Proofreading: Tips and Tricks

[Since today, March 8th, is National Proofreading Day I thought I would re-post this article from a few years ago, with some revisions. I’ve left the comments attached below since so many were illustrative. Please add new thoughts as well.]

I have regularly displayed my lack of proofreading skills in past blog posts. In fact, it got so bad I’ve had to hire someone to proofread my posts before I fling them upon you. Thus it might be appropriate to look at some ways everyone can effectively proof their own work.

At every conference I’ve ever attended, there is at least one person’s proposal, pitch page, or sample chapter with a typo that jumps off the page. It is never a “fatal” error, but noticeable nonetheless.

At least try not to have the typo in the title of the book. (Yes that has happened more than once.)

Worst typo in my publishing experience? While I was working at a major publishing house in editorial (over 20 years ago), we published a book where the author’s name was misspelled on the front cover. Correct on the spine. Correct on the back cover. Correct on the title page. INCORRECT on the cover. Went to press and books were shipped; then the error was discovered. Not much happiness that day.

So what are some things you can do?

Read Your Work Out Loud

Better yet? Have someone else read it to you. This can also help with clarity. Amazing how others emphasize the wrong word in your sentence.

An author recently told me that nearly 30 typos were discovered during the production of the audio version of their already published novel. The voice talent discovered and pointed them out.

Read it Backwards

The main reason your brain misses errors is that it anticipates what it will see. By going the other direction, you must intentionally see each word.

Homonyms in particular will stand out (like pray vs. prey, or accept vs. except, or taught vs. taut).

Hard-Copy Reading 

For some, the screen is an impediment to careful reading. I know some editors still use hard copy for their edits and then transfer them all to the screen for Track Changes. There is something about the tactile nature of pen on paper that helps me. I’ll print a contract and then read it. Never only on screen. Often it depends on how one learned to edit in the first place.

Avoid Speed-reading

Hopefully, you are not like the rest of us and you have planned ahead. You are not rushing to proof your work at 2 a.m. because it is due the next morning.

Proofreading is not something to do at the last minute. Take your time.

Hire a Pro

There are a number of freelance editors who will do the job for you. Prices vary. Use your writers group networks to find the best (or take a look at the latest edition of The Christian Writers Market Guide where there are 70 pages of freelancers listed). However, even though you hired someone, the responsibility lies with you.

Your Turn

Any other suggestions?

It has been mentioned that you can have your phone or computer read it to them. Can someone explain how that works?

What was the worst error you ever let slip through and onto the page?

Leave a Comment

Writing Advice I Took to Heart

Today’s guest post is by Lori Hatcher. She is an editor, writing instructor, award-winning Toastmasters International speaker, blogger, and author of three (soon to be five) devotionals, including Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible, and Hungry for God … Starving for Time: Five-Minute Devotions for …

Read More

Coming Full Circle

by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Today’s guest blog is from Kim Vogel Sawyer a best-selling author whose books have topped the sales charts and won awards since 2005, when she left her elementary school teaching job to write full time. Her books have won the Carol Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Her stories are designed to offer hope and encouragement to her readers. Kim sees a correlation between the writing of a good story and God’s good plan for every life, and she hopes her stories encourage readers to seek God’s will in their own personal lives. Bestselling author Tracie Peterson says: “Kim Vogel Sawyer is an exceptional storyteller who is sure to please fans of historical fiction. Her attention to detail and love of God shines through.”

In addition to writing, Kim Vogel Sawyer is a popular speaker, freely sharing her testimony of God’s grace and healing-both physical and emotional-in her life. She and her husband Don reside in Hutchinson, Kansas, and have three daughters and four grandchildren. She is active in her church and loves singing, acting, playing handbells, quilting, and chocolate!


In 2002, as my health was crumbling to the point that full-time teaching was no longer a possibility and I didn’t know what I was going to do, my dad–feeling as though I needed a major lift–took it upon himself to make my publishing dream come true. He sent a story I’d written, titled A Seeking Heart, to Steve Laube, who, at the time, owned a self-publishing company called ACW Press. And Steve agreed to help me get it into print.

Thus began a journey beyond the scope of my wildest imaginings.

Read More

Judicious Sharing

As a writer, you’ll face times of profound despair and, I hope, massive victory. When successful, you’ll want to share your news with your supporters. But I recommend muting your enthusiasm with your detractors. And we all have those. To my surprise, a person who never speaks to me or …

Read More

The Power of the Short Story

Today’s guest writer is Deborah Clack, who is a native Texan and nonrecovering chocolate addict. A high-school AP history teacher for 10 years, Deborah earned a master’s degree in education and was awarded Teacher of the Year for Arts in Education. Now she creates award-winning stories of her own with …

Read More

Your Name in Lights

I often receive submissions from authors who say something along the lines of, “I have a devotional book, a romance, a fantasy, a collection of poems, a novella, a marriage book, and a screenplay available for representation.” This sounds great, right? The agent can choose from a variety of projects, …

Read More

You Provide Our Audience!

In speaking with a friend recently, she commented, “I don’t understand why Icabod gets invited to every event. Everyone knows who he is, but no one likes him.” I countered that, in attending every event, Icabod is providing a service. As an attendee, he is helping to make the party …

Read More

The Devil Is in the Procrastination

You have heard it said that “the devil is in the details”? But what about the idea that “the devil is in the procrastination”? Alistair Begg said, “The devil’s favorite word is tomorrow. The Bible always says, ‘Today is the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:2). While he was talking …

Read More