In the previous post I mentioned various proofreading methods I considered for my short story collection, The Year of the Elm (TYOTE). While the objective in all cases was the same — eliminating nagging typos and errors — each method had different strengths and weaknesses.
The process I followed was pretty primitive: start at the beginning and read through the whole draft, fixing mistakes as I found them. When I was done I started in again, lather-rinse-repeat style. My goal was a full pass which revealed no new errors, although I knew that would hardly be a guarantee of success. Rather, it would simply signal the point at which I had become blind to my own work despite all efforts to the contrary.
The most useful thing I learned while proofreading TYOTE was to keep track of discovered mistakes, consistency concerns and usage issues in a separate list. As the final step in the proofreading process I worked through the list, item by item, using the ‘find’ function in my word processor to locate as many instances of the (potential) problem as possible. For example, once I realized that I had written ‘Mom’ as ‘mom’ in several places, I wrote ‘Mom/mom’ down to remind me to check all uses of the word for appropriate capitalization.
- any more = 2 words
- ‘em only in dialogue
- too – no rule/see blog post
The best part about this two-step process is that it simply runs its course. You read and re-read the text until you can’t find any more mistakes. Along the way, you compile a list of words/issues to check across the breadth of the entire text. When you can’t find any more mistakes in your read-throughs you turn to the list, and when you’re done with the list you’re done.
The punchline is that no one has pointed out a typo or other mistake in TYOTE. While it’s tempting to believe that I really did perform some sort of miracle edit, the truth is more banal.