Essential work before creating an e-Book

Who Should Create An E-Book?Proofread page marked up

I was at my local writers’ group last night when a discussion began about the creation of e-Books. There were some members who remain mildly sceptical about them, but most people agree that the ability to create an e-Book is an essential skill for any writer with even the most modest of ambitions.

However, there was a unanimous element of caution in this view. There are far too many badly written and almost entirely unedited e-Books in the world already. As a courtesy to the potential reader, you – like any writer – must undertake some essential work on their writing before converting their document in to an e-Book.

Essential Work

Everyone present at the writers’ group agreed that when a writer wants to make their work available to a wider audience, that writer must review their words. There was some variation in how much reviewing should be done, but we all agreed that to present written work in the raw without so much as a spell-check is certain to lead to disappointment for the author. We agreed that

  • authors must check the spelling of the written work, with an eye on their potential audience due to the differences seen in different national views on the English language
  • authors have to check the grammar and punctuation of their work
  • authors should check the timeline of their masterpiece, to ensure that the nub of the plot is not given away too early, for example.
  • authors must be sure that they have not changed the name of their characters part way through the story, or transposed people into new and incompatible roles
  • authors should be sure that they do have a story, and not just a collection of sub-plots without coherence

How many revisions

Overall, we agreed that no writer should consider submitting their book as an e-Book without revision. The number of total revisions you need to make will depend on the length of the book and on the style and context of your writing. However, every one of us agreed that a single revision is insufficient. If you, as a writer want to have any degree of credibility, and to sell your books. multiple revisions are needed, probably reaching into double digits. Only then will your writing be ready to submit to the world, but even then you will do well to submit it to other eyes before you unleash its potential.

Finally, you should seriously consider asking a professional to proofread or edit your writing, or at least an experienced writer. Their comments become invaluable learning tools, helping you to become a better author, and leading you one step closer to becoming a well-known author.

Why you should proofread your profile

Profiles are everywhere these days and I believe you should proofread your profile.Using dictionary

Why? Well, suppose you have met a new person at a networking event, someone who could be useful to you in your career. What happens if that person checks out your profile on Twitter or LinkedIn, and finds spelling mistakes, or punctuation errors? How are you going to feel? There is every chance that person will think that if you cannot be bothered to make sure your profile is error free, you might not be the right person for them to work with. Is that what you want?

It should not take long to proofread your profile. After all, it is usually on just one page. It is worth spending a few minutes checking it through. You never know when that perfect profile will make a difference. It is also worth asking someone you know to read what you have written. They may spot an important skill you have missed out, or suggest a better layout. Hopefully, they will also spot any mistakes that might still be there. It’s an added check, if nothing else.

When did you last check your profiles?

How proofreading makes a difference

People often ask me how proofreading makes a difference. The answer is very straightforward. Proofreading makes a difference because it shows you care enough about your writing to make sure it is as well presented as possible.

Recently, I read a novel that had possibly not been proofread at all. There were multiple mistakes on every page. It was very irritating to read, and I found myself mentally correcting the punctuation, the grammar and the spelling. The only reason I persisted in reading to the end was because it was an interesting story. If only the author or publisher had had it corrected, it would have been a very good novel. As it is, I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

I know that a number of authors try to proofread their own work. It is certainly Prooofreading manuscriptsomething that every writer should do. However, if you are planning to have your work published, I believe that it is a courtesy to your reader to ask someone else to check over what you have written for errors and make suitable suggestions. Should you want your novel to be successful, that second pair of eyes should belong to someone who is used to proofreading and correcting written work. Why not find a proofreader? It really does make a difference.

Mistakes that make a proofreader cringe

The mistakes that make a proofreader cringe are usually the kind that a reasonable author should have dealt with. Yet it is amazing how many documents come through to my inbox with simple errors in them, errors that make me sigh the deepest of sighs and reach for the track changes button. Two recent errors that have littered documents I have read centre around punctuation.

Commas

The comma is an unassuming little squiggle that makes such a difference. Since the use of commas has been in decline over the recent times I wonder sometimes if they are in danger of fading out. There are whole sections devoted to the proper use of commas in books on writing style. And the one thing they all agree on is that a comma never appears with a space before it – never. It always clings on the skirts of the word that precedes it, and there is always a space after it. You can imagine how hard I found it when I was sent a novel where not one comma had a space before it, and very few had a following space. It was immensely tedious.

Quotation marks

Just like the comma, this is a much abused punctuation mark, and there are yet more sections of books on writing style that deal with their positioning in detail.. Whether an author uses single quotation marks, or double, is largely a matter of personal preference, unless they are writing for a house style. British practise is normally to use single quotation marks, unless quoting a quote within a quotation. Whichever is used, the quotation marks should be closed up to the words they surround, not hovering shyly between them.

Should you wonder how to use either of these marks properly, I can fully recommend The Oxford Manual of Style. If you are an aspiring writer, then some form of style manual is a must, just so you do not present your poor long suffering proofreader with many pages of poor punctuation. After all, if your writing is worthy of being proofread, surely you would rather your proofreader thought your writing is of high calibre, not just fit for the junk pile.

Proofreading – another pair of eyes makes a difference

Proofreading your work, whether it is an essay or a book or something in between, is essential, and having another pair of eyes read through what you have written can save you from all sorts of horrors. The problem with most writers is that they are so close to what they have written that they see the filler words that they intend to be in the text, but have not actually written. The writer knows which word they meant to use, so if a different one is there, they may not see it. Also, if your spelling is shaky, another person may pick up on the misspellings. Correcting printed workSo many writers have written, and re-written, and re-re-written their work so often that they are sick to death with it. Anyone can read through your writing and give you this help. Or can they?

Who can proofread your work?

Well, you can ask your fellow student or work colleague to proofread it, and they may – if they have time. Your boss might want to read it anyway. But what do you do if this helpful friend is just as bad at spelling and grammar as you are?

Call in a proofreading professional

At this point it pays to have a professional cast their eyes over the writing. A trained proofreader will know if the grammar is right, will help you get the punctuation right, and will correct spelling errors. They will spot the times when you have used a word that sounds like the one you wanted, but is spelt differently. And they will do it much faster than the author. Added to that, proofreading is really not that expensive. You never know, it may make a difference in your grades, if you treat your work with respect and ask a real proofreader to help you.

Simple ways to improve your writing

It is always good to that there are simple ways to improve your writing. First and foremost, the quality of your writing will improve if you proofread it, even at a basic level. It is not difficult to improve your basic skills in proofreading if you write using a computer. That has to be worthwhile. Proofreading provides a bridge between your idea as you first write it, and your document as you publish it.

The problem

Sadly, many people who write do not seem to proofread their work even when they plan for their writing to be available for others to read. I have lost count of the number of blogs that I have read with simple errors in them – errors that would not, or should not, be there if they proofread their blog before making it public.

It seems as if the problem for many writers is that they do not make use of the tools at their disposal. After all, there are simple to use tools built into your computer programmes that make it easy to spot mistakes. It is just a matter of switching on the relevant tools.

The trouble is that many people do not like the irritating little green and red squiggles that appear as they write. I accept that. There is another way to deal with them.

The solution

The easiest answer is to switch on the spelling and grammar check so that as you write, the computer highlights spelling errors and potential grammar issues. Yes, you get little squiggles. For some people they are annoying, even excessively distracting. For others, it helps them to re-craft a sentence, or to consider whether the sentence actually means what they intended it to mean.

If the squiggles drive you completely potty, you have to discipline yourself to carry out a spelling and grammar check at the end of the document. If you are confident of your grammar and spelling skills, do this yourself, by re-reading carefully, making corrections as necessary. If you think your skills may be suspect, get the computer to do it for you.

Beware!

I am sure that you know not to completely trust the computer spelling and grammar tool. It is not always completely right. After all, if you have spelled a word correctly, but it is the wrong word, the computer may not recognise this. A classic example, that might otherwise have you blushing, is to miss the letter ‘l’ out of public. It has been done on many an occasion – because the computer recognises both words as correct.

The answer

Great though computers are at highlighting spelling errors, and some grammar problems, there is nothing like getting another pair of eyes to look at your writing. Sometimes this can be a colleague, a family member or a friend. However, if the document is important, it can be a good idea to get a professional proofreader to look at your work. After all, can you afford to have a mistake in the finished article? Does it matter to you if the finished result is flawed? Will your readers notice?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you owe it to yourself to get someone else to read your work. Of course, if you need help with this, I would be delighted to hear from you.

 

5 more reasons to proofread your work

5 more reasons to proofread

As a proofreader, I often have clients tell me that they have checked their writing before they submit it to me. But there are nearly always mistakes, especially if the work is a sizeable document. I wrote about 5 reasons to proofread your work before. Then I came up with 5 more reasons to proofread, or to get a proofreader to check your writing for you. A good proofreader will:

#1: Check your spelling. Proofreading anything you have written will make sure that the words on the page are the words you intended. There are many stories about major spelling errors that have led to embarrassment for their authors. And a spell checker facility may not always pick up the difference. After all, public is a perfectly reasonable word, and one that is perfectly unassuming, used frequently in all kinds of writing. However, miss out the letter l, and you have a different word entirely, and one that might be completely inappropriate for your company newsletter about how your public image is improving!

#2: Check your punctuation. Proper punctuation allows the writing to flow properly, and helps to avoid confusion for your reader. Writers who do not use those funny little marks might find that the meaning of their writing could be misunderstood. Whilst I am not in favour of too much punctuation, too little is even worse. If nothing else, a full stop allows a reader to take a breath (literally if reading aloud, figuratively if reading silently) before they leap into your next sentence.

#3: Check your grammar. Getting your grammar right will make such a difference to your writing. Have you got the correct tense? Do the various parts of the sentence agree? If grammar is a closed book to you, I strongly recommend you ask a professional to help you with your proofreading. But, if you intend to write frequently, then it is as well to brush up on your grammar. If nothing else, you’ll impress your proofreader.

#4: Check your meaning. Does what is written on your screen or on your paper mean what you intend it to? When you are pushed for space, make every word count; make each word have a reason to be there. And if there is any doubt, re-write it until your meaning is clear.

#5: Check your consistency. A proofreader will check that you have used a consistent style throughout your document. Have you used the same font throughout? If you have changed it, is there a good reason to do so? Have you used the same bullet points, the same indents, and the same headings from start to finish? If not, your writing may look scrappy. There’s a good reason why many big companies have developed a manual of style for writing. It is because the company wants anything that represents them, whether it is a written piece or the person writing it, to be consistent with the image they want to present to the world. What image do you want to present to the people in your world?

Very few writers can write something that is perfect first time. Even proofreaders get it wrong sometimes, but hopefully they can spot the mistakes when they proofread their own work. However, even proofreaders need a proofreader. If a proofreader needs help, it is no shame for anyone else to turn to a professional to tidy up their work. Should you need a proofreader, I would be happy to help you.

5 reasons to proofread your work

5 reasons to proofread your work

Why should you proofread your work? There are far more than 5 reasons to proofread your work, whatever you have written, but 5 is a good start.

#1: Proofreading is a safety net. As you proofread you will, hopefully, spot errors that might cost you money. For example, imagine you have an advertisement for gardening services, stating an hourly rate. What if you plan to offer to work for £10.00 per hour, but the decimal point is in the wrong place on the advert? You might just end up with customers demanding 90% discount rates!

#2: Proofreading will make you stand out from the crowd. Honestly, it will. So many people publish eBooks, blog posts, articles or stories without proofreading. There are errors all over the place. That tells me that they don’t care what their work looks like, and they also don’t care about their readers. Do you want to be part of the illiterate crowd, or stand above them with a well-proofed article, blog, eBook or story?

#3: Proofreading stops you looking stupid. After all, you would be stupid to work for £1.00 an hour, no matter what your line of business is. Other stupid mistakes include putting in the wrong email address, or missing a digit off a telephone number, or using an old address, because you have copied the advert from three years ago, forgetting you moved premises last year. Alongside that, I count spelling errors and poor punctuation. What do you think?

#4: Proofreading saves you money in the long run. I remember one advertisement I saw, which was beautifully crafted, with fabulous illustrations, for an amazing product – but there were no contact details. None! Not even a mobile number. That was a waste of several hundred pounds for whoever placed the advert in several local glossy magazines – they had spent money on the graphics and the page space, but forgot to proofread it, or hire a proofreader. What a shame.

#5: Proofreading checks that the writing says what you want it to say. Do you know what you want to say? Have you checked that the article, advert, eBook or story says what you want it to? The only way to find out is to read through it after you have completed the first draft – and the final draft. After all, you want the title of your piece to be backed up by the content, don’t you?

So – do you proofread your writing? I do.

 

 

What is Proofreading?

‘But what is proofreading?’  is question I get asked many times when people ask me what I do. The inflection changes according to how interested they are, and whether or not they are involved in creating written work. I find the responses really fascinating, as they enable me to understand the other person better.

A writer’s friend?

Firstly, though, I thought I would look up the dictionary definition of proofread. Collins English Dictionary states that proofread is a verb, meaning:

to read (copy or printers’ proofs) and mark errors to be corrected. 

And that, at bottom line, is what proofreading is about. Finding errors in a text, and correcting them, or indicating to someone else where they should make the corrections.

The marking up can be done on hard copy, using internationally accepted shorthand marks. This is how most traditional publishers have required proofreaders to work for a long time. These days, on-screen proofreading is used just as often using some form of computer programmed comment and correct system, although many people find that with digital proofreading it is harder to spot certain errors. Of course, it means that the user has to know what is correct, in order to spot what is incorrect. This is where a proofreader comes into their own, as without a doubt, many writers have great difficulty creating work which is error free.

And this brings me back to the response I get from people enquiring about proofreading. There are those who laugh somewhat sheepishly, and then say that they are hopeless at creating a document without errors, and that they rely on someone else to help them to spot the mistakes.

Other characters say boastfully that they don’t need a proofreader, because they use their computer spell checker so they know that their document is error free. The problem with their approach is that the spell checker is only as good as the person who programmed it. There are many occasions when the programme will accept a word as correctly spelt, which it is, but a proofreader would pick up on the fact that the word is being used out of context.

Another response I come across is the person who says, ‘Oooh – I couldn’t agree more, I hate to read something with mistakes in it.’ Others tell me that they find themselves compulsively correcting anything they read – the letter from school, the parish news, the menu at the restaurant, the book they are currently reading. Some will even return the corrected document to the person who originated it, with an explanation of why they felt compelled to do so.

Whatever the response, proofreading is important to anyone who wants to present a document to another person free from errors. Of course, in an ideal world, we would all be able to proofread for ourselves. But if the thought of proofreading your work fills you with horror, or you know that you are hopeless at spelling and grammar, just get in contact. I’d be delighted to help you.