Hi! I’m Kathy Ide. In addition to being a published author, I’m a full-time professional freelance editor. For CAN, I’m blogging about tips for writers based on the manuscripts I edit.
5 Reasons to Proofread Everything You Write
Did you know that even “little” mistakes in your manuscript—typos, inconsistencies, and errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling (which I call “PUGS”)—can affect your reputation as an author … and your book sales? The same thing is true of everything you write that potential publishers or readers might see, including your blogs, social media posts, promotional material, handouts at speaking engagements, even e-mails to colleagues.
Here are just a few reasons to proofread everything you write:
- Mechanical errors can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.
Too many mistakes in a manuscript, query letter, or proposal can kill your chances of acceptance with a traditional publisher. Even if your manuscript has already been accepted, if the publisher’s in-house editor has to spend all her time fixing your mistakes, she won’t be able to catch the deeper, more subtle nuances of your text. Besides, you won’t be presenting a very polished, professional image to your publisher.
For a lot of avid readers, typos practically jump off the page. And many are familiar with the rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. If your reader knows the rules and you don’t, that’s not going to make you look very professional. This is especially true if you’re self-publishing, because you can’t blame mistakes on the publisher. And since so many self-published books are not well edited or proofread, many readers today are reluctant to purchase books that don’t come from established traditional publishing houses.
- Mechanical errors can be embarrassing.
A friend of mine once picked up a book at a bookstore and noticed a typo on the back cover. When she reported it to our critique group, she didn’t say she’d found a mistake on a book published by “XYZ Publishers.” She said she found the mistake on a “Jane Doe” novel. She didn’t connect the error to the publishing house but to the author.
- Mechanical errors may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.
I once saw a published article with this title: “Crowe Turns Hero to Help Snake Bite Boy.” The story was about actor Russell Crowe helping a boy who’d been bitten by a snake. But by spelling snakebite as two words, this sentence implies that Mr. Crowe helped a snake bite a boy! Now, I got a good laugh out of that. But I sure don’t want those kinds of mistakes showing up in my own writing. I’m sure you don’t, either.
- Mechanical errors can affect the sales of your book.
Readers who find a lot of mistakes in your book will not be as likely to recommend it to their friends. And who knows? You may have a high school English teacher reading your book, and she just might recommend it to her students . . . unless there are a lot of mistakes in it.
- Mechanical errors can give you a poor reputation.
If you self-publish, or work with a small, independent publisher that can’t afford to hire professional proofreaders, your book may go out to the public with several typos, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, or PUGS errors. Readers who catch those mistakes may view you as an amateur. Even if your book is being put out by a big publishing house, you should proofread your galleys very carefully. That’s your last chance to catch any errors before a book with your name on the cover goes out to readers.
These reasons and more are explained in my book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. It includes tips from multi-published authors on how to catch typos, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies. It also contains industry-standard guidelines on the PUGS issues that most writers struggle with.
Once you’ve got your manuscript, galleys, or promotional material as polished as you think they can be, you may wish to consider hiring a professional proofreader. I’m not talking about your neighbor who’s a high school English teacher, but someone who knows and understands the publishing industry’s requirements. You can find professional freelance proofreaders at writers’ conferences or by filling out the form for Authors Seeking Editors at the Christian Editor Connection.