Proofs

Proofs…

I think I’d rather write about alcohol. I always fancied the gunpowder method of testing proof – and think setting fire to my own proofs would test them…

At the moment I am wading (and I mean wading – chest deep I reckon) through proofs for Cloud-castles. Now, don’t get me wrong, proof-readers are worth their weight in gold, and it’s a very important and worthwhile thing for any author to wade through.

But it is still wading.

Every author is defensive about their work, their word choices, their stylistic quirks. Dealing with comment on those is always hard, even if, actually, they are right. I’ve always taken the attitude that one editor’s comments are worth thinking about if they’re not merely typos etc. If two different readers find a similar problem with an area, and I must correct it. = But that, I feel, is editing (which many proof-readers slip into). Now, the line between line-editing and proof-reading is a thin one, but I feel that proof-reading is really strictly about typos, grammos, spelling mistakes, missing or excess spaces and possibly punctuation. Still, if you’re as bad at typing as I am, and as inventive at spelling… well, then the wade is doubly worth it. I honestly thought it was straight-laced, not strait-laced.

The biggest problem I have found with proof-reading – even for myself or others, is that the number simple errors found is inversely proportionate to how immersed in the story the reader is. It means in final action scenes the errors tend to not get found… now maybe that is true for readers in general – but not, alas, for Amazon’s bots.

Which leaves you with the problem of distancing the proof-reader from immersion. I’ve found three things – distance (coming back to a book after years away -not always practical), substantive measured breaks (the book is broken into short page-count sections, so the proof reader does not end on a ‘finish’ point and chase towards it, but merely does x number of pages) and finally the mindless tedium of reading the book, sentence by sentence, from the back. I’ve done this a few times. I don’t think we pay proof-readers enough…

Other suggestions are happily accepted!

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

21 comments

  1. I do a pretty good job of proofing, and good at continuity checks too. But I have a major issue in proofing. I find I vary between British and American spelling. Almost indiscriminately. I have to word real hard to keep the spelling consistent.

  2. Imagine the sheer joy of proof reading a manuscript from someone who manages to incorporate elements of Yank, Brit, and Ausie vernacular.
    Add on that the wanker wrote a story so captivating that your attention to detail kept being subverted by a burning desire to read on and see what happened next.
    I really should demand double compensation, I should you know.
    Needless to say, Cloud-castle is a thoroughly delightful book.

  3. For other people’s writing I’m pretty good at spotting the typos and spelling/consistency issues, but with my own it’s more difficult.

    I do two things to help:

    1. I add any made-up names to the dictionary as soon as I decide on them, that way when a red squiggle comes up, I know the red squiggle is really a misspelling. In all the programs I’ve worked in, this is just right clicking the word/name and “add to dictionary” is an option.

    2. If I make a mistake once, I’m probably going to make it again. So I put it on my “laundry list.” This applies mostly to homonym things, capitalizations, or misspellings of names that the dictionary already knows and has multiple variants. I make a list of the mistakes I find so I can type them in the search box and double check them all. Example: I know I’m not supposed to capitalize cardinal directions, but I do it without fail, so I just type them in later to find them. Same with titles like “general” or “king,” I tend to write “the General.” This also works if you tend to write the British spellings.

    If you want me to look CC over just for typos/homonym mix ups/consistency, I’d be happy to.

  4. I’ve done the “start with the last chapter,” as well as “allow time to lapse.” (Or is that lapsing into a comma, er coma, um, losing awareness due to too many too-too terrible tyoops?) The time-lag method seems to be helpful.

    Changing font size and spacing can do it as well, because my eyes get used to one font, and in a different one, the work feels “new” and I can spot errors more easily. YMMV.

  5. I honestly thought it was straight-laced, not strait-laced.
    Wait, what?! It’s a nautical reference? I thought “laced” was “strings”, not “scattered throughout”.

    1. Nope. It derives from an old-fashioned definition of “strait” meaning something along the lines of constrained. So, originally a strait-laced corset was one that was so tightly laced the woman wearing it was very constrained.

      The same root can be found in strait-jacket. The meaning is so old-fashioned that outside of these two terms practically no-one ever uses the word in that sense any more.

          1. Ah, yes. A critical text study of a certain religious work published in the 19th century found it very difficult to determine which spelling should be used when they appeared multiple places, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way”, is the original biblical reference, but to confuse matters, in this particular work there are also references to the “straight and narrow way”, which may have had a differing source reference. So, what? Which? The scribe for the manuscript apparently wasn’t consistent, the printer didn’t always agree with him anyway, and editors of later editions also meddled with fine details of spelling and grammar.

  6. When I was successful at proof reading, the way I worked was to read and reread soon after.

    I was only really effective at pulling that off with certain irregularly updated serial stories. If the whole thing was one or two million words, and I was obsessed, restarting at the beginning after the end meant that I was again enthusiastic to see what happened next. A chapter was generally short enough to read for ‘what happens next’ and reread for errors and or subtle details.

  7. You can cheat by going through a computer search (NOT A SEARCH AND REPLACE!!) for all the normal common errors, and especially for phonetically similar words. You can even search for double spaces (bleh, I want them back).

    1. You can also cheat by running a search for further occurrences of an error, once you find one occurrence. (This is very good for weird phrases, or overdoing the search and replace.)

  8. First of all, following rant is not aimed at ypu, DF, in particular.
    As a proofreader one should never impinge on an author’s /style/. And I’m absolutely sure you /know/ rain|rein|reign, ordnance|ordinance, and the rest of the easy ones. Suffice it to say that publishing speech-“recognized” text without YOU reading it for automated abominations is slovenly and disrespectful. And visibly lazy, or in the case of uncanny productivity, greedy.
    Sorry to unload precipitously, speaking of rayon.. Can I have my goat back? I ran into regulate|relegate yesterday. and it got poor Billy.

  9. First of all, following rant is not aimed at you, DF, in particular.
    As a proofreader one should never impinge on an author’s /style/. And I’m absolutely sure you /know/ rain|rein|reign, ordnance|ordinance, and the rest of the easy ones. Suffice it to say that publishing speech-“recognized” text without YOU reading it for automated abominations is slovenly and disrespectful. And visibly lazy, or in the case of uncanny productivity, greedy.
    Sorry to unload precipitously, speaking of rayon.. Can I have my goat back? I ran into regulate|relegate (twice!) yesterday. and it got poor Billy. The second instance left me wondering if the author was maybe deploying 102% of his vocabulary…

  10. I thought straight laced and straight and narrow as well, Guess neither of us are quite old enough to have middle English on the tip of our tongues/pens/keys.

    Have tried gunpowder proofing and it does work, haven’t checked it against hydrometer accuracy though.

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