Apr 042014
Proofreading difficulties

Proofreading: this writer’s bane

Recently, a professional editor edited my manuscript. His work underscored a fact I’ve already faced. I suck at proofreading. (Before you gleefully start looking for errors, I have to confess that John and/or Justin look over my posts before I publish them.)

One repeated error arose from my ignorance of a grammar rule. You’re all probably aware that when I own up to being related to Aunt Nancy, she becomes my aunt Nancy. I wasn’t.

Sadly, perhaps even pathetically, beyond that, he found tons of little errors that I just didn’t see. In seventeen versions of my manuscript, they all escaped my notice. I was careful and gave myself breaks from my writing. Even as I had a Microsoft voice read each page to me, I still missed them.

Obviously, I need to hope that my book makes enough money for me to hire professional editors for all my future writing endeavors.

Until that happens, I need to improve my proofreading. Googling “improve your proofreading skills” quickly helped me isolate my problem. (That was sarcasm.) DailyWritingTips.com notes “concentration is key.” As every member of my family is “distractible,” that advice is more depressing than helpful. Knowing I need to concentrate better doesn’t help me do it.

Helpful Tips on Improving Proofreading Skills

Here are two tips that I’ve found that don’t require medication or personality change.

Pretend: Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) suggests role-playing. By that, they don’t mean hi-jinx to distract yourself (and others) from your writing. Rather they mean putting yourself in your audience’s shoes, or at least in their mindset. I tried this. Though tiny typos still get by me, it helps me catch places where my writing is unclear or redundant.

Proofread backwards: I’ve read this so many places that I’m not sure who to credit for the idea. Honestly, I found this incredibly tedious and frustrating for a manuscript. However, for a post of 300-400 words, it is helpful.

Your Turn:

What works for you? Please comment; I could really use the advice.


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LAURA HEDGECOCK is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and webmaster. Her passion is telling stories and helping others tell theirs. That passion led to her latest book Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life and her website and blog, TreasureChestofMemories.com. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two nearly-adult sons (and her Springer Spaniel), playing soccer, nature photography, and finding her roots—which might explain her messy house.

  2 Responses to “Proofreading Skills or Lack Thereof”

  1. Wait…it’s “aunt Nancy”, not “Aunt Nancy”!?!? When did this happen?

    • I don’t know when, but I even checked with my friend who’s a PhD in English and teaches Business English. (Not that I would second guess a professional editor.) Here’s what she said:

      This is an annoying one and it never looks right to me either. Here’s the rule from Purdue’s Online Writing Lab:


      Capitalize family relationships only when they are used as part of a person’s title.

      I don’t like the looks of “My aunt Trudy” though I can see the accuracy of “My aunt, Trudy” or “My aunt, Trudy Barker….” But without the comma, it looks wrong to me.

      My preference is captured in this version of the rule from Library Online: http://www.libraryonline.com/default.asp?pID=48

      Family – Uncle, Aunt, Cousin – Capitalize these and other family terms when used with a proper noun, but not when used as a possessive pronoun.

      Her main takeaway was to write around it whenever possible.

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