Category Archives: Editing & Proofreading

Proofreading Four Pack, Part II

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? Maybe you are writing a school bulletin, family newsletter, or a web page for your new business?

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

Proofreading Four Pack, Part II – Copy Editing

“Copy editing” can range from consistency, subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, and word choice or denotation; more in-depth editing might include substantive paragraph and chapter re-writes through developmental rewriting (overhaul).

Consistency throughout a manuscript can be a bit of a problem for some writers. It’s not the story’s structure – it’s keeping it all cohesive with consistent language, proper names, and characters’ personalities.

Consistency – Check for inconsistencies in where your characters live, where they work, their likes and dislikes, their phobias (don’t say your character is afraid of snakes and then have her holding a python in Chapter 10), favorite foods/allergies (someone is allergic to shellfish and later eats a lobster), and so on.

NamesProper Nouns – Did you call your main character’s boyfriend Allan in the first chapter and Alan in all the other chapters?

Electronic Age – The jury seems to be in a deadlock over new language and emerging language terms that describe the electronic age and new gadgets. Whether you agree with the AP Stylebook or not, if you are going to use words like e-mail or email, web-site or website, on-line or online – each of these words needs to be consistent throughout your manuscript.

Who’s talking? – If your English Teacher character is talking prim and proper English in Chapter 3, make sure she’s talking the same way in Chapter 49.

Know your props – If you have your police officer with a Glock in Chapter 4, he should still have a Glock in the final chapter.

Where are you? – I have often drawn my own maps on a large sheet of paper to maintain perspective. Or use Google maps. If you write Route 83 and Burdick Expressway intersect in Minot, ND, they’d better intersect. If the Sandia Mountains are east of downtown Albuquerque in Chapter 4, don’t put them west in Chapter 18.

Excessive or Lack of Punctuation – If a sentence has more than a few commas, it’s difficult to read. Same goes for lack of punctuation. Review long sentences or sentences containing commas, colons, semi-colons, or dashes.

What’s your copy-editing bug-a-boo? What consistency problems are your sticking points? Check back for Proofreading and Copy Editing, Parts III and IV.

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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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Find YOUR Sharkies

 

Then

In June, 2015, I gathered a handful of fellow writers, bloggers, and editors at my brother and sister-in-law’s home in Newark, Delaware. People I had been corresponding with and writing with and editing with for years before that. 

Because I was hawking myself as The Word Shark, “The Sharkies” became a reality. Each professional and experienced attendee had their chance to present, share, and educate the others. We had robust writing exercises and discussions. 

Now

We come from North Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. 

Even with covid, we have managed to continue to meet about every quarter to share, encourage, and commiserate on our successes and failures, via zoom. 

We had one such meeting yesterday, Saturday, 11/13. 

Sharkies rule! 

Always

I always come away from these get-togethers with a clear vision for what else I want to do, what else I need to do, with pages full of notes and inspiration, and an I’m-oh-so-grateful feeling for this group. 

If you’re a writer, 

Find YOUR Sharkies.

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SpewagE – Cool Commas

Let’s continue the SpewagE series on the blog – because there is so much to talk about and unpack.

Spelling, Proofreading, Editing, Writing, Apostrophes, Grammar, and English. “SpewagE.” I capped the last E because that’s how the art came out. 

Cool Commas

Commas are so cool, so gnarly, and so groovy. But, why so confusing? 

We can talk about commas all the live-long day. There are transitional expressions, absolute phrases, commas in dates and addresses and numbers, in titles, with coordinating conjunctions, coordinate adjectives, interrogative phrases, and in series, and yikes, the list goes on and on and on. 

I had general ideas for this Cool Commas blog, but I also referred to my Strunk and White, Elements of Style and my favorite reference of all time, Rules for Writers by Diana Hacker. 

Here are a few basic examples, reflected from checking in with those two tomes and my own experience with having a Mom and Ang who constantly told me to “Look it up” and then made me look it up. 

Simple – And 

I am old, and I am beautiful.

Both underlined segments are stand alone. In other words, “I am old” is a sentence, and “I am beautiful” is a sentence. So, I add the comma before the “and.” 

I am old and beautiful.

“I am old” is a sentence, but “beautiful” cannot stand alone. So, no comma before the “and.”

Simple – But 

Same basic idea as “and” above. 

I am old, but I am feisty and politically engaged. (Both before and after the “but” are full sentences.) 

I am old but feisty and politically engaged. (Just the first part, “I am old” is a full sentence.) 

The serial or Oxford comma

I will give up my Oxford comma when you pry it from my cold, dead, and gnarled hand. 

The Oxford comma is the second comma after “dead.” 

Example of why I honor and continue to utilize the Oxford comma in a series: 

“I love my parents, James Taylor and Carly Simon.” (Indicates my parents are James Taylor and Carly Simon.)

“I love my parents, James Taylor, and Carly Simon.” (Indicates I love all three.) 

You could also change it up and write, “I love James Taylor, Carly Simon, and my parents.”

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Do you typically wing it when it comes to comma placement, or do you have rules?  

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A dragon-sized thank you to Shawn MacKenzie who has been editing and proofreading all these SpewagE blogs since I started them September 5, 2021. Shawn is the author of The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook, Dragons for BeginnersLlewellyn’s Little Book of Dragons, and the upcoming Tarot of Dragons (about which you’ll be hearing more in the months to come), as well as numerous other fictions and essays.

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