10 Proofreading Hacks for Indie Authors

10 simple hacks to quickly proofread your manuscript


If you have followed our earlier articles, you would most probably be a writer who is searching for tools to better your manuscript. In our earlier articles, we have covered many useful topics including editing, copy editing, content editing and more.

So how is all that different from proof reading? What is proof reading? In a layman’s term, proof reading is skimming over a work of words for obvious typos, errors and punctuation mistakes. It is a crucial step between content and copy editing your book and sending it to your publisher, or agent.

But if your book is already been edited, why does it still need to be proof read?

Two reasons:
1. Content or copy editing will catch most of the critical errors in your manuscript and make the copy flow cohesive. But proof reading is what will help you polish your manuscript and smooth away any creases left over.
2. Proof reading will also ensure that when you hand over the manuscript to a publisher/agent, they will not waste their time over commas, extra quotation marks, over use of adverbs or conjunctions; and concentrate on the actual story/script.
If you ask me, proof reading is as crucial to a perfectly clean manuscript as a copy or a content edit. So today, I will let you in on some simple hacks to proof read your manuscript quickly and effectively.

You can also of course give it to a professional proof reader or take help of any and many online tools available today.

1. Take a print of your manuscript. When you have written the book just a short while ago, the e-version may look too familiar to you to notice any mistakes or typos. The best hack and the easiest, is to take a print of your entire work, sit down with a cup of coffee, a pen or a marker, and start highlighting mistakes to be corrected.

2. If you are, like me, a line hopper reader, an easy hack to avoid skipping lines, is to keep a blank sheet of paper and keep moving it under the line/sentence you are currently proof reading.

3. Be aware of the language you want to use. Do you want to follow the British RP or the American usage of English? Once you decide, maintain consistency. This is where most proof reading errors are found. Lift versus elevator, behaviour versus behavior. So on and so forth. This is one hack you can complete before you take a print of your book.

4. Know your common error zones. I for one, make the most mistakes in spellings that seem similar – receipt – reciept. Send – sent. Advise – advice. Focus a little more on such commonly misspelled words to ensure that your errors aren’t repeated anywhere and the usage is consistent.

5. Sometimes proof reading is required for certain writing habits we writers have. I have a habit of double spacing after each full stop. So the first thing I would do is remove all and any double spacing that I may have put in while typing my manuscript. Similarly you may have any punctuation pet peeves that you may want to look out for first.

6. Proof read after spell check or auto correct. This is the best advice I can give you. Sometimes spell checks or auto correct tools do more damage than help. You may send out your book after editing, thinking oh its pristine, and possibilities are it will come back to you with a big fat rejection. Because your ground black pepper quite nonchalantly became ground black people. Atrocious! Always, always proof read after your spell check.

7. Double check your index/ table of contents and match the pages. This is the simplest proof reading tip people often miss out on. Wrongly-numbered chapters are the most glaring mistake to send out to your publisher/agent. Before you proof read anything else, match your pages with your chapters and your index or table of contents.

8. Begin each chapter on a fresh page. Sometimes when you use tools to edit or content edit, your book formatting may be lost. The most common thing that occurs here, is that some of your chapters start from the middle of the page rather than the top. Proof reading for this can be a saving grace.

9. Run a word count. Usually if you are writing a novel, there will be a subscribed word length for each category – Novel, novella and epic. And when you are writing your manuscript that is definitely something you will not focus on. So do this when you are proof reading. Count your word length, and take a call on whether you are okay with your manuscript being fit into a novella or a full-fledged novel category. If you are unhappy, sadly this is a point where you will have to sit on your writing table again and cut down or add up more words to your manuscript. Adding this step to your proof reading process helps make that decision and ensures that your category is just right for what you have in mind.

10. I have a habit of ending the book page with half a sentence with the rest of the sentence continuing on the next page. Which is okay, but if that sentence is missing just one word for completion, you may as well shift it to the next page for easy readership. This is also one thing you can look out for during proof reading.

So here is an overview of your basic manuscript editing checklist when you are done writing it:

  • Step 1: Copy edit
  • Step 2: Content edit (you may skip this if you have gone through a very meaty copy edit)
  • Step 3: Spell check
  • Step4: Take a print of your manuscript
  • Step 5: Proof read

Here is a handy list of some commonly made word/spelling errors:

• a lot/alot
• affect/effect
• can/may
• further/farther
• i.e./e.g.
• into/in to
• up on/ upon
• between/from
• it’s/its
• lay/lie
• less/fewer
• that/who
• their/they’re/there
• then/than
• who/whom
• your/you’re
• chose/choose
• lose/loose
• grose/gross

And that’s it! You are almost done.

Congratulations! Your manuscript is finally ready. All the best to you for prepping your manuscript to be sent to a publisher/publishing agent. We sincerely hope our hacks have helped you get this far!

What would you like to see featured next? Do let us know and we will try and work out our next article around it.

Until then, happy writing!


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