Five final proofreading checks to help your writing shine by Wendy Janes

After developmental editing and copy/line editing, your manuscript should be ready for proofreading. I always advise authors to carry out an initial proofread before sending their work to a professional proofreader.

You may be wondering why you should proofread your own work if you’re going to ask someone else to do it as well. This is because it’s very difficult to catch everything (you tend to read what you think you’ve written rather than what is actually on the page), and the cleaner your manuscript, the better job your proofreader can do.

So, here’s a selection of proofreading checks, which I hope you’ll find useful. To avoid overloading you, the main focus of this post is on words rather than punctuation or formatting issues.

#amediting? Here's a selection of proofreading checks when preparing your manuscript. @WendyProof Click To Tweet

1. Search for repeated words.

It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook things like ‘the the,’ especially when the first ‘the’ falls at the end of a line and the second sits at the start of the next. One of the last jobs I carry out when I’m proofreading is to type each of the following words twice and run a search in case I didn’t spot the doubling up when doing my original proofread: the, he, him, his, she, her, that, than, an, as, at, if, in, is, it, of, on, no, to, up.

I’ll confess that on occasion I have caught a double ‘the the’ at this stage, which is a dent to the ego, but confirmation that double-, triple-, and quadruple-checking never goes amiss.

#Editingtip in this #85K90 post: List of double words (the the) to search and replace. Click To Tweet

2. Spot your ‘crutch’ words and delete or replace them.

Still linked to repetition, but different to the situation above, crutch words are words or phrases that you overuse throughout a text. Common ones include: believe, glance, grin, feel, felt, just, knew, know, look, nod, now, realise, really, smile, that, think, turn, very, and well. In the interests of full disclosure mine are ‘just’ and ‘smile.’

List of common crutch words #proofreader @WendyProof finds in author manuscripts. #amwriting #amediting Click To Tweet

3. Run a check for easily confused words.

Go carefully with ‘though,’ ‘through,’ and ‘thought.’ Even though you may have thought you’d used these words correctly, I encourage you to go through the manuscript searching for each one to ensure there are no typos. The same goes for that/than/then and woman/women.

It’s also handy to run a check for the following old chestnuts too:

its/it’s
passed/past
there/their/they’re
to/too/two
your/you’re

On the 85K Writing Challenge: a list of #proofreading & #editingtips by @WendyProof. #85K90 Click To Tweet

4. Stick to US or UK English . . .

. . . or if you’ve chosen to use a mix, be consistent. For example, if you’ve chosen UK spelling and US punctuation, stick to this throughout. For those who are interested in the differences between US and UK English, here’s a link to my post on Olga Nunez Miret’s site, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Sticking to US or UK English or both? What to do and how to do it. @WendyProof #85K90 Click To Tweet

5. Ensure your spelling is consistent.

Some words have alternative spellings that are acceptable in both US and UK spelling. You need to make a choice. The following list is far, far from exhaustive, but a good place to start:

among/amongst
learned/learnt
realise/realize
while/whilst
toward/towards

I also strongly advise using a dictionary or style manual to double-check compound words beginning with things like ‘long,’ ‘mid,’ ‘out,’ ‘over,’ and ‘under’ to confirm whether they’re hyphenated or not.

Use dictionary or style manual to double-check compound words beginning with... @WendyProof #amediting #editingtips. Click To Tweet

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. Happy writing!

About Wendy Janes

A freelance proofreader and editor, Wendy Janes works with publishers and individual authors. She is also a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. Author of short stories and the novel, What Jennifer Knows, she loves to take real life and turn it into fiction. She lives in London with her husband and youngest son. You can discover more about Wendy via her website, where you’ll also find contact details if you’d like to get in touch.

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Julie Valerie

Julie Valerie

85K Writing Challenge: Embracing the writing life by advancing the practice of productive writing from first word to first reader.

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