Proofreading = Checking = Correcting . . . or Bloopers & Blunders Begone

Let’s continue with the topic of editing, but shift a wee bit.  What about proofreading (or proofing)?  Or copy-editing and line-editing?  There are actually quite a few, but for all intents and purposes, let’s stick to proofing and editing.

Although they’re often used interchangeably, yes my friends, there is a difference.

Proofing basically entails reviewing a completed document to locate and fix typos, grammar and style mistakes—what I jokingly call bloopers and blunders.  The emphasis is on correcting superficial errors in spelling, grammar, composition, punctuation, and formatting.  Think of it as a “quality check”.

Editing includes proofing, but it’s more intensive.  In addition to the above, you’re taking into account how facts and details, and ideas are organized.  Editing isn’t a one-time action, by the way; you really need to edit several times.

Whether proofing or editing, set aside your work for a while after writing (a half hour, a day, week, or longer if you’re not in a rush).  This allows for “fresh eyes”.  You don’t always see the mistakes (those silly little oopsies) when you’re proofing or editing as you’re composing.

Between you and me, I find it best to proof and edit from a printed page.  But that’s l’il ol’ me (I’m still kinda old-school).  Some peeps do fine eyeballing documents on screen.  Whatever works.

I’ve heard it said you should read your work out loud to “hear” the off bits.  I’ve never done that once in my life.  But if you’re new to proofing and editing, it might prove a worthwhile endeavor.

Feel free to use a spell checker, but bear in mind it won’t catch correctly spelled words that have been erroneously utilized.  A simple example: “its” versus “it’s”.

There are also some fantastic on-line proofreaders.  I hear Grammarly is one of the best and you can use certain components for free.  If you plan to use one, do your due diligence and determine which is best for you.

Happy proofing!

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(Note: this was previously posted, but I’m forever living and learning—if you uses the “classic” version of a certain photo editor, pics don’t anchor.)

Clarity & Verbosity – Friend & Foe

The former’s what you want to achieve and the latter’s what you want to crush—through editing.  Clarity is our friend; we like simplicity and clearness.  Verbosity is our foe; no one cares for longwindedness or wordiness (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

The previous post touched upon word usage, so let’s stay on point (to a point).

Editing is a great way to develop as a writer; it sharpens talent.  No matter what you’re writing books, yes, you’ll have to do a few edits.  Or not.  It’s entirely up to you.  An aside: I know someone who refuses to do even one edit.  Sadly, it shows.  “X” wonders why he’s never been able to attract an agent or traditional publisher, given X totally believes he’s an awesome writer.  (Kudos to confidence: reproach to arrogance.)

You’re a committed writer; as such, you’ll edit.  So write, write, write.  Put the finished product away for a while.  A few days at the very least.  Return to it with fresh eyes.  Then edit, edit, edit.

The process truly isn’t as daunting as you may imagine.  Sure, there might be some initial trepidation.  You may even think (with tremulous breath) what if:

  • my writing sucks
  • I can’t do a proper edit
  • I get overwhelmed, and/or
  • find 100 things wrong?

You know what?  You’ll do fine.  Just take your time; rushing is never good unless your aim is to be a contest winner.  If it’s a novel, do it in stages (not all at once).  Cut out unnecessary narrative and superfluous words.  Remove useless [“no value add”] information and passages.

But editing isn’t all about cutting, either.  It’s about adding—providing supplementary descriptions and depictions, or enhancing plot and augmenting information.  Think of yourself as an artist painting a picture (also known as masterpiece).  Which brings us back to . . . yup, clarity.

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Read your work like its creator, not a reader wanting to be entertained or enlightened.  Focus that critical eye—analytically and decisively.

Remember: you’re merely improving what you’ve done, which is already pretty darn good!

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What’s in a Word?

A lot.  Which takes us into a new post about editing, the first of several.

Too many words and you may lose your reader/viewer.  Too few words and writing may seem “static” (dull, stagnant, boring).  How you present ideas through written communication will be based on what you’re offering (fiction or nonfiction) and your audience (who you’re writing for).

Let’s begin with word usage.  Every word has its own nuance and merit.  Here’s a simple example:

  • Bradley said he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley divulged he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley declared he’d start work on the project next week.

The bolded words relate to a form of verbal communication, yet each offers a different spin.  The first one tells us Bradley spoke; the tone isn’t conveyed so maybe he’s sad, angry, or bored out of his mind.  (If we add an adverb—dully, excitedly, sleepily—we have a better idea of what good ol’ Bradley is thinking or feeling.)  The second one suggests something secretive had been going on and our buddy has finally revealed this.  In the third example, Bradley Boy is stating something emphatically—i.e. making an official announcement.

Maybe you’re just starting out as a writer/blogger and you’re still getting a feel for your “voice”.  That’s fine.  It takes time to hone skills, just as it takes time to refine writing.

I love a good thesaurus, but years as a writer and editor have taught me to use it judiciously.  Feel free to utilize one and give thought to the following: 

Tip #1: Don’t throw in synonyms willy-nilly just to “jazz up” your post or writing (you may inadvertently “jam up”).   Tip #2:  Make certain that the synonym is appropriate; check the definition, even if the word is familiar.  Tip #3:  Ensure the synonym is recognizable and applicable to your audience.

Use the right words to correctly convey the message.  Write and edit (polish) accordingly.  Sure, it takes extra time: consider it an investment.  Clear and concise writing sells [much] better than that which is garbled and long-winded.  Trust me on this one—been there, done that (many a time).  Lesson [happily] learned.

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