Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Guest Post: Why You Should Hire a Professional Proofreader

Why hire a professional proofreader?

You've had your friends read your manuscript. You've run it by your critique group and made some difficult but necessary changes. You've even taken the plunge and had it professionally edited and cut out those darling or favorite passages the editor insisted were not necessary because they did not advance the plot. You've trimmed it and nipped it and tucked it beyond what you ever thought possible or necessary till it hurts. So . . . it's ready to go, right?

I heard once that one particular publisher had five (count ‘em five) proofreaders assigned to each book they published. They did that because, even after being meticulously edited, each proofreader found mistakes that the prior editors and/or proofreaders missed. I spent over twenty years testing software. I had a long and lucrative career in that industry because people make mistakes and the least ideal person to find their mistakes was the person that made them.

We are all humans. Everything we create is going to have some sort of flaw. That is just the way things are. There is no getting around it. Because of this, we need help finding the flaws in the things we create. You know how it is. You have read, re-read and re-read your manuscript until you think you have it memorized, and you know that you have hammered out each and every flaw. Right? Probably not. Remember the line of five professional proofreaders above?

Back in my early days in software testing, there was a running joke about a certain major software company that it did not really have customers. It had millions of beta testers. Their development processes did not consistently include professional testing before it was released to the public. As a result, their products were consistently buggy and required numerous patches to fix those bugs reported by their customers.

I don’t think that writers want their readers to have the same types of experiences with your masterpiece.

Most of you are probably prodigious self-editors. You probably have a dedicated crew of beta readers. But a professional, trained proofreader has a better chance of ferreting out things that could hurt you later.

Here are some of the things that a proofreader will be looking for:
  • Typographical errors (including direction of curly quotation marks and apostrophes)
  • Misspelled words (including incorrect word usage)
  • Grammatical problems (including verb tenses and syntax)
  • Punctuation mistakes (including proper abbreviations and capitalization)
  • Inconsistent format (in font size/style for text/chapter headings/subheadings, lists, tables, page numbers, margins, spacing, indentations/paragraphs, quotes, references, citations, footnotes/endnotes, etc.)
A proofreader can be that last line of defense or scrutiny before your readers see your darling. I am working on one book right now that has been out for a year or so already, but it is not selling well and several of the reviews are critical of its need for editing.

Getting a professional in to proofread your work is like preventative maintenance on your car. Do you remember that old line about the car mechanic who says: “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” The work needs to be done. Getting it done before you release your book is far less expensive than being embarrassed by your readers and having to retract, fix and re-issue your book later. The earlier you find mistakes and correct them, the less it costs.

Please, seriously consider hiring a professional editor and then a professional proofreader. They may seem expensive at the outset, but it is less so than fixing a book that has gained a reputation for editing issues and the resulting bad reviews can be very difficult and even more expensive to overcome.


About Steve Mathisen:

I am a writer, copy editor and proofreader.
I have a degree in geography from the University of Washington but have spent most of the last twenty-five years testing software.  In that role, I was often the last set of eyes on a program before it was released to the users it was developed for. I took that job very seriously and I take this job seriously too.
I count KM WeilandLia London, Liberty SpeidelTerri L MainJulia Robb and Corey Popp among my references.
I am a member of The Christian PEN, Northwest Christian Writers Association, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

You can find me at
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