PROOFREADING IS IMPORTANT
I get very annoyed when I read posts on social media which contain simple spelling errors. Don’t these people ever CHECK what they have written? You cannot always rely on your device’s spellchecker.
I am something of a literary snob. Point taken.
After 35 years of trying to teach children how to write correctly, it is firmly part of my makeup. It annoys me. I want to get out a red pen and draw a firm line through the offending words. Errors on signs in public places such as shops also irk me, as do mistakes in our local newspaper (which always has a few).
I saw a classic example of this over the entrance to a restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was called “Sweet Memorize”. I certainly have memorised that sign, and memories of it are always sweet. I should add that I didn’t eat in that restaurant. Goodness knows what they did to their menu – especially if it was translated into English.
I know it is petty of me to talk about this in disparaging terms. Providing there is communication, I guess that is all that counts.
Errors in published books
For publishers to allow errors of spelling in printed books is a totally different matter. I can accept the occasional typo, and even a small spelling mistake. But to allow a totally wrong word to be used is beyond comprehension. Someone in the proofreading department was asleep at the wheel, I think.
I am starting to read more and more eBooks, and some of these have been self-published. This is where the errors are creeping in, and standards are dropping rapidly, often with amusing consequences. I was recently reading a wonderful novel which was spoiled for me by totally missed out words.
It had a completely incorrect word.
I won’t mention the name of the book, or the name of the author. I don’t wish to embarrass them, but this error made me laugh out loud. The angry protagonist was said to “utter a string of obscurities.”
I concede that the words “obscurities” and “obscenities” are close enough to get the spelling incorrect, but surely someone picked up this glaring error before going to print?
Whatever happened to allow this error to creep in is a lesson for us all. Proofreading one’s writing before it goes public is crucial, no matter what the format. Getting someone else to check your writing is also important.
Now, before I post this article, I had better go back and check every word.
- To err is human – to proofread is to be a good writer: 7 effective proofreading hints
- The importance of proofreading
- The importance of revising your writing
- Forgetting the obvious
I received a phone call from my supervising lecturer yesterday with the good news that I’ve passed my Master of Arts (Creative Writing) degree.
And with a Distinction, too.
After three years of intensive, hard and sometimes frustrating work, I finally get to wear the funny hat and gown in a few months’ time. It has been a difficult and testing time, but there have been many highlights and fun times in there as well. My final thesis paper was a 40,000 word novel for children plus a 10,000 word exegesis essay on the research, influences and processes of writing. You can read more about the process in a series of articles here. Now I start the next phase in the process; trying to find a publisher to give my precious novel a good home. This could prove to be the hardest part of all.
So what have I learned?
Doing my degree has taught me some valuable lessons:
- Writers can always improve: no matter how much you think you know about writing, you can always get better.
- Writing is hard work: I have put in literally thousands of hours of writing, rewriting, editing and proofreading into my essays, assignments and novel.
- Writers need persistence: I must admit there were times when I almost gave up, when the task seemed too much or health issues intervened. By persisting I was able to finish the race.
- Writers learn to write by writing: there is no other way. Write, write, write – and your writing skills will develop.
- Rewriting is as important as writing the first draft: too often I have been satisfied with the attitude my first or second draft of a story or poem. Most first drafts are rubbish. My novel went through an incredible 17 drafts before I was truly happy with it.
- Editing is a part of the creative process: I used to hate editing my stories. I found it tedious and boring. I wanted to be rid of the story and to get on with the next one. Editing is an essential part of the writing process; ignore this stage and your writing will remain mediocre – and unpublished. I still don’t love editing, but I have come to appreciate its importance.
- Proofreading is an essential writing skill: editors and publishers are almost unanimous in their chief gripes about writers, and this one is almost always near the top of their list. If you don’t proofread your writing before sending it off to a publisher you stand a very poor chance of having the work published.
I could go on, but these seven things stand out. I probably could add patience too, because that lesson is still coming. Sure, I have had to wait a long time to get my final results, but the wait to hear from a publisher is sure to be much longer, and then the wait to hold the book in my hands may be even longer. But as they say, good things come to those who wait.
And if patience is a virtue, then I must be very virtuous.
I haven’t had much time to add new posts here on this site for some time. I am in a frantic rush to finish my novel for children in the next few days. Then I will be submitting it as my thesis paper for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing.
I’m currently working on the 9th draft and essentially all I am doing is proofreading. I’m checking that my last rewrite – from third to first person – scraped through with no glaring errors, especially with the changes to the pronouns used. I’m finding a few but not as many as I thought I would.
One of the amazing things about this draft is the errors I’m still finding, mainly missing words. Although this is officially the 9th draft, in reality it is probably the 15th time I’ve been through the manuscript – some sections could well be more. And I’m still finding little errors!
Who’d be a writer?
Over recent weeks I have been rewriting my novel for children.
It is now in its 8th draft in which I changed from the third person to the first person. So far, so good. I think it has been worth the effort. While I was at it, I made some significant changes to many phrases and sentences, including cutting out whole paragraphs – but also adding quite a few words and phrases here and there. The nett result is an increase of about 500 words over the whole manuscript while at the same time cutting at least a thousand words.
Now this week I am going over the whole manuscript again – this time meticulously. I’m looking for typos, spelling errors, punctuation mistakes, redundancies, and especially the misuse of pronouns, a problem which occurs when one changes point of view. All this editing and checking is wearying but essential.
It is essential because I want this book to be the very best I can do.
Writing a novel – a writer’s journal: part 20
Rewriting and editing: is there a difference?
There is a fine line between rewriting and editing. One of my lecturers is quite adamant that there is a huge difference. I see them as distinct but closely related. What you call them is not important. It’s the process that is crucial.
By rewriting I mean going back over the whole text and literally rewriting whole passages – perhaps even whole chapters. In my case, there should be a minimal amount of this as I strive for my first draft to be very good. Blogging – as well as many aspects of the course work for my MA – has taught me to write quickly and accurately. It comes with experience – the more you write the better you get at it.
Despite that, I know that there are quite a few passages where I need to scrap what I’ve written and rewrite afresh. My supervising lecturers, (and fellow students) have pointed out that in the early chapters I have managed to have an inconsistent and shifting point of view which is confusing to the reader. It is very important to be consistent with POV in children’s books.
In some cases only a sentence or two need rewriting; in other areas it can be as much as a paragraph or part of a chapter.
There will also be some cultural elements relating to my setting (Nepal) that I still want to include. My first draft was just getting the story down. This element of the rewriting is more fine tuning the story, adding local colour, cultural references, locally used words and expressions and so on. I’m striving for authenticity; all I have at present is the plot. (Perhaps that is being a little harsh on myself! I hope you get the point.)
Editing on the other hand is a distinct discipline. In this stage I will look at all the nitty-gritty elements of spelling, punctuation, word usage, grammar and sentence construction. It really is a nit-picking stage. Basically being an editor with a big red pencil. A bit like how I marked students’ work when I was a classroom teacher in another life.
The editing process is also distinct from the proofreading stage. This last stage is checking that everything is totally correct, that there are no typos and the finished manuscript is perfect in every way. You don’t look for elements of style or even grammar at this stage.
- Writing a novel – many articles extensively outlining the process I went through while writing a novel for children.