What a Proofreader Does

Rena George Cornwall, Editing your work 6 Comments

pile-154710_640I promised to post about how I got on when I sent my new novel, Mistress of Mellin Cove, to a professional proofreader, well the verdict is…brilliant! I would happily recommend this to any writer.


I found freelance proofreader, Wendy Janes, on Joanna Penn’s fab website for self-published authors, and very quickly realised that Wendy was someone who understood what authors were about. From the first exchange of emails I was confident that this was going to be a positive, worthwhile experience.


For those of you who want to know more about the process, let me explain what a proofreader does.


Proofreaders look for spelling mistakes, punctuation errors, grammar issues, inconsistencies (name changes, italics, capitalization) and formatting mistakes.


Even though it is not the strict remit of a proofreader, Wendy does highlight plot holes and any factual errors she spots.


Proofreaders give a manuscript that final polish. They don’t advise on plot structure or provide development editing. That’s a whole different service.


In my case, after I’d done numerous re-writes and edits, I was pretty confident my book was ready to go, but I was so wrong. For a start, Wendy spotted I had managed to get two different fonts in there, used curly quotes as well as straight ones, inconsistent use of three dots, manual line breaks instead of paragraph marks – and all this before the proofread had even started.

Surely there couldn’t be any more problems, not when I had already been happy with the finished MS? Well I’m pleased to say there were no bottom clenchingly awful errors, but there was certainly a lot of tidying up to be done.


Wendy highlighted a couple of times where my characters had contradicted themselves. She caught the odd spelling mistake and extraneous letters that had slipped through my own checks. The eagle-eyed proofreader also picked up a character name change. (I’m still blushing about that) red-38217_640


I hadn’t formatted my book very well at all.  There were loads of extra spaces in there, quotes where no quotes should have been, no proper spacing between scenes.


Wendy also raised questions when she noticed that characters or situations seemed to repeat themselves. It’s easier than you might think to do this in a 60,000-word novel. And because an author tends to see what they think they wrote, rather than what they actually did write, these inconsistencies slip through.


I received the finished proofread in two documents – one showing the track changes on my novel, the other with track changes accepted, or corrected, so I could see at a glance every detail of how Wendy had worked on my MS.


There was some work involved on my part over plot points she raised, but left for me to decide what to do with.


The few hours I spent going over the track changes and suggestions were a fascinating insight into how a professional proofreader works – and I loved it.


So what did I get out of the experience?


I am much more aware of the importance of continuity within a manuscript. I learned about Oxford commas, and so many more little intricacies of grammar over which I would previously have dithered.


But most important of all, I have a novel that I am now confident of publishing  – NEXT WEEK!!


If any of you fancy following in my proofreading footsteps, here’s a link to Wendy Janes’s site. 

Hope you’ve found the above worthwhile.

Have a great week everyone, Rx

Comments 6

  1. So glad you found Wendy Jane so useful!I still proof documents for my company and edit the odd article but would not dream of saying I could give my own work a final proof. (Well, I expect I would but only after someone like Wendy had looked at it!)
    What makes me smile when I am writing is that I can close a file I think is almost perfect, one day, only to open it a month later and find so many errors or glitches that you’d think I’d typed it blind at times. I type fast because I learnt when I was six on my mother’s old manual typewriter (she was once a shorthand typist) Being six, I used any fingers that came to hand (sorry, a pun)so now I leap across the keyboard at the speed of light, according to observers but need to peek now and then. Hence, I look at the keyboard a little more than the screen and things flash by unseen. Interesting and informative advice Rena. Thank you. Debbie 🙂

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      Hi Deborah, lovely to see you here. Glad you found the post interesting.
      I’m really impressed with that description of your fingers flying over the keys. I wish I could write faster, but I suppose we all work at our own pace.
      It’s sobering indeed to re-read a piece of writing you had considered was near perfect, only to discover that it’s actually riddled with mistakes. It’s this thing about seeing what you meant to write and not what you actually did write. Rx

  2. It’s very interesting to learn more about what a proofreader does and how the process works. I am terrible at picking out errors in my own work. I’m off to look at Wendy Jane’s site.

    And it’s brilliant your novel will be published next week 🙂 x

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  3. I’m now with my third publisher, Rena, and I’ve learned so much from every editor. Not only do they catch the proof-reading glitches, they usually provide content editing too and I’d hate to be without this now. My publishers provide their own but good for you finding someone you can work with.

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      I know exactly what you mean, Rosemary. Working with a professional has been a real learning curve for me. The best bit about it is the confidence it has given me to publish this novel. I won’t hesitate to go to Wendy again.

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