heat of writing.
A proofreader catches these small mistakes, whether errors in grammar, spelling, or a simple slip of the fingers on your keyboard. They also catch errors that can crop up in the layout of your manuscript, such as line breaks happening where they shouldn’t or two words getting crunched together.
The proofreader does not stop there, but during this final check of your work, he googles things like proper names and abbreviations and makes sure you got them right so you’re not embarrassed later.
He makes sure that there is consistency throughout your manuscript, and double checks that every time you use the word “boardroom” you always spell it that way, not “boardroom” sometimes and “board room” others.
There are some simple things you can do to help your proofreader.
Do a quick spell check before sending your manuscript off to be proofed. And maybe have a friend or colleague look it over beforehand too, for typos or what have you. As a proofreader it’s my job to spot mistakes, but the more eyes on a piece of writing the better.
Realize that your proofreader in an important part of the entire editorial team. You as the author might not ever directly interact with a proofreader—your publisher might stand in as an intermediary—but if you have questions about a change a proofreader has made, just ask! We all do our best job when the lines of communication are open.
Joseph Young has worked as a professional proofreader, editor, and writer for more than 15 years. He has worked with authors of many different types of writing, including novels, books of poetry, cookbooks, medical journal manuscripts, and academic white papers. He is the award winning author of the book of microfiction, Easter Rabbit, and has widely published his fiction and articles in magazines, newspapers, and on the web. He lives in Baltimore, MD.