Proofreading… Something Gained (and Something Lost)


I have spent a lot of the last week and a half proofreading my work. I’ve got a nasty feeling I’ll still have missed mistakes, but at least with each sweep I weed out a few more clangers.

My proofreading has removed some unconscious humour, and since I generally like the odd laugh, I can’t help feeling slightly disappointed.
My favourites from my most recent trawl were:
‘You’re such a pendant’ (Said to a person who was fussing over small details… Oops.)
Such a pendant…
‘She hoovered nearby’ (Said of someone waiting nervously for the chance to interrupt… NOT of someone doing a spot of vacuuming…)
‘I was worried you might be bungled into the back of a black car with mirrored windows’ (Conscious cliché misquoted by one character. No more need be said…)
My favourite methods for spotting typos/continuity errors/inconsistencies are:

  • Leaving a decent gap between a write/re-write and the proofreading session
  • Reading my work aloud (meaning a constant stream of background muttering for anyone else in the house)
  • Reading it on paper (why, oh why, doesn’t it work so well when read on screen?)

I’ve taken to using Oxford Dictionaries Online when there’s a query over alternative spellings, and The Guardian’s Style Guide for broader questions of grammar, formatting and so on. It’s actually an amusing and fascinating read, as well as being just plain useful. You can buy it on its own here, or bundled (or possibly bungled) with the newspaper’s collection of 2008 “How to Write” supplements (covering fiction, poetry, comedy, screen, journalism and biography) direct here.
And, at the risk of introducing a tempting displacement activity, you can view the 1928 style book of the Manchester Guardian here.
What are your favourite tips for proofreading? (And how many typos can you spot in this post? I didn’t put any in on purpose… Gulp…) Do please leave a comment.
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