editing / writers tips

Proofing Your Manuscript–Ten Tips

Here are ten great hints from professional proofer Randall Davidson, cofounder of ProofreadingServices.Us, a proofreading company that offers manuscript proofreading.He shared these with WriterUnboxed (a wonderful resource for savvy writing tips and tricks) and I’m going to share them with you. Enjoy!

  1. Put it away. Proofreading your novel immediately after you have written it can lead to overlooking even the most glaring errors simply because you read what you expect to read. Give yourself a few days or even weeks so that you can review your novel with fresh eyes.
  2. Ditch the distractions. Just as it is difficult to write with the phone ringing or people interrupting, it is also frustrating to try to proofread surrounded by distractions. Find a quiet place where you will be free from interruptions before starting the process.15234874 man at work
  3. Take frequent breaks. Most people don’t read an entire novel in a single sitting, so you shouldn’t either. Proofread your novel in chunks of several chapters at a time so that you don’t miss errors due to fatigue.
  4. Use the assistance of others. Ask someone with a solid understanding of grammar and composition and a love of your chosen genre to read your novel and give you an unbiased opinion. Ask them for some of their best proofreading tips as well.
  5. Don’t rely too heavily on spelling and grammar checkers. They are handy tools and certainly have their place in writing, but they are far from infallible. There is simply no replacement for the human brain.
  6. Read your paragraphs or chapters out of order. This will switch things up just enough that your mind won’t remember what’s next and you’ll be more likely to catch those little trouble spots.
  7. Be aware of your most frequent errors. Do you misspell words when you are on a roll? Are you a comma abuser? Is your work dotted throughout with ellipses? Print reminders to yourself on Post-its and keep them handy so that you can reign in your most annoying habits.
  8. Check and recheck. Those sentences that already required revisions need to be double and triple-checked for errors. Errors in tense, spelling, or phrasing may have sneaked past you due to the original correction.
  9. Keep reference books handy. No one can possibly keep all the rules for grammar, punctuation, and spelling straight all the time. This is where thesauruses, dictionaries, and style books come into play. You should use them often.
  10. Read your novel aloud. Sometimes your ears will catch the errors that your eyes missed.

These ten tips distill the hundreds of pages in proof reading books I’ve ordered to the basics. Thanks, Randall.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


49 thoughts on “Proofing Your Manuscript–Ten Tips

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  4. All good advice, especially number one – only make that a few months, rather than a few weeks. I am one of those insane people who do not write their books in the correct order – I tend to wander off on backstories, find and explore new angles, twist my plots a little, tweak my characters as they grow inside my head. So my editing process is a mixture of correcting and rewriting: enormous fun!


    • I wish I could play music. It distracts me. Because I spend so much time writing (and teaching), I almost never get to listen to music anymore. I cherish the time I spend in my car because the radio’s always on!


  5. All great tips. I’d add another–if you cut and paste (moving passages), and especially if you do so during proofreading, remember to re-read both the giving and receiving language to make sure you haven’t made either awkward or out of linear order.


  6. #10 always works best for me. It goes beyond checking for grammatical errors and typos. Reading aloud helps me to hear the flow of the work, whether the sentences are too long or too short, and whether the dialog sounds believable.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. These are great tips, Jacqui. Thanks for sharing. Knowing my weaknesses serves me really well when I’m going back through a draft, as does relying on other sets of eyes! I’ve been considering what people call alpha-readers for my latest WIP, because you just can’t beat the feedback you get. I’m not a hundred percent sure what the difference is between an alpha and a beta reader is, so I might need to research that a little 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I do nearly all of these, but #6 is a no-no for me. I need to find the continuity in my books, and that would confuse me. Here’s another tip: If you can’t rework a sentence so it makes sense, eliminate it. Read the paragraph again. In most cases, I’ve found whatever I intended to say wasn’t necessary. I’ve found Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers to be an outstanding source for all the language idiosyncrasies and common problems most of us will encounter. Her newer additions have an online component with extended explanations and other features. When I write, Hacker is nearby.
    Thanks for these great tips, Jacqui.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Some solid advice, though some I’ve already heard.

    One that doesn’t work for me is reading out loud. Maybe because English isn’t my first language, it really does nothing for me.
    Instead I’ve found working on chapters in a strange order quite helpful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that idea–rearranging chapters. I might try that. I use an online editor that picks up repeated words and the sort. As I’m going through the suggestions, I edit the ms by paragraphs (lind of like your chapters) and find that wonderfully useful.


    • I know I can’t read out loud and English is my one and only language. What happens to me is I start yawning and continue to yawn as I keep on reading out loud. My poor son didn’t have very many books read to him as a small child. As soon as he could read though, I was having him read to me.

      Liked by 2 people

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