How important is proofreading your book? The creative process of writing a book looks different for every author. Some writers like to sit down and write content in short bursts of inspiration while others schedule their writing time by the clock intent on writing for a set amount of time for each writing session.
And since writing is a creative, personal process, it makes sense that authors will find a writing strategy that works with their creative style and personality. Surprisingly, many writers don’t extend this philosophy to the other creative aspects of developing their book content during proofreading.
Finding a unique way to look at your manuscript in a fresh way can help you find those grammatical errors, continuity problems, or even voice or word choice errors more easily.
Check out our list of book proofreading tips that can help you look at your writing in a new way so you can find and fix the little mistakes and slip-ups that keep a manuscript from looking polished and professional.
13 Creative Tips for Proofreading Your Book
1. Ask a Friend for Proofreading Help
Hiring a professional editor may be out of the budget for many self-published authors. But one of our favorite tips for proofreading is to ask a trusted friend or two to review a chapter or more of your manuscript. It is a great way to catch mistakes in your writing and fans of your work will love getting a sneak peek at your latest book before anyone else.
2. Check for Passive vs. Active Voice
Writing should convey dynamic actions that the reader can visualize, and one way that writers do this is by using active, vivid verbs to express actions. To check for passive writing voice, search for forms of “be” (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) in your writing and experiment with swapping passive for active.
To make the switch, the object of the verb (noun receiving the action of the “be” verb) will become the subject of the sentence.
- Passive: The little hatchling’s progress was being followed by Chloe, who loved birds. (subject: progress; verb: was being followed; object: Chloe)
- Active: Chloe, who loved birds, followed the little hatchling’s progress. (subject: Chloe; verb: followed)
3. Double-check Spell Check Suggestions
As modern writers, we benefit from all kinds of conveniences that our earlier counterparts didn’t have – grammar checkers, word predictive software, and spell-check. But these writing support features are not guaranteed to always improve your writing. Make it a habit, as you write, to always think carefully about spell-check suggestions that your writing program supplies. Spell checkers cannot choose the right word for you, so they may correct a misspelled word that doesn’t belong.
4. Edit by Hand
Working with a digital manuscript is a huge time-saver, both during the writing process and the editing and proofreading stage. But one way to proofread your book is to take it offline. Print out a copy of your book and manually go over the printed text by hand. The simple act of looking at your writing in a different format can help you to see mistakes or problems that your brain skipped over when they were on screen.
Tips for proofreading your manuscript that involve printing pages out to edit may be ones you utilize selectively. Choose a few challenging, involved, or lengthy chapters to edit this way to get the most out of this strategy rather than attempting to edit your entire manuscript by hand.
5. Focus on One Thing
Sometimes targeted tips for proofreading are just what you need to make the most of your proofreading. Consider focusing on one of each of these common trouble spots on a proofreading pass of your work.
- Apostrophes: These common punctuation troublemakers often seem to appear out of nowhere. The most common misuse of an apostrophe involves contractions and possessives. Look for words like your (possessive) and you’re (contraction) in the text and make sure that the correct one has been used.
- -ly Suffixes: Words that end in this suffix most of the time are adverbs which are extra words that intensify or strengthen a verb. Instead of using lots of adverbs, review the verb it modifies to see if a more precise verb can be swapped into the manuscript instead. For example, “walked slowly” can be expressed as “ambled.”
- Homonyms: Words that sound the same but have different meanings can be tricky to find in your manuscript. The best way to proofread your book for misused homonyms is to search for specific words that are frequently switched like there/their/they’re, to/too/two, die/dye, mat/matte, bear/bare as well as near homonyms like accept/except.
6. Go Backwards
A relatively slow but very effective proofreading strategy is to read each sentence backward, beginning with the end punctuation. This causes your brain to think carefully through the sentence’s construction and allows you time to process any word choice problems, odd phrasing, or other errors in your sentence.
7. Highlight Changes in Color
Using a bright-colored pen or highlighter to mark up a manuscript page is a good idea since notes will be easier to find when you make the suggested proofreading changes to your working draft. And while a bright red mark or a neon highlight is easy to spot, scientific studies have shown that the brain can better recall information when color is connected to a task like proofreading.
So grab that red pen and mark up your draft. Just by noting potential changes in your draft in vivid color, your brain may remember those notes more easily – and that could lead to fewer proofreading changes you need to make in future drafts of your writing.
8. Listen to the Words
One of our top book proofreading tips is to listen to how your writing sounds to find missteps in your manuscript. Read your text aloud or have a trusted friend read it to you while you mark down spots to check for confusing writing, missed words, unclear ideas, or other problems with your writing.
By hearing the cadence of the words, authors can often spot when text construction is awkward or when a similar sentence structure has been repeated too frequently or too close together.
9. Make a Checklist
When writing a lengthy manuscript, authors have to keep track of a lot of critical details. Keeping a running checklist can keep you organized as you write as well as be an excellent resource for when you are proofreading your work for correctness. Checklists can include anything specific to your book’s contents.
- Character names, places, and other key story details
- Complicated or hard-to-spell words or phrases relevant to the story
- Dates and locations
- Keywords that are spelled similarly to other common words
10. Read it Upside Down
Sometimes you need to have a little fun with your proofreading tasks to stay motivated in a long, sometimes boring, but very important job. One of our most interesting book proofreading tips is to lay a copy of your manuscript upside down in front of you while you scrutinize each line. The unusual setup will require you to read slowly and deliberately, allowing your brain to catch small details and discrepancies that you might have normally missed.
Of course, this strategy isn’t for everyone and probably won’t work for extended periods since it is a little challenging, but switching up how you view text that you are very familiar with can help you find those hidden errors or awkwardly phrased sections of your writing that traditional proofreading strategies didn’t uncover.
11. Separate Writing and Editing
It might be tempting to write a few sentences – or a lot – and then go back and edit your work right then. But the mental processes used to create and edit writing are very different, so keeping them separate will allow you to do a better job at both. Spend time creatively writing your content and set aside a different, specific time for proofreading and editing your work.
12. Take a Break
A surprisingly effective proofreading strategy is to simply take a break from editing. Coming back to your manuscript after a few minutes, hours, or even days can give you “fresh eyes” to revisit writing that is undoubtedly familiar and therefore potentially difficult to look at objectively. A small break helps your brain to reset and refocus.
13. Work in Short Bursts
Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Consider tackling difficult tasks like proofreading when you are mentally rested and can focus intensely for a short period of time. Don’t leave the last 15 minutes of a writing day for proofreading, however, because your tired brain won’t be able to switch gears and concentrate on the admittedly challenging task of improving what you just created.
Let Dazzle Printing Help
Writing and proofreading your book is undoubtedly a big task, but Dazzle Printing is ready to be your printing partner when your manuscript is ready to send to the printer. Our years of experience working with self-publishing authors means all of your hard work proofreading and polishing your final draft will end up as a gorgeous book that you can be proud of.