In a change to the usual Georgia Rose interviews expert error spotter, Julia Gibbs, about perfect days and, of course, proofreading.
What’s the difference between proofreading and editing?
As a proofreader, I will correct the following, amongst other things:
- Spelling errors
- Punctuation errors
- Grammatical errors
- Obviously missing or duplicated words
- Misapplied or inconsistent tenses
- Wrongly-assigned dependent clauses (dangling modifiers)
Editors will perform services such as: suggesting cutting out characters; changing or omitting dialogue; changing the narrative arc of the novel; moving chapters around; various other suggestions that will in their opinion improve the book. I don’t alter the writer’s work apart from correcting it. However, I include copy editing (another offshoot!) in my brief; for example, I will point out anomalies of plot or continuity if I notice them. I will also comment if I think that a word or phrase is repeated too many times in a paragraph, and sometimes suggest alternatives.
Therefore, I emphasise that proofreading should take place as the final stage before your work is ready for publication. All editing and rewrites should be done before proofreading. The only stages that come after proofreading are formatting for Kindle, and cover design. Here’s another definite ‘don’t’ for authors – I recently sent a manuscript back to an author, and she was very pleased with it. She then decided to add a few sentences here and there to her work, as a result of which another 40-50 errors were unintentionally also added. The reviewers picked up on these, much to her annoyance – and that’s why proofreading must be the last stage for your book!
NB – please try if you can to give your proofreader a bit of notice when sending your MS to be worked on. Any proofreader (or editor/cover designer etc) worth their salt will be booked up for a few weeks ahead, so although we appreciate that art cannot be rushed or work to a deadline, it’s great if you can let us know some time in advance that you will be requiring our services. Thank you!
Here come the FAQs:
Why can’t an author proofread their own work? I can do that, I can use spell check, I’m educated and I’m not stupid!
I say, you can try, but it’s not a good idea! Spell check was once described to me as ‘a false friend’. If you’ve written a word that is spelled correctly, spell check will let it through, even if you’ve written ‘naked’ when you meant to write ‘named’ – try getting out of that one! No matter how educated or intelligent a writer is, the fact is that the author is too close to their work and can’t see the wood for the trees. When you read your own work, you see what you expect to see, not what’s actually there. Apparently, the brain picks up on the first, fifth and tenth words of the sentence, and just assumes the rest is OK. I’ve been given novels to work on that have been read through by their author multiple times – and I’ve still found scores of mistakes! Everyone makes typos, there’s not a writer alive who doesn’t.
My friend will proofread my novel for me, she has a degree in English, and it won’t cost me anything.
I would say, by all means ask a friend or two to look through your work for typos. They will probably spot quite a few. But your friend has a different mind-set to me; I don’t know you, I don’t know anything about your work, it’s all completely new to me. I don’t know what to expect – but I will find those pesky typos, it’s a whole different ball game when proofreading is your job! Not only that but, with the best will in the world, one’s attitude changes when one is being paid to do a job, rather than doing it as a favour.
Quite a few of the proofreaders I see on Twitter are authors, too. Does this mean they’ll be good proofreaders?
Not necessarily – although some authors may indeed be very good proofreaders, it’s not a good idea to assume that this is the case. I recently looked at the ‘look inside’ bit of a book on Amazon newly proofread by an ‘author turned proofreader’, and found 12 errors in the first few pages alone. Being a writer yourself is no more a qualification for being a good proofreader than is being a librarian.
What’s a quick way to tell if an author will be any good as a proofreader? Easy! If they have even one review for their own book that questions their own grammar and punctuation, steer well clear!
Readers don’t mind a few typos, it’s the story that counts. They can see that I’m a good writer.
A handful of readers don’t mind or don’t notice typos. But the vast majority do notice, and a small percentage of those will leave a review that helpfully points out all those mistakes, thus bringing them to the attention of all your potential readers. Don’t forget, the reading public doesn’t care how long it took you to write the book, or how hard it was to produce it – if they’ve paid even a small amount for your book, or even if it was free, they’re going to get pretty annoyed if they think they’re not getting their money’s worth, however unfair that may seem to you.
How much does it cost?
I charge £3.75 per 1,000 words. For my US clients, this is $5.75. I can also invoice in the currency of your choice, whether it be Euros, Canadian dollars etc..
I make the corrections by using the Track Changes function in a Word document, whereby you can then accept or reject the changes singly or all together. I send you the MS with the changes shown, so that you can see what I have done, and also a second version with the changes implemented, for your information; not every client wishes to look through all the changes themselves, but I think you should be aware of what has been done.
I will not invoice you until I’ve finished the work, which I aim to complete in 10-14 days for novels or long works, or less time which I will advise you of in the case of shorter works. In this time I will go through the work thoroughly, twice. I accept payment by bank transfer, PayPal or check.
A few typos may look like a little matter – but they can cost you big business.
(And just to save you looking for them later, in case you want to know, here is the link to my testimonials!)
I am always happy to hear from any authors, whether experienced or just starting out. At heart, I am a reader and a fan, and I never know what wonderful new books are out there waiting for me to discover them! Email for any further info: email@example.com. Or I’m on Twitter: @ProofreadJulia
And Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProofreaderJulia
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On August 12th 2016, I spoke on the phone to my dear friend Jacquie for the last time. I didn’t know it was the last time, of course, one very rarely does – but I had a horrible feeling that it might be.
Jacquie had become a chronic alcoholic, and hidden the extent of her alcoholism from me, as people suffering from addictions tend to do. Although more ‘socially acceptable’ than heroin or crystal meth addiction, alcoholism is no different in its ability to destroy someone’s life. This is a story of Jacquie and me . Here we are in 2008 in Las Vegas, and in 2002 in Los Angeles.
I met the most glamorous rock chick in south-west England in 1993, on a cross-Channel ferry on the way to a David Lee Roth concert in France. Our friendship grew in the days before the internet and mobile phones, despite the fact that we lived a few hundred miles from each other – we used to write letters and make phone calls, seems archaic now! – and we had countless wonderful times together. The most noteworthy, I suppose, were the trips to West Hollywood, when we would spend every evening in The Rainbow – the ultimate rockers’ hangout! Then there was Las Vegas for my birthday, more gigs than I can count, shopping trips in London to buy the clothes we both loved, happy days just visiting each other’s houses and sitting around chatting, or just evenings phoning each other up with a bottle of wine; as we lived so far from each other, we used to call them our ‘girls’ nights in’.
Jacquie was very beautiful, in fact people used to look at her in the street all the time, but she was the least vain woman I ever knew. She’d only ever look in the mirror once before she went out, and that was it. Here is another photo of her, this one taken in 2003:
We both liked a drink, and there was never an occasion that didn’t seem to merit a glass of wine or three. The difference between us began to show when Jacquie told me she was drinking every night, and I don’t mean just one or two glasses. She didn’t like her job, she was unhappy in her personal life, and she said that drinking was the only thing that she enjoyed. A few years ago, it started to take its toll on her appearance. I wish she had been more vain, it might have stopped her. Granted, we all change a bit as we get older, but this is what alcoholism did to Jacquie in the space of 10 years.
Believe me, you really don’t want to know what she looked like a few weeks before she died.
Over the years her drinking moved from the ‘fun though a bit excessive’ to ‘out of control’. It had a detrimental effect on all her relationships, spoiled social occasions, got her into trouble at work, sucked up far too much of her salary, made her depressed, ruined her looks, and, of course, did the sort of damage to her health that often can’t be detected until it’s too late.
Jacquie was a very kind, non-judgemental, gentle, sweet person. She would always listen if someone needed help or advice, and would never dream of imposing on others if she could help it. I knew she was in big trouble when she telephoned me in June of 2016, crying and saying that she felt terrible. We had a long talk, and a few more after that; I was very worried about her drinking and tried everything to make her stop. I alternately cajoled, sympathised, predicted dire consequences, lost my temper, begged, encouraged, offered suggestions of counselling, enlisted the help of friends who lived near her – oh, just anything I could think of. She refused to believe that it was alcohol that was making her ill, even when she had to give up work and could hardly move from the sofa, though she described herself as an alcoholic. She said she was just depressed.
In August 2016 I wrote a letter to Jacquie, telling her there comes a point when all alcoholics have to decide whether they want to live or die and begging her to choose before she ran out of options. Two days after receiving the letter, she gave up drinking. It was too late – Jacquie died on 7th September 2016. Her death certificate read ‘Multiple organ failure due to alcoholic hepatitis’. She was in great pain, but they couldn’t give her morphine because her organs couldn’t take it. People say she’s at peace now; I hope she is, but I am not. I think about Jacquie most days, and I shall miss her forever. No, I don’t blame myself at all, but I wish so much that I could have done something to save her.
I’m writing this to tell you that if you know someone who drinks to dangerous levels, please do everything you can to persuade them to do otherwise, but don’t think you can be a miracle worker. And if you are a slave to alcohol, please get some help. You might actually die – by the time you decide you don’t want to die, it could be too late and believe me, it won’t be a peaceful slipping away. There are many organisations that will talk to you, understand what you’re feeling, who have people to help you who have been through the same experience as you. (Jacquie only ever drank wine by the way, just to inform those who think that ‘real alcoholics’ drink hard liquor in the morning!) You don’t have to drink every day to be an alcoholic, and be warned – a year before her death, Jacquie underwent a work-mandated health check that said her liver was fine, despite several years of excessive drinking.
Jacquie left behind her grieving parents and relatives, countless friends who had stuck with her throughout, an ex-husband who still cared very much for her, a man who was the love of her life, and many colleagues who’d supported her and enjoyed being her friend over the past 25 years. (I would just like to say, although it’s kind of people to do so, I am not writing this so that people may offer me their condolences, that’s not necessary, I really don’t want that – it’s more important to me to honour and celebrate Jacquie’s life, and if my words help even one person, then she did not die in vain.)
In memory of my beautiful friend, who has reminded me to redouble my efforts to live every day to the full, and who brought an irreplaceable sparkle to my life. Here she is on her 40th birthday, riding in an open-top car down Sunset Boulevard!
I am grateful to my sister, author Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) for her help and suggestions with this post. She also has lost some friends to alcohol abuse, and wrote this post a while ago, as a tribute and a warning. One for the road and another for the pavement
“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.” ― Henry David Thoreau
They say you can do anything if you put your mind to it. That’s not true, of course, but it’s surprising what you can do when you try.
When I started working from home, I loved it. Well, who wouldn’t? You set your own timetable, slobbing around in elastic-waist trousers, eating whenever you feel like it, as documented ad nauseam in hundreds of ‘what it’s like working from home’ blog posts. There’s a downside, of course. There always is. The discipline of working in an office, being obliged to wear smart tailored clothes and actually move around a bit, is better for one’s general appearance than sitting on one’s ever-growing posterior with only a laptop for company.
I needed some form of exercise. Never played sports, not going to start now. Hate the idea of the gym, last time I went was 1989, so I’m not exactly motivated. Can’t swim a stroke because I’m afraid of the water, think running’s bad for you and can really mess your knees up. But there’s a dance school in the small seaside town where I live, and they do adult classes, with qualified professional teachers – I’d always fancied dancing. Two and a half years ago, I went along to my first Fitsteps class (exercise based on dance steps), and I loved it so much that I felt as if was on wings when I left. Six months after that, I started adult ballet classes.
Then I was diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis in my hip, and scheduled for a hip replacement at the age of 58. The pain made it hard to walk, never mind dance. So after my operation, just over a year ago, I was confined to barracks for 10 weeks, walking on crutches and doing the exercises shown me by the physiotherapist.
In February of this year our ballet teacher suggested she’d like to enter our adult class for the bronze award ballet exam! (BTW, the oldest lady in our class is 70.) ‘Yes’, we said – which was followed by weeks of ‘what were we thinking?’ ‘whose stupid idea was this?’ and occasionally ‘why did we decide to voluntarily make fools of ourselves?’
But it’s funny what you can do when you put your mind to it. We practised our routine until we were dreaming about it, and 2 weeks ago went in front of our examiner (a beautiful prima ballerina, who couldn’t have been more charming). And now I’m the proud possessor of this certificate, and bronze medal, and for someone who was never athletic, and who turns 60 next year, I could scarcely be more chuffed. Here I am, with my homegirls!
Of course really, my dream was to be a prima ballerina myself, with Tom Hiddleston my devoted slave. But now I’ve got my certificate, and read in the paper the other day that Tom was visiting his mother who lives in the next county to me (albeit he was holding hands with Taylor Swift, but she’s just a passing phase), then surely all I need to do is put my mind to it. You can do (almost) anything if you want to – can’t you?
Addendum – as you’ll be aware unless you’ve been living under a rock, (or don’t remotely care, of course!) Tom Hiddleston has broken up with Taylor Swift. Watch this space.
Why you book needs a proofread – Part 2 Last week Julia chatted about what a proofreader was and why you need one. Today we continue with ways to choose the right proofreader for you. Read Pa…