by LinDee Rochelle
Ah, it’s a glorious feeling to hold your first proof book in hand. You did it! You actually completed a whole writing project, called a “book,” and your feeling of personal accomplishment is indescribable. (Cue tears of joy in this scene.)
However, this first-phase publication is more than an instrument for catching final typos and grammar errors. It is also “proof” that you are an author! For at least several minutes, allow yourself to be proud.
OK. Time’s up. Now let’s get back to work. By now you have rested for several weeks and should be able to turn a fresh eye to reviewing and correcting your proof book in preparation for final publication. Caution: Review and correct does not mean revise.
This is not the time to move paragraphs, modify chapter two, or add a new character. Those things should have been completed prior to submission. If you have not yet submitted your book for publication and have any qualms about possible significant changes, do not submit thinking you can make changes in the proof phase. Regardless of your publisher, you will likely incur additional costs and delay the publication process.
So assuming your book is finished to the point of no return, what should you hunt down with a powerful magnifying glass on receipt of your magnificent proof book?
There are many tricks and tips for proofing text – reading it backwards (that would take forever in a book!), reading it upside down (seriously?!), and reading it very slowly (yawn). Below are a few solid tips and reminders of what is important.
L’s Seven Suggestions for … proofing your proof book to polish your prose:
- Reading aloud is one of the most effective ways to proof; of course, if you’re caught, you might have to explain why you’re acting like a third grader.
- Proof for one aspect at a time; i.e., first the body/text, then the formatting/spacing, etc; break it down so you’re concentrating on just one review area.
- Keep a list of every error and clearly mark it in the proof book; this provides a checks and balance for both you and your publisher.
- If you or your editor created a Style Sheet for your book, keep it handy while you proof.
- Of course, you’re looking for pure and simple typos – misspellings, capitalizations, punctuation goofs; but don’t forget to look for little-word-syndrome: inadvertent substitutions of “is” for “in” or vice versa, et al.
- Did you make global name changes while writing, or other revisions that affected the whole work? Did you get them all? (Even the find/replace function is not infallible.)
- Review formatting for anomalies and inconsistencies, as well as widows and orphans, which may require very light editing to resolve the issue – but first, discuss with your publisher, as often the problem can be corrected with format spacing:
- widow: a paragraph line that lands in another column or on another page, separated from the rest of its text
- orphan: paragraph ending with a word or few words appearing on a line by itself/themselves
While this is obviously not a comprehensive list, hopefully it will prime your thinking pump. Most of these items should have been caught prior to submission; but it’s nearly impossible to catch them all, no matter how many times you review, or how wonderful your editor is.
You may as well know this now – rare is the book that is 100% error-free. You perfectionists out there … get over it! (And yes, I’m talking to myself, as well.)