Maybe you’re one, but I don’t know a single writer who enjoys proofreading their work. It’s that absolute final step that comes hot on the heels of copyediting but is even pickier. And it’s so crucial to the final product.
What is it about proofreading that we all dislike so much? For me, it’ soften because it means that I can’t be writing somethgin new―exercising my imagination. It is true that proofreading isn’t all that creative, don’t you agree? Still, we have to do it.
Some writing gurus seem to think that we shouldn’t even try to edit our own work. While I agree that we do develop blinders, often failing to see a whole swath of errors that look right to us, I still think we have to do much of it ourselves. Of course, when it comes to a project like a book, you’ll need a final copyeditor and proofreader in the end. But what about all that other stuff you write? Book blurbs, your bio, your blog posts, query letters? You need to copyedit them yourself.
There’s hardly a news story, magazine article, blog post (!) or book these days that doesn’t bear at least one typo or punctuation error, and don’t we all hate them when we see them―especially in our own work. So, before you can send anything out to editors or readers, proofreading isn’t an option. And there are a few tips and tricks to make yours better (and maybe even easier) that I’ve learned over my thirty-plus years of writing.
So, proofreading is important no matter whether you write books, business reports, advertising copy, social media content, or magazine stories.
If you have five minutes, I have five tips that might help to improve your proofreading.
When I was a teenager, I had dreams of being a novelist. When I was in Grade Eleven, my high school offered us the chance to do an extra project in a subject of our choice. If completed adequately, this project would provide for the notation of “with distinction” to be added to our grade transcripts. That seemed like a good idea to me since I’d be applying to university the following year. Having an area of “distinction” couldn’t hurt.
The problem was that I chose to do this project in English rather than math or science because I fancied myself a writer. What’s the problem, you might well ask? It’s this: my highest marks were in math and science, and I planned to study science in university. Go figure. Anyway, I did the project, part of which required me to write five short stories. Fast forward past my Master’s degree (in science), and you find me a bona fide nonfiction writer.
Thirty years later, I find myself writing both fiction and nonfiction. What this cross-genre writing does for me is to provide me with a breadth of techniques and ideas, each genre benefiting from the other. So, last week I was thinking about nonfiction writing and how often every writer, regardless of genre, needs to know nonfiction techniques.
Everyone writes nonfiction every once in a while. Even novelists have to write their author bios and the occasional book cover copy. Publishers expect it (so do readers, by the way).
This week’s 5 tips are all about improving our nonfiction writing.
Thirty years ago, I began my career as a nonfiction writer. The first time I pitched the story to the weekend features editor of a local newspaper, I realized that although I’d done a ton of academic writing at that point, had written lots of unpublished essays and had a passion for writing that went back to my pre-teen years, I didn’t know that much about the fine points of magazine writing.
My background was in health science, so what did I know about writing magazine articles?
What I had was a passion for writing, a knowledge base in the content area I had proposed, a willingness to learn, lots of research experience. The first thing I had to learn was how to write a solid lead. Three decades later and that knowledge has had a chance to be practised over and over, and now I’m sharing my five favourite approaches to a lead―a bit of help for nonfiction authors, magazine writers, bloggers and copywriters.
As I reviewed these tips for leads, it also occurred to me that fiction writers might find inspiration here for opening paragraphs for short stories or even book chapters. I’m a great believer in cross-genre learning.
Here’s today’s episode of WRITE. FIX. REPEAT. with the five approaches to leads.