Articles / On Editing

Five Reasons To Hire A Professional Proofreader

Proofreading involves a lot more than some might think. Reading a manuscript and correcting typos and punctuation is part of the process, but it’s certainly not all of it. The biggest responsibility of the proofreader is the understanding that she is the last editor to touch the manuscript before the author signs off on the edits.  And that’s a lot of pressure, even for the trained professional.  But a trained professional is exactly what you need if you want your manuscript to be as clean as possible. That’s not to say professionals don’t miss things—they’re human, too. But the more experienced your proofreader, the better your chances at an error-free book.

I’ve come up with my top five reasons authors should hire a seasoned professional.

  • Trained proofreaders spend hours performing searches on your manuscript to ensure consistency.

Did you know that editors keep ridiculously long and detailed lists regarding the words and phrases that are used within the manuscript? These lists serve a couple of purposes: keeping a trail of what words and phrases have been researched, verified, and/or corrected and providing a list of words and phrases to be checked for consistency at the end of the edit. If a word is misused or misspelled once, it’s likely to be found incorrect again further along in the manuscript. Word and phrase lists enable the editor to search for the error and universally make the correction.

And this isn’t only for words and phrases. At Write Divas, we perform countless searches to correct errors in punctuation and formatting. When reading, the human eye might not pick up extra spaces or inconsistent formatting.  But we have multiple searches to find extra spaces, inconsistent ellipses or em-dashes, and backward quotes.

  • Professional editors edit in a series of steps or stages.

Yup, we read through manuscripts multiple times, usually in different formats, to ensure we catch and correct  as much as we can. I know editors who read through once for words, another time for punctuation, and yet a third time for grammar. I do one last read with my Word document in “Final” mode, which visually accepts all the edits and allows me to read a clean version without all the markups to distract me. Some editors review to the final product in audio form to hear the flow and timing of the sentences.

  • We also check the formatting of your chapters, headings, indents, and scene breaks for consistency.

Have you ever read an e-book and thought something just didn’t look right? The story was great, you loved the characters, and the grammar was excellent… but something just seemed off? It may have been inconsistencies in the spacing and format of the book that threw you. It can be difficult to distinguish tabs from indents or to keep the spacing consistent between chapter and scene headers. A trained proofreader keeps track of these and ensures that they are uniform throughout your manuscript.

  • A good proofreader will pick up on story line inconsistencies, illogical actions, and incorrect or misstated facts.

That’s right. While it may not be technically considered part of a proofread, a good proofreader will identify content or copy-edit issues as they read. For example, I may not be required to note excess detail or overused words while proofreading, but if something occurs more than once or twice, I’ll certainly note it for the author. I won’t suggest changes, but I’ll point out what I see so the author can address it before the final stamp of approval is given.

  • Oh, and we’ll check for typos, punctuation, and grammar, too.

And we’re thorough about it. Are you unsure about the hyphenation of a compound adjective? Your professional proofreader will research multiple resources to determine the proper punctuation.  Even if she’s sure, she’ll check anyway. And note it for consistency checks later on. She knows when to use sank or sunk, the difference between wrack and rack, and how to punctuate a compound sentence or a quote nested within a quote.  She can explain the difference between a coordinating conjunction and a subordinating conjunction—and when to use which.

So what’s my point? If you want your book as clean and error-free as possible before it reaches your readers, invest in a professional, trained proofreader.  It’s money well spent.

Happy writing.

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