Hello, I’m Zara, and I have worked in publishing for 12 years. I am a trained proofreader and a Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editors & Proofreaders (CIEP).
Proofreading will be the last stage your book goes through, after editing and layout. In the proofreading stage, the proofreader may notice any errors the editor has missed. You should also be aware that the typesetting process can accidentally introduce mistakes, such as widows and orphans; these are words on their own in a line or one word on a new page. Sometimes the typesetter – the person who lays out your book – forgets to add a final illustration.
Here are the top five reasons why you must ask a professional proofreader to check through your book, not your Auntie Gladys, even if she does love reading!
REASON 1: Catching spelling and grammatical errors
Spelling and grammar may seem obvious to check, but errors can still slip in. Do you know every rule about grammar and punctuation? The English language is continually changing, with new words evolving, and new usages of words. A proofreader’s job is to keep track of all these new rules and make sure your book complies with them.
Spelling and grammar checkers are a useful tool but do not be reliant on them – they will not pick up everything. Grammarly is a reliable free download, but it often uses US spellings, which could go against your publisher’s house style. The proofreader will make sure the spelling, grammar, and punctuation are consistent with that of the publisher’s house style, such as whether a word ends in ‘-ise’ or ‘-ize’.
REASON 2: Author’s closeness to text
After working on their text for a lengthy period, authors have a closeness and a familiarity with their work, which blinds them from seeing the flaws. The eyes of a proofreader are a fresh pair of eyes. Proofreaders are detached from the text and will be able to spot mistakes and inconsistencies more easily.
When we read, our brain interprets what it expects or wants to read, not what is there, so a fresh pair of eyes is essential. Take this, for example:
FI YUO CNA RAED TIHS, YUOR BAIRN SI TCIRKNIG YOU
The mistakes are obvious, but you didn’t have trouble reading what it was supposed to say, did you? If you can read that with such blatant errors, can you imagine trying to catch the mistakes in your work, where errors may not be so apparent to you?
REASON 3: Structure and layout
Structure and layout is something people do not look at when checking their work; instead, they read the main body of the text rather than looking at the book as a whole. A proofreader will look at everything in the final typeset document and is the last person to do so, so will notice the consistency of headings and subheadings have the same font, or if there is a missing page number on the Contents page.
REASON 4: Photographs and illustrations
A proofreader will check illustrations, graphs, tables and the such like, along with captions separately to make sure these are accurate and in the correct places.
The inclusion of Photographs and illustrations can often appear at a later stage in the production of the book. Your proofreader will check these have all been added, and not forgotten.
REASON 5: References and contents page
Due to copyright, it is vitally important that you have correctly listed your references to acknowledge the author of the original work. There are specific ways to set out these references, usually depending on which way your publisher prefers. Still, all the details must be listed correctly so that your readers can quickly locate the sources.
Problems can occur when indexing references within the text, usually with the reference number being incorrect, and these errors can be hard to spot. Your proofreader will make sure these are listed accurately, and conform to the publisher’s house style.
Once your book has been worked on by both a professional editor and proofreader, you will be safe in the knowledge that your book will be a perfect, error-free book, which will give readers hours of pleasure.
Think wisely – get a good proofreader.
Zara Thatcher – Proofreader
Thank you to Brenda Dempsey of Book Brilliance Publishing for allowing me to guest blog on her website.