Proofreeding

Hopefully you will have spotted the deliberate error in the title. However, as you read the eye learns to decipher what is there and your brain automatically corrects many mistakes. It is quite incredible what it is possible to read and make sense of, even though letters or even whole words are either incorrect or missing. As a writer and publisher, it is not good form to take advantage of the brain’s capabilities and is rather better to at least try to get things right!

Self-editing, and self-proofreading is a very difficult. It usually takes another person to be able to see the errors. Even if you read things several times it is incredibly easy to read straight past the mistakes because you already know what you think is there. With publishing the work of others through Alfie Dog Fiction I have to do a lot of editing and proofreading. I have learned by experience and not by formal study courses in those subjects. I have done many study courses in everything from short story writing to novel writing and do have a Certificate in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, but while critiquing work was a formal art of the course, proofreading was not. I’m in the process of putting that right. I have now joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and am working my way through their study courses both to improve my skills and to give me the paper to back up what I already do.

As many writers know, there is a fine dividing line between efficient professional proofreading and nit-picking. There is no reason to damn a piece of work because an occasional error slips through. Of course it is a balance, but even in works by big publishing houses I rarely read to the end of a book without finding an error or two. Even glaring errors pass most people by. The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain in the English translation mentions records that are 33 1/3 inches. Now that is a very big record! What they meant to say was 33 1/3 rpm. Revolutions per minute not inches! It made me laugh, but it didn’t stop my enjoyment of the book and most people don’t even realise as they glide by the passage.

If you ever find me crossing the line into nit-picking and undue pedantry then haul me back before it’s too late. Proofreading should be an enabler and not an obstacle to the appreciation of a good story.

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