You may not have been an English major, and you may find the task of revising your own written work to be frankly tedious—but proofreading is a skill that no executive, entrepreneur, or professional person should be without. Just as it is important to have some basic skills in writing and in accounting, so too is it imperative for business owners to have a command of some proofreading basics.
There will be times, of course, when you must write something—your website content, a Facebook post, a company press release, or a blog entry, for instance. Even if you outsource all of the above to a professional writing company like Grammar Chic, Inc., you’ll at least need to know how to compose your own professional e-mails. And for any of these writing projects, any typos or stylistic errors you make are ultimately going to undermine your authority and distract from the message you’re trying to convey. In a very real way, a grammatical flub-up can ruin a social media post or a marketing message.
This is not to say that you have to suddenly develop an encyclopedic knowledge of English grammar, but you should at least get into the habit of re-reading everything you write, scouring it for any words, letters, or punctuation marks that need to be corrected.
What exactly should you be looking for? The list is long, but five basic categories are mentioned here:
- Checking your spelling is always important—but relying on SpellCheck is insufficient. SpellCheck won’t always catch homophones, which are words that differ in meaning and spelling, but are pronounced the same way. For example, their, they’re, and there all sound alike, and as you type it can be easy to enter one when you mean one of the others—but this is an exceedingly amateurish mistake that makes it plain your work hasn’t been re-read or edited at all. Keep an eye out for these as you revise your work!
- Run-on sentences. There are right ways and wrong ways to splice two sentences/clauses together. The right way is to use a conjunction like and or another way is to use a semicolon or comma. The wrong way is to simply jam them together without a transition of any kind. If you’re ever unsure, you might just err on the side of simplicity—ending one idea with a period, and then including the next idea as its own sentence. (So long as each sentence has a subject and a verb, you’re set!)
- Formality. Depending on what you’re writing, contractions (like can’t, won’t, should’ve, or, well, you’re) may or may not be appropriate. They’re fine in a blog entry or on Facebook, but generally frowned upon in press releases or in more formal documents. As you read through your writing, be aware of whether you’ve used informalities, and whether or not it’s appropriate to do so. (Addressing the reader directly—you—is another informality to watch for.)
- Subject/verb agreement. This one should be pretty easy to identify as you read back through your work; when the subject and verb do not agree, in number or in tense, it just sounds funny. Some examples: You always want to say the customer is first, not the customer are first and not the customers is first.
- Finally, try to be aware of words that you may be overusing. You may really think your business is agile, but using the word agile in every sentence will make your writing tedious. Look up synonyms!
Of course, you may also wish to have a professional editing company you can call—and Grammar Chic is always available! Contact us today: Visit http://www.grammarchic.net, or call 803-831-7444.
One of the biggest challenges to any writer, outside of committing their work to paper, is finalizing it. Indeed, with the popularity of self-publishing ever on the rise, it is the role of the editor that has suddenly been heralded.
Considering my own experience as both a writer and an editor, I agree that it can be incredibly challenging to fill these roles simultaneously. Moreover, it’s something that I definitely don’t recommend doing. If you are going to self-publish, I highly recommend enlisting the help of a third party to both edit and then proofread your work (and again, these two roles should not necessarily be held by the same person). Having an extra set of eyes on your work is more or less a rule to live by, regardless of if you are a would-be author, a business pro, or even an academic submitting a thesis. Simply put, you are too close to your work to do it all.
Now, even with that disclaimer in place, there are some ways to edit your own writing, if only to improve the draft that you are working on while you wait to bring another person into the fold. Here are some helpful tips:
- Fight the urge to edit while you are still in the process of writing. You have probably heard this before, but it’s important in the scheme of things. Even though it’s probably hard to adhere to, I must urge you to not go back and rewrite or delete entire sentences and paragraphs on your first draft. You are only making it harder on yourself if you do. If you must edit while you write, stick to correcting typos or figuring out a new way to start a sentence to avoid repetition.
- Take a break when you are done writing. Much can be said about setting your work aside for a day or two or three before you start revising it yourself. Of course, this means that you have to plan for extra time in your schedule (especially if you are on a deadline). However, by doing this you are able to look at your work with fresh eyes and you will be able to identify where there are holes or inconsistencies, as well as if there are any other problems with flow or style.
- Read the work in a different format. What I mean by this is remove your work from the computer that you have been creating the piece on. For something as simple as a blog post, this might mean printing it to read on paper, or even uploading it to a preview area on your blog so you can see what it would like in its final format. For a manuscript, try converting the document to PDF and reading it on a tablet or e-reader. When you do this you will be able to see problems that you weren’t aware of when it was in its native file.
- Structure and content editing come first. Many times a writer will begin their own editing process by polishing individual sentences, or line editing. When you do this, you avoid the big picture. Instead, consider your work and think about if there are parts of the piece that are too advanced for the story, go off on a tangent or even if there is something missing. Ultimately, major changes need to happen before you begin line editing.
- Realize you have to implement a chopping block. The majority of writers out there have the tendency to say too much; therefore, a good target to go after when it comes to trimming down your work is 10 percent. Look out for repeated points or thoughts and unnecessary phrases like, “It’s my opinion.” Another thing to look out for: adjectives that are not required to get the point across. For instance, “Sarah inquired softly” can be changed to, “Sarah whispered.”
- Don’t rely too heavily on spell check. Yes, run your work through spell check, but don’t expect this tool to catch everything. A computer can’t tell the difference between homophones, or words that are spelled differently but sound the same, such as which and witch. Also, always look out for words like effect vs. affect and there, their and they’re (a personal pet peeve of mine) while also realizing that sometimes Word might come up with some really crazy suggestions about its and it’s, which are not necessarily right.
- Read slowly and aloud. It’s incredibly difficult to proofread your own work and I will tell you that even professional editors and proofreaders are not immune to making mistakes. A handy trick I employ when proofreading is to read aloud slowly when I am working on a final draft. As adult readers, our brains have the ability to read ahead and work faster than our eyes. This means that we are not necessarily reading every word that is on a page. On the flip side, when you read aloud and process each word slowly, you are more apt to pick up on mistakes, as well as awkward, clumsy or repetitive words. Case in point, I was working on a children’s book, each page had maybe three or four lines of text in a 20 point font or so. Even though I had read this book several hundred times, I never realized that there was an extra word on one of the pages until a five year old, who was reading aloud, pointed it out to me! Talk about from the mouths of babes! So when proofreading, keep this lesson in mind: read like a five-year-old. I guarantee you will find your mistakes!
In closing, while editing your own writing is not necessarily easy, it is possible. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the idea of perfecting your work, I invite you to reach out to Grammar Chic, Inc. for help. Contact us at 803-831-7444 or visit www.grammarchic.net right now.
For many writers, the option to self-publish is highly attractive. Traditional publishing houses are very selective and the process of sending out query letters and waiting for a response can seem overwhelming. While the self-publishing industry has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years, writers should be wary about which company they choose to work with. A common trend with self-publishers has been emerging, one that forgoes quality for quantity and is seemingly focused only on the monetary gains of the publishing industry, not the literary value of its products.
The biggest problem with self-publishing is that most self-publishing companies do not have proper quality management controls in place. Editing has become an optional task, not a given part of the process, and as a result many manuscripts are sent to print laden with grammatical errors, plot inconsistencies and typos. This has given self-publishing a bad rap, as many see it as a sub par version of traditional print publications. While this attitude should not be accurate, the failure of both writers and self-publishers to ensure the quality of their product has resulted in a less than perfect reputation for the industry.
Regardless, self-publishing can be a useful tool for many authors as long as they have their work appropriately edited and ensure that their manuscripts are polished and complete before sending them to print. Many people will refuse to read or review a book that is self-published due to this unfortunate reputation that the industry has gained. But if authors take the time to ensure the quality of the work this reputation can be turned around and self-published authors who produce great books can be recognized.
Grammar Chic, Inc. encourages all writers to have their work professionally edited. Remember your book is part of your legacy; make it shine!
One of the most important things you need to have when sending your work to a potential publisher is a polished and professionally edited manuscript. This will provide you with the advantage of being able to include in your query letter that you have had your work reviewed by a professional editor and that you can readily provide samples if the publisher is interested.
Publishers love getting work that is already polished for two reasons. First, it gives them a sense of what the final product could be like. Second, while the majority of publishing houses will still put your manuscript through their own editing process to fit the requirements and look of their own catalogue, it decreases the amount of time it will take to publish the work. Grammatical and spelling errors will distract the publisher from what your manuscript is trying to say. An unorganized or undeveloped manuscript is difficult to read and most publishers will not take the time to sort through it.
Valerie Lumley, our author of the month, was picked up by EDGE Publishing Company after presenting a very well edited manuscript. She took the time to remove the majority of grammatical and spelling errors and the manuscript was very well thought out. Her book, Curing Chronic Fibromyalgia, is a wonderful success story of a polished manuscript making it into the hands of the right publisher at the right time.
When you have finished your manuscript and are ready to send out query letters, let Grammar Chic, Inc. professionally edit your work, bettering your chances and helping lead you towards literary success and accomplishment.