Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why Can't I Proofread

Sometimes I despair of my proofreading abilities, even though I suspect that I'm actually better than a lot of folks at it. In a piece I was rereading last night for the umpteenth time I discovered that I'd written the word "mediation" where I meant "meditation." How many times I passed over that one I'll never know.

Of course, if that was my only error I might be OK. But I discovered that one major character had different colored eyes in two different places, that I'd changed the eye color for a minor character at one point but failed to change it elsewhere, that I'd described one character's eyes as "jade-black,"(Uhm, hello, jade is typically green," and that I'd written army where I meant navy. Even so, minor errors, you say? But how many times have I been through this piece? A lot, I'll tell you.

And I guess I can also tell you, you'll never catch 'em all. I think sometimes of myself as a perfectionist. In reality I have to admit I'm not even close.


Emily said...

Re proofreading: spell check helps some, of course, but it's more helpful to read your text aloud, and/or have someone else read it aloud to you.

Another trick is to read a text backwards. I've never managed it, but some folks swear by it.

I'm an ace proofreader, and it makes me crazy to see misspellings. Anyone have etiquette tips about that? On the off chance that I might sometimes see a misspelling in Charles's blog, for instance, should I growl, or figure that blogs are informal?


Emily Toth

JR's Thumbprints said...

Before I send a story out, I let my convict tutors read it. One guy in particular (he's since transferred) was really really good at catching inconsistencies or illogical minor details. But you're right, somethings slip by. Call me crazy, but I've rewritten some stories to the point where I could almost recite them.

Steve Malley said...

I'd have sworn I proofread my MS to within an inch of its life before I solicited it. I was SURE.

Then in the same phone conversation where Agent Anne told me she loved the story and hoped I'd be a client, she also quietly let me know I'd left out Chapter Nineteen.


Lucas Pederson said...

I have the smae problem. I have three proofreaders, non-family if you can believe it, and they usually do a pretty good job at catching what I missed after about sxty time reading it over. But even they can't spy all the bad spots and other horrors. All we can do is try our best, do what we can and pray to all that is Holy, that we won't be laughed at when the manuscript finds the hands of an editor.

Donnetta Lee said...

I know I am NOT good at proofreading myself. Need help. I can proofread hubby's work, however, quite well. Just proves to me that you need (or I need) another set of eyes. I feel that blogging is pretty informal. But do like to put something out there that shows thought and not too sloppy. I agree with Emily that it helps to read your writing aloud. It can sometimes surprise you!

Stewart Sternberg said...

You know what the most horrible thing is...or rather what one of the most horrible things...okay..not horrible...maybe annoying. Maybe not annoying so much as irritating a little.

It's when you submit a manuscript. Then, you go back to your copy of the thing you've just stuck in the mail and discover three or four glaring errors and have no idea how you could have missed them.

etain_lavena said...

The thing is with your own work you tend to misread what is actually there...cause you know what you meant;)
I also get very peed off at myself if I miss errors...:)

Erik Donald France said...

All true. Can't catch everything. To Emily: if there's a glaring error, I'd rather know about it -- including blog entries. I make most errors (probably) on comment boards :-> Those I usually catch right after hitting the "Publish" button.

Charles Gramlich said...

Emily, I do the out loud thing, though don't do as well with the backward reading. I typically consider blogs informal and unless the error makes the blogger look really dumb I probably won't comment on it. If it does make them look bad I'll try to send them a private email.

Thanks everone for sharing their own proofreading experiences. JR, I do the same thing with the rewrites.

cs harris said...

I was so horrified by all the mistakes I missed in the proofs of my first book that I read the galleys of the second one backwards. It was torture, and I STILL missed stuff. Ever since, I give it my best shot and know I'm going to miss things. My mind simply sees what I expect to be there. The best proofreader is someone seeing those words for the fist time. I avoid opening my published books because I'm terrified I'll spot a mistake now that it's too late to do anything about it.

Emily said...

You can't fool me! I note that people here have now posted "smae" for "same," "fist" for "first," and have omitted many a needed comma just to annoy me. Ha! I am annoyed and also amused, and I take it all as a personal tribute.

Upbeat, c'est moi!

Emily Toth, feeling jovial

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