Can you proofread your own work?.



(Please read to the bottom of the page, but don’t peek.)

So, the question is, ‘Can you proofread your own work?

In my opinion ‘YES’, but from experience… ‘NO’.

There I’ve said it.

It’s a fact.

You/I/We can’t and shouldn’t proofread our own work.

The first promlem is that we see what we expect to sea.

Of course we all like to think that as we are the masters behind the prose; it’s ours, nobody else has the right to correct our opus, but hey, think again. Here’s what happened to me.

I took the head staggers one evening around 8.30pm having just been delivered a plot in my screwed up head; so I immediately started writing the story. You know, it takes over your life and you just have to get it out there.

It was about a couple checking into a five star hotel and their experience during there stay, with, I might add, a nice little twist at the end. (The twist came first – in my head, that is.)

My method is to start writing, jump down the page with ideas, up again, down again, ending, middle, then beginning again as the ideas start coming from all angles, but I digest.

Just over three hours later I uploaded it with a smile on my face.

The next day, I had some comments.

First couple of comments on the piece had me jumping up and down with excrement.
Third comment was still full of praise, but pointed out that there were mistakes.
Fourth comnent was the same as the third.

I read it again, but could I find any mistakes? Well yes actually, two of them. When I converted from Word into Goodreads I did the proofreading with their little button and it seems to have corrected G&T into ‘G& amp;T’ twice. I could be wrong and maybe it is my mistake, but I checked the Word document and it was correct there. I changed ‘&’ to ‘and’ and that sorted it, but it’s something to watch out for as a lot of social media sites don’t recognise ‘&’.

So… On the assumption that I wasn’t the genius I thought I was, I contacted both of the guys who had commented and asked them (nicely) if they would mind explaining exactly what they had found wrong,

I’ve been on Twitter/Goodreads/Facebook now for a while and found that authors tend to be a friendly bunch, who are very willing to help each other, so it was no big surprise when they both happily agreed to critique my work and send me the results.

One or two mistakes? I wish. Full stops missing, comas instead of semi-colons, quotation marks at the end of speech but none at the start, quotation marks at thoughts, and lots more.

Was I embarrassed?

I felt stupid, but you have to remember that every day is an education.

It’s not only worthwhile to let somebody read your work before you upload it; it should be made compulsory.

I corrected everything pointed out to me and uploaded it again.

For what it’s worth, I find that reading your manuscript out loud is a brilliant way to see if the sentences flow and is also good for finding out where commas go, and, when you do actually take the time to sit down and proofread; you need to do it ‘one sentence’ at a time, then again, only this time read it backwards, then again, this time standing on your head.

Irrespective of everything said above, I’m positive that mistakes will occour again, but until I can afford a proofreading service, I’ll just have to do the best I can.

In any event, providing that there’s not too many spelling mistakes, and the story is a good read, I think that the readers will forgive me/you. It’s not life threatening and as I said at the start, the first two comments were excellent.
A very special thanks from me to the two readers who took the time to point out my mistakes.

Mr. Dan Glover and the late Mr. Rags Daniels.
Mistakes? Yes, I know. They were put there intentionally, but did you get all of them?

An extra full stop after the question mark on the title line

‘Promlem’, instead of ‘problem’

‘Sea’ instead of ‘see’

‘During there stay, instead of ‘during their stay’

‘Digest’, instead of ‘digress’

Seriously? ‘Excrement’ – If you missed that one, go sit in the corner

‘Comnent’, instead of ‘comment’

‘Occour’, instead of ‘occur’

If you found some or all of them, well done. Give yourself a pat on the back/glass of wine/ extra hour in bed. At least you’re on the lookout.

Hate to say it, but if you found some more unintentional ones. Please let me know and I’ll not only correct them, but soak my head in a bucket of cold water.

Have a good one.





22 thoughts on “Can you proofread your own work?.

  1. I agree completely about needing a proofreader – I found 20 mistakes (by which I mean typos, missing words, extra words, missed off speech marks) while doing the final edit of my most recent novel – Proofread Julia has found SCORES more! You just don’t see them.

    I think you CAN edit your own work, but you have to have a bit of writing experience, and be able to see when a word, description, scene or maybe whole character is superfluous to the plot – and a great deal of people can’t, which is why so many ‘indie’ books look amateur. You have to stop being self-indulgent and think about the reader. It sounds as though you are uploading to sites without even one re-draft of yours, Lawrence. Hope I’m not right…!!

    Now, I think you’re totally WRONG about ‘if the story is good enough your readers will forgive you’. The odd typo, maybe, or even missing word, but not bad punctuation – this makes a story not read properly. And not a lot of mistakes – if there are more than a couple in anything, I abandon it. LIke I have said many times, if you don’t know how to punctuate automatically, almost without thinking about it, and you don’t know basic grammar rules, you need to learn it/them before you even THINK of publishing your work.

  2. One should *never* write something, and then straightaway upload. You need to go over it again and again, make sure the continuity is right, make sure there are no repetitions, and of course, the punctuation, grammar and spelling must be right.
    Yes, one can proof-read your own work, but not in a hurry, and certainly not if your method is ‘jump down the page with ideas, up again, down again, ending, middle, then beginning again as the ideas start coming from all angles, but I digest.’ (digress?)
    It is not the slightest wonder if a work written this way and then straightaway uploaded is riddled with errors.

    I am editing now. The story was completed six weeks ago (and that a re-write) I have a separate page marking possible repetitions to look out for, making sure that the continuity is right, making sure it makes sense, checking my facts, making sure that a fight scene works as it should. All those things are essential, not just correcting the errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation.

    It is up to every Indie writer to do the very best product they can. Only the very generous reader will excuse an error-ridden book that they’ve paid for.
    And if I sound severe, it is because I consider it so very important. Each Indie story published reflects not just on the author, but on every Indie writer.

    • Hi Marj.

      Thank you for taking the time to reply. Good or bad comments are welcomed by me, as it’s the only way to improve anything written.

      Digest is meant to be there. Did you read right down to the bottom? There are lots of mistakes in it on purpose. Excrement instead of excitement, etc.

      Maybe I’m getting the wrong end of the stick here and if I am I apologise.

      The jump-down-up thing is just the way my mind works. I know that it’s not for everybody. Maybe I’m just a bit weird in my methods.

      I completely agree with your comment about each indie author reflecting on every writer.

      Thank you for dropping by and especially for taking the time to comment.

      Again, if I’ve got the interpretation wrong, I sincerely apologise.

      Have a good one.


    • Couldn’t agree more, Marj. I’ve made that point in an interview recently – that every time someone publishes before a book is ready, it adds to the view I’ve heard expressed many times that most ‘indie’ books aren’t worth looking at. If we want to be taken seriously as writers we have to allow our work to be judged by the same criteria as the traditionally published.

  3. Jump up, down and all around is fine, just that in a lengthy book, the getting it all in sequence afterwards can be more difficult. eg, in one of my early books, (never published) I discovered that I had one of the minor characters dead in one chapter, and only retired two chapters further on.
    I tend to write long books, (my best book is 185,000 words) I often fiddle with the order of things in the process of writing, so I have to take great care with logic and continuity.
    I have not read your books, so nothing I say is criicism of your work – just general comments.

    • Hi Marj

      Don’t I know it.

      What I meant with the ‘jump up and down’ thing is that I’m always having ideas during the writing process, so instead of taking notes, I write little reminders and then put them in order. Doesn’t always work, but if I don’t get it out of my head, then it’s gone.

      I don’t proofread like that! One word, one line, one paragraph at a time. Still, you always see what you expect to see.

      The one thing that I didn’t include in the article was continuity – which you reminded me of. (Thank you)

      I’ll sort something out about that tomorrow; but it was intended to be an article primarily for spelling and punctuation and that also assumes that anyone reading it for tips had everything right in that aspect.

      185,000 is definitely an achievement. Mine is only 90k and I – like you – used a page summarising every chapter, but mistakes still come to light. I’ve left it to stew for a week at a time and then went through it again, so it’s nearly finished. I envy your output but not the work that such a tome would require to edit it.

      So far, nobody has found any mistakes in the piece that were unintended and listed at the end and that was why I explained the ‘digest’ bit.

      I really appreciate your reply and after looking at your previous work on Facebook and the comments, I know that you’re not only qualified to comment but worth taking note of.

      Tell me, do you mind if I upload your reply and this reply. (minus this line of course.)

      Take care and again, thanks for taking the time. I appreciate it.


  4. I agree with Terry Tyler’s third point about readers being very intolerant of bad presentation. Even if a story is good, really good, they will still grumble about incorrect spellings and other typos. Authors must do their best to publish work that is as error-free as possible. Quality is important.
    And since you ask, there are a few unintended errors in your post! (The twist came first – in my head, that is) needs a full stop before the final parentheses, for example, and I’d have punctuated differently in various places too.

    • Hi Steph

      It does my head in. No matter how many times you look it over, something is always missed. Thanks for that, I’ll change it now. Well spotted. I’d love to say that it was intentional, but I’d be lying 😉

  5. I agree with everything you said, but persistence and attention to the single sentence read does much to correcting the goofs.I was taught that reading each paragraph from end to beginning is a good way of catching some mistakes. I have found several that way.

    Having another author is a great option, provided you can find willing participants. I have a couple of stories that need proofing. Who will volunteer to take on this task?
    I will gladly reciprocate.

    I hope to receive edits followed by reviews of my work. My goal is to entertain the reader.

  6. Lawrence,

    I agree with what you wrote. Even with you and a proofreader going through your work, you can still be left with errors. Even large publishers still have errors in the final copy.

    There were quite a few more errors in your post. Were you hoping someone would point them out; for example, Mr is missing the period.

    • Hi there.
      In a word – yes.
      Any mistakes that you spot would be welcome.
      We’re all trying to constantly improve and like you, I’ve spotted some whoppers in major novels.
      Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to comment.

  7. It’s so true. I edit and proofread for a living, yet when I published my own book, it had several typos, including one that was quite serious. Very embarrassing! And a hard lesson learned.

  8. Hi Lawrence, I think I noticed a few more, but without reading through the post again to check, I can tell you that you had ‘coma’ instead of ‘comma’. I now have multiple people go through my books before uploading as even one other person who isn’t the author doesn’t find everything – we’re only human. So I have a proofreader and several beta readers. And I agree with the consensus that readers are just as unforgiving of mistakes by indie authors as by trad published ones.

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  10. Lawrence,
    I think your post brings up a good point and good discussion, especially among indie writers. These are not people with the backing of some large publishing company who has editors pouring over their work for mistakes. And even if they did, I have seen instances (Twilight) where things still sneak through. I think it is a complicated question of whether or not we can or should do any of it ourselves that lies in our backgrounds. I, for the most part, can trust myself to do editing and proofreading myself. The reason for this is because 1. I am an educator who hs taught the revision process to many children and young adults for quite some time. 2. I have been editing other people’s work for money for 3 plus years 3. I was the head of the writing department at an Internet marketing company. Mistakes in this industry are unforgivable. This prevents me from making stylistic, grammatical, and plot-type mistakes.
    However, it also helps that I use several tools to catch those silly typos that we ALL make; the ones that have nothing to do with my grasp of the English language or the writing process. I use the latest version of Word, Grammarly, and Google Docs. I also always read my work aloud; something I have taught every single student to do. I think these silly mistakes can be caught through these programs, very careful editing techniques, and maybe the help of a family member who can catch what our eyes cannot.
    I think the problem with self-revision comes in when we are a person who is unsure of certain grammatical rules and when it is okay to break them. If you didn’t make an A in English classes growing up and don;t know the intimate details of certain styles like Oxford, APA, or Chicago, or even if English was not your first language, there will be things you wouldn’t even realize were wrong, and a close trusted friend or family member might not either. This is when yu might want to consider getting even an amateur editor to take a look at your work.

  11. Completely agree. I did two thorough proofreads of my 70,000 word manuscript and felt I caught everything. Decided to do one more before submitting to CreateSpace, found 15 errors. Over the next 4 proofreads I found over 30 more. I just received my first proof back and have found an additional 3 (so far). Great post.

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