You’ve written a great article, and can’t wait to submit it. But hold on: Have you proofread it meticulously? Writers are most vulnerable to mistakes when in love with their work and, in this fast-paced world where briefly scanning text is commonplace (think emails), it’s easy to read quickly, and overlook details. So how can you proofread more effectively?
ENGAGE YOUR INNER STORYTELLER: Read your piece aloud as a kindergarten teacher might, slowly with inflection. As you speak a word, train your eyes to spell-check that word only. Don’t let them roam ahead until the next word is uttered. It takes patience and practice to read slowly, and check every letter, but the payoff is big. And, hearing your manuscript aloud fosters flow. Your ears will quickly detect a clunky word, phrase or sentence.
EXERCISE: When I’m proofreading, I walk through my house, manuscript and pencil in hand, reading aloud and making corrections. Afterwards…exercised and enlightened…I make all changes on the computer, and print a fresh copy. Then, I take another walk. I do this as often as it takes to get things right.
SHAKE THINGS UP: To see your manuscript with fresh eyes, reposition the start of your story toward the bottom of page one rather than the top or middle. With the location of every subsequent paragraph shifted, visual familiarity is lost…which, ironically, helps you pinpoint problem areas. Or, print your manuscript on colored paper, and proof that copy. Visual changes stimulate the mind, and enhance proofreading acuity.
Through trial and error, I’ve learned the value of delaying submissions until every bothersome detail is ironed out. Delaying a day or a week won’t hurt my chances of publication if, ultimately, I submit a more polished, marketable manuscript. A great idea, well-written and well-proofed, makes an editor very happy. Better yet, it sells.
Wendy Hobday Haugh’s articles and short stories, more than 200 to date, have appeared in dozens of national and regional magazines, including American Profile, Boys’ Quest, ByLine, Children’s Digest, Hopscotch, Mature Years, Saratoga Living, and Woman’s World Weekly. Her work has also appeared in four “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthologies.