They are two different stages of the revision process. Both demand close and careful reading, but they focus on different aspects of the writing and employ different techniques. Even editing is further broken down into developmental and copyediting.
Some tips that apply to both editing and proofreading
- Get some distance from the text.It’s hard to edit or proofread a paper that you’ve just finished writing—it’s still too familiar and you will end up reading it the way you wanted it to sound vs. what is actually on the paper. Put the paper aside for a days or weeks. Maybe even don’t look at it until two beta readers have finished giving you feedback.
- Do developmental edit first. No sense in doing all grammar and word corrections when you may have to cut and rewrite a lot of the manuscript. This is where alpha or beta readers are most helpful as they are giving BIG idea feedback. Make sure to ask them for just that. If they happen to be an expert in grammar and sentence structure ask them if they are open to taking a peak at an updated draft for that (do it upfront as to not burden them).
- Decide which medium lets you proofread most carefully.Some people like to work right at the computer, while others like to sit back with a printed copy that they can mark up as they read.
- Try changing the look of your document.Altering the size, spacing, color, or style of the text may trick your brain into thinking it’s seeing an unfamiliar document, and that can help you get a different perspective on what you’ve written. This is great for copy edits and proofreading.
- Find a quiet place to work, and if possible, do your editing and proofreading in several short blocks of time.Your concentration may start to wane if you try to proofread the entire text at one time. For copyedits and proofreading this is something I do. I know if I am paying attention to detail, checking with the Unabridged Meriam Webster dictionary, etc I start to lose my attention to detail after a couple of hours. So, I break manuscripts down in chunks and work on them that way.
One of the biggest questions you want to ask yourself is: Did you deliver on your promise to the reader? This can tie in to making sure you wrote to market within your genre. What does this mean? It means, audiences of certain genres have expectations. Such as with romance readers, they expect either a happy ending or a happy for now. So, what you are asking yourself here is, did you provide that? If you are writing fantasy, is there magic in your book? Also, if you promised an emotional journey, did you provide the reader with one? Or if you promised a comedic journey, did you write one or did you write a dark tragedy?
Once you have answered that, take a look at developmental edits. This is where you are looking for those big picture items as well: character arcs, structure, pacing, world building, plot issues. Beta readers are great for spotting these larger issues. Once all your developmental edits are done and you have your most recent draft, move on to copyedits.
When it comes to copyedit, you should start to look at sentence structure, vocabulary, etc. One of the best tools is the UNABRIDGED Meriam Webster’s dictionary. Keep a style guide for your book. This should include a list of characters, words you had to look up in the dictionary, spelling of words and places you make up to make sure you spell them correctly throughout (super helpful if you are planning a series). Like do I spell my last name as Wynters or Winters, if I were a character in a book (esp. if I am a secondary character). Tighten your sentences up here as well. Make sure your timeline is in order as well. This is a great place to concentrate on that.
There is a great resource for understanding copyediting: The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications by Amy Einsohn.
Note: my suggestion is to do any sensitivity reading that you might need BEFORE you begin copyedits. If your text is problematic and you need to rewrite and rethink something, it’s better to do it during the developmental stage.
Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, focusing on surface errors such as misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation. You should proofread only after you have finished all of your other editing revisions. This means proofreading is not about looking for plot holes. That should have already been corrected. This is where you want to make sure you use brake instead of break in a sentence if your character steps on a certain pedal in the car.
Content is important. But like it or not, the way a manuscript looks affects the way others judge it. When you’ve worked hard to develop and present your ideas, you don’t want careless errors distracting your reader. It’s worth paying attention to the details that help you to make a good impression.
While many may use software to help with spelling and grammar, some of those programs will not catch errors like Wynters vs Winters if I had used both versions of that for my name in a 70k manuscript.
One of the most helpful hints for proofreading is to read front to back, and back to front. And to also read out of order. Sure, this takes a little extra time, but it pays off in the end. If you know that you have an effective way to catch errors later, you can worry less about editing while you are writing your first drafts. This makes the entire writing proccess more efficient.
Try to keep the editing and proofreading processes separate. When you are editing an early draft, you don’t want to be bothered with thinking about punctuation, grammar, and spelling. If your worrying about the spelling of a word or the placement of a comma, you’re not focusing on the more important task of developing and connecting ideas.
Tips for Proofreading
Experiment with different tactics until you find a system that works well for you. The important thing is to make the process systematic and focused so that you catch as many errors as possible in the least amount of time.
- Don’t rely entirely on spelling checkers and grammar checkers.These can be useful tools but they are far from foolproof. Spell checkers have a limited dictionary, so some words that show up as misspelled may really just not be in their memory. In addition, spell checkers will not catch misspellings that form another valid word. For example, if you type “your” instead of “you’re,” the spell checker won’t catch the error.
- Read slow, and read every word.Try reading out loud, which forces you to say each word and also lets you hear how the words sound together. When you read silently or too quickly, you may skip over errors or make unconscious corrections.
- Circle every punctuation mark.This forces you to look at each one.
- Proofreading is a learning process.You’re not just looking for errors that you recognize; you’re also learning to recognize and correct new errors. This is where handbooks and dictionaries come in. Keep the ones you find helpful close at hand as you proofread because you’ll often find things that don’t seem quite right to you, but you may not be quite sure what’s wrong either. A word looks like it might be misspelled, but the spell checker didn’t catch it. You think you need a comma between two words, but you’re not sure why. Should you use “that” instead of “which”? If you’re not sure about something, look it up.
- The proofreading process becomes more efficient as you develop and practice a systematic strategy.You’ll learn to identify the specific areas of your own writing that need careful attention.
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The shared love of a retired military dog unexpectedly brings together two PTSD survivors in this heartfelt debut novel by Paris Wynters.
After an IED ends his military career, Major John Rathborne struggles to re-adjust to civilian life. Haunted by the death of his brother-in-arms, John’s determined to find his canine partner, Koda, now retired and re-homed. The last place he expects to find her is on a ranch in Absarokee, Montana, where he lands a foreman job and a chance at a new start.
Unfortunately, ranch manager Katie Locke just wants the new guy gone. She can’t shake the trauma from the night she was attacked, and God knows she doesn’t need some stranger invading her safe haven. She can’t ignore John’s brooding presence, and even her dog shares an uncanny bond with him. But when her father suffers a heart attack, Katie has no option but to put her differences with John aside to save the future of Three Keys Ranch.
As they slowly find a common bond and their attraction heats up, both realize they must heal from their past wounds if they want to explore a relationship. But John hasn’t told Katie about certain parts of his past–including that he and Koda had been partners in Afghanistan. Then he learns someone is out to destroy the ranch, and Katie is in their crosshairs. Has John opened his heart too late?