Why Proofreading is the New Rock ‘n’ Roll …

… or why a good proofreader is part of the creative process of your book.

I recently read in the Observer a wonderful interview with Mary Norris, who does what I do for a living, i.e. she’s a proofreader and copy editor; the difference being that she’s worked for the last 20 years at the New Yorker, which makes me greatly in awe of her. I revere the New Yorker more than almost any other publication, not only for its content, but also its covers, its history, and its famous building, the first sight of which a few years ago gave me goose bumps.

new yorker

Mary explains the value of copy editing and proofreading in an inspiring way that makes me want to share it with you, so I quote:

Some might wonder why we still need copy editors when we have spell-check. It does catch typos. But the reason that the spell-checker will never replace the copy editor is that it doesn’t recognise the context. The English language is full of words that are just waiting to be misspelled, and the world is full of sticklers, waiting to pounce. Ours is not a phonetic language, like Italian, Spanish and Modern Greek, where certain letters and combinations of letters can be relied on to produce consistent sounds. English has many silent letters. And its motley origins make it fiendishly difficult to untangle.

‘One of the things I like about my job is that it draws on the entire person: not just your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and usage and foreign languages and literature, but also your experience of travel, gardening, shipping, singing, plumbing, Catholicism, midwesternism, mozzarella, the A train, New Jersey. And in turn it feeds you more experience.’

I could not agree more. Β Every time I begin working with a new client, I learn page by page what their personal idiosyncrasies are. As I do so, I learn what I can bring to the table, in terms of suggestions, alterations that improve rather than merely correct, and an understanding of the author’s unique style. You see, we proofreaders aren’t just sitting there waiting to pounce on the misplaced apostrophe; with our experience we are able to help your book be the best it can be, in ways we don’t even know until we’ve met you.

Here’s what some of my clients have said about my behind-the-scenes contribution to their work:Β My Testimonials

And to all proofreaders, copy editors, editors, authors, and lovers of the English language, I recommend this book: Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Between-You-Me-Confessions-Comma/dp/0393240185/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1455106584&sr=8-1&keywords=mary+norris

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25 thoughts on “Why Proofreading is the New Rock ‘n’ Roll …

  1. I so agree. I know I’m fairly good at catching my own mistakes and have a few tricks for doing so, but I’d never publish a print book (or ebook) without having a proofreader look it over for me because there will be tyops and duplicate words words and grammatically errors that I’ll overlook no matter how many times I go through my own things. (That was on purpose, though. ;)) I currently serialise a novel and it is generally understood that it is not a 100% finished product, but of course I do read the chapters through several times before uploading. And still mistakes creep in. Luckily, in that format, I can go back and fix mistakes. Well, my point is: I have the greatest respect for proofreaders and copy editors. πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you for your kind and nail-on-the-head comments. I find that the most articulate, erudite and intelligent of authors can still make errors that they simply can’t believe they made – and they will overlook them on the first, second and third re-reads! It’s because you can’t effectively proofread your own work. (I have to be very careful myself, in the interests of my credibility!)

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      • You’re welcome! πŸ™‚ Oh, I can understand that you need to be careful. And, being a professional translator as well as a writer, I can sympathise with the sentiment. πŸ˜‰

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  2. Editing and proof reading are so essential! OK you’re the creative source for the book you are writing, but very often your view is flawed. You get wrapped up in the story, lulled into a false sense that what you have written must be perfect. Wrong. You need to give yourself over to a safe pair of hands who will look at your work with an objective eye. I would not be without an editor/proof reader, they’re such an essential part of the writing journey.

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    • Naturally I couldn’t agree more, but not only from a self-interested point of view. I got into this business because I am endlessly fascinated by words and the English language in general (and learning other languages). I have learnt that even the very best, most literate authors can make mistakes while they’re writing, really basic errors that they can’t believe they’ve made. One cannot proofread one’s own work, and that’s a fact.

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  3. I want to to thank you for this wonderful read!!
    I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it. I have got you saved as a favorite to check out new things
    you

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  4. Pingback: Wednesday Wing – WHY YOUR BOOK NEEDS A PROOFREAD part 2 by @ProofreadJulia #wwwblogs | Rosie Amber

  5. Great discussion! Including the comments.I had one author get angry with me over the mistakes I found when reviewing his book. He said he had paid 2 editors. He calmed down and is now a client, working on his third book which I will proofread for him after all edits and rewrites are done. I know my sweet spot.

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    • Thank you, and I feel sorry for your client concerning his previous experience. It’s so rotten when writers pay people who aren’t up to the job! I always say, get a free sample and get recommendations from real people, that you can check.

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  6. My mind boggles every time someone suggests that a spell checker is enough. I’m really, really careful and don’t rely on a spell checker, but I still managed to send an email to a friend today that said ‘curse’ instead of ‘course’. She spotted it very quickly. In context it was quite amusing, but I was grateful that it was something that had gone to a friend and not to any other audience.

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