Proofreading Four Pack – Part I

With self-publishing comes great responsibility. Whether you self-publish or go the way of an agent/publisher, you want to be sure your manuscript makes it to readers as cleanly as possible and makes sense from Chapter 1 through to The End.

Or perhaps you have an important corporate letter or a letter to the editor you want to send off? Maybe you are writing a school bulletin, family newsletter, or a web page for your new business?

Here’s a handy DIY – the first part in a four pack of proofreading and copy-editing tip lists.

Part I – Doing Your Own Proofreading

Adjust your mind set from “writer” to “proofreader.” Forget that you are looking at your baby, your pet, your sweat-stained manuscript. Once you are ready to proofread and copy edit, it’s a whole ‘nother animal. It’s a project. You are looking for things that are wrong.

Spell check – Do not – DO NOT – depend on your computer’s spell checker.

Read out loud – Read the piece out loud. This will help you hear where there are stops and starts, what’s awkward. You can also utilize the “Read Aloud” feature of Word to read it to you. It’s a little mechanical, but you might discover a few problems. Take it a step further – read your MS or short story into a tape recorder and then listen to it while looking at a printed copy. This can be cumbersome for a full-sized manuscript, so read on …

Print it – Sounds silly, but it makes a difference. You’ve been looking at the project on the screen for a year or two or more – you need a new perspective – you need to see it on paper. Red pen at the ready!

Dictionary and Style Guides – Use the dictionary and style guides like The Associated Press Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style, and desk references for grammar and punctuation – like Diane Hacker’s Rules for Writers.

First Reader – Ask someone to look at your MS with a critical eye. My go-to first reader is Shawn MacKenzie. 

Mom or BFF – Don’t ask mom or the BFF to proofread – unless mom was a proofreader for Merriam-Webster (my mom was!). Your peeps will probably tell you, “It’s wonderful!” or “Fabulous!” Not that you shouldn’t trust them, but you shouldn’t trust them with proofreading your manuscript.

Sounds like – Look at words like there and theiryou’re and your, and its and it’s. Also consider trip-up words like rain, rein, and reign, bear and bare, ate and eight, altar and alter. When I’m in a hurry, I often use one wrong word for what would be the right word. Search for your trouble words throughout your manuscript or other important document. 

Take a break – Put the manuscript aside for a few weeks or a month or two. Then go back to it with fresh eyes. If you are in a hurry with a letter to the editor, try to leave it for at least a couple of hours.

Please stay tuned for more Proofreading Four Pack, Parts II through IV.

What’s your proofreading bug-a-boo? What trips you up the most?

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Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Personal Articles, Quick Editing Tips

Twitter-isms that need to die with 2021

“Retweet if you…”

“Raise your hand if you…”

“Like if you…” 

“I didn’t have _____ on my bingo card…”

“I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…” 

(Brief declarative). “That’s the tweet.” 

“Just to be clear…” 

“BREAKING:” on everything you tweet. 

People asking for retweets just to get something trending.

People asking for new followers just because it’s their birthday. 

People asking for new followers because they are 100 shy of 50,000 followers. 

Respond to my tweet “because I need to see something…” 

Taking others’ words or ideas and passing them off as your own. 

Retweeting copied photos or videos that you don’t give credit for. 

Misquoting or typos in a quote. 

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Filed under Personal Articles, Social Networking

A Christmas Tree

Brother Phil and the author

Two young boys, huffing and puffing, drag a Flexible Flyer up worn wooden steps, banging and scraping. The boys are dressed like dark woolen snowmen from their watch-capped heads to their over-sized snow boots.

Mother stood over Little Sister, dressing her for the occasion – knitted cap tied under chin with a scarf, multi-layered clothing, and hand-me-down boots.

The three siblings slurged through heavy snow in the driveway, past the mint and white Chrysler with its push button start, into the snow drifts. The children are on a mission; they have their assignment.

They trudged a couple hundred yards – past the now-bald monkey ball trees – until they set foot on the school grounds, then ‘round the back to the dumpsters.

The school’s Christmas tree adorned the large lobby of Lora Little Elementary. After final classes marking winter break, the tree was dragged from the lobby and tossed unceremoniously out the loading dock doors. The tree is forlorn now, marked by several bent and broken branches and bent and wrinkled tinsel.

True to the elementary school tradition, this tree is twelve feet tall and wide as a 1950’s Buick. The Flexi Flyer is a scant few feet long, but none of the logistics mattered. If they did not rescue this tree, they would have no tree.

The three siblings dragged the tree past the sledding hill where one brother would break his leg, past dead weed-choked fencing where the other brother would contract poison oak, past the school’s towering metal and chain swing set where sister would jump, fly!, and dislocate her elbow.

Out of the schoolyard and down the home street, sliding down the driveway, around the house and into the back yard.

Much like Paul Bunyan, Older Brother dispatched his Boy Scout ax from its leather pouch and commenced to chop the tree to a manageable height so it would fit in the rec room.

They set the tree in a teensy, dented tree stand. They re-arranged the leftover tinsel then added their own stored decorations. Paint-flaked ornaments with misshapen hooks, delicately and laboriously placed upon bent and broken branches, until the tree brought the spirit of Christmas into the home.

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Filed under Personal Articles, Special Events

Winter haiku

All seasonal haiku – and much more – is available in my published collection of poetry – “No Boundaries.” See link at right.

In the meantime, here’s some winter haiku.

* * *

Frosted snowmen stand

Guarding homes of their makers 

Coal eyes watch the play. 

* * *

Home town ponds freezing 

Skaters wrap their necks with scarves

Hot cocoa at home.

* * *

Snow shovels scraping

Driveways and sidewalks cleaned up

Kids break out snow day.

* * *

Time for a long nap 

Hibernating furry bears 

Roly-poly cubs.

* * *

Ribbons red and green

Giggling children unwrap glee

Do I smell turkey?

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Filed under Personal Articles, Prose & Poetry