Spotting our own mistakes

My editor sent through the page proofs of my new book yesterday. It’s exciting to see how the final version will look in print. But it comes with big responsibilities. I am tasked with proof reading the manuscript at the same time as a professional proof-reader. This is my last chance to spot and rectify any mistakes.

 Now I’ve been an English teacher for nearly forty years. Much of my working life has been spent correcting students’ essays. I am adept at identifying hanging participles, incorrect usages of apostrophes, failure to mark sentence boundaries, inappropriate compounding of separate words, etc, etc. The list is endless! But my own mistakes are harder to spot. Over time, student errors have rubbed off on me and I find myself copying their mistakes. It’s also true that, when checking our work, we read what we think we have read, not what we have actually written. There are over 100,000 words in my manuscript and I’m worried that any lapses in concentration will allow the errors to escape my notice. Let’s hope the professional proof-reader is more competent than I am!

But there is some good advice to be had from other writers. Some people read their work out loud so that they are more likely to hear mistakes; some activate the voice facility on their computers as hearing a different voice read their work is more likely to alert them to errors. Changing the font of the manuscript is another good suggestion as well as moving away from your usual writing area to proof-read. There is something about being in unfamiliar places that activate different parts of our brains.

 So I’ll be following all this advice over the next few days. Wish me luck!