Hints and Tips on Proofing and Editing

There has been much discussion between various authors and writing groups concerning the whys, wherefores and benefits of having work proofread and/or edited by a professional. This has been particularly prevalent between Indie writers who, for one reason or another, feel wronged and slighted if someone comments that their book is let down by typos and errors, as if this is the worst thing in the world to happen and makes them less of a professional author. It doesn’t. There is no shame in making a mistake. Even in mainstream publishing one or two typos do slip through. And let’s face it, even with the best will in the world, a good proofreader and copy editor is not infallible and can, and does, miss the odd thing. But what many independent authors fail to appreciate is that it isn’t just the annoying little typo that’s the problem.

Over the past couple of years I have read lots of books published independently; what is the problem in many of these is not spelling errors per se – it’s all the other bits and pieces that make up the whole reading experience that is often sadly lacking. By this, I mean the typesetting and formatting skills of bookmaking and the lack of the necessary writing skills needed to tell, and thus sell, a good story.

Many authors do not know how to format prose and dialogue, do not understand how dialogue should be set down and punctuated, they fail to use consistency in spellings, and many authors fall down completely in the use of capitalisation and paragraphs, apostrophe use, misplaced colons, when words should be italicised or not, when to use ellipses or not … the list goes on. And it is these things that annoy a reader far more than the odd little spelling mistake and typo. These are the things a good editor will highlight, things a good proofreader will correct. They are not the things your granny or best friend would even consider when checking your manuscript for you.

Yes, I know many will say that the odd typo or error doesn’t detract from a story for them, but there are a great deal more that say it does. Hence, the plethora of discussions and comments on Amazon or wherever about them.

Unless dialogue is set out correctly and tags used to good effect, it can be sometimes impossible to follow who is saying what to whom. Often a writer will think using he said/she said is adequate every time. But, used all the time, not only is this boring to read, it is taking so much away from the story when the words, the actual dialogue itself, should be making it clear who is speaking. The odd grammar mistake isn’t a problem for most readers, and I’m certainly no slave to perfect English grammar, after all, most of us don’t worry about correct grammar when speaking in everyday life.

Whilst it is appreciated that what is acceptable in one country is not in another, that there are various differences in acceptable grammar and spellings, I can only speak from a UK standpoint, and from my many years involved in typesetting, writing, proofing and copy editing and reading. I have thus set out at  Proofing Tips a few hints, tips and guidance on how a book should be set out. I’m not talking chapters, fonts and page numbers here, but the physical layout of words and punctuation that should be used, in order for your readers to have a much better experience of your work and lose themselves in your story, instead of being confused and thrown out by poor crafting.

The list will expand over time, in the hope that the standard of independent books is raised and the profile and credibility of Indie authors grows. And well it should, for there are a great many stories out there, huge numbers of excellent writers. Although independent publishing is slowly receiving the accolade it deserves, there is still a great deal of work to be done in. These are exciting times we live in through this changing world of publishing. Together, let’s make it the best it can be for future generations.

Click here to go to Proofing Tips page.

11 thoughts

  1. Good post for all new authors to read and hopefully, learn from. Every writer needs a little help or reminder now and then, even if it is only to help the editor appreciate the author more by discovering less mistakes, thus enabling authors to come off more in tuned to the use of proper grammar than they normally may be.


    1. Hi Brian. Would rather encourage authors to appreciate editors more and to see the value in having a trained eye look over work, as I’ve read some really cringing making errors. English grammar and language isn’t straightforward, but if we can help each other and learn from it, it has to be to the greater good, especially for our readers, who, let’s face it, are who we write for and thus our writing should be as good as it can be.
      I’ve been proofing and editing for years, yet I learn something from every book I handle, even if it just a new word.
      All the best and great to see you here.


  2. It’s always handy to know someone who ‘knows their stuff’ Kit and you do such a wonderful job over at lovehappyending.com! For some of us though it’s that extra pair of ‘professional’ eyes (like your own) that exposes the ‘word blindness’ people like myself often experience. No matter how many times I read some things, I don’t ‘see’ what’s in print, but ‘see’ what’s in my mind…. how annoying is that?


  3. This is a great post, Kit, and one all writers should read. I always have a writers and editors dictionary on my desk when I am writing, it is an invaluable help in respect of spelling and correct word usage. I also have style guide which deals with things like italics, capitals and formatting. I wouldn’t do without either of them.


    1. Thank you, Chris. A decent dictionary (I always use Collins Consise – huge tome but brilliant). Style guides are very good, too, even though styles can vary between different editors and especially publishing houses. What is important is consistency throughout any one document. Later, I will be including things like use of italics and capitals within the list as people often get confused with these things.


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