As I sat here pondering a topic for my next post — this is getting harder every day — I received a Facebook message from a writer friend. I told her I was looking for something to write about. She sent me a few ideas (thanks, Sarah). I’d already touch on a few of them but one in particular really got my attention. She said: How important spelling is. That’s one I haven’t tackled yet but I’m glad to do that.
Finding typos in our stories isn’t always easy. First of all after you’ve read and re-read the story so many times, it’s embedded in your brain. You know the manuscript so well, you can probably recite it with your eyes closed. As you read, you see what it’s supposed to say, not what’s necessarily spelled out. It’s easy to miss two reversed letters, or even a missing one.
That’s why I ask at least four people to read my manuscript before I publish it. Yes I have an editor, and she and I go over it with a fine-toothed comb. That doesn’t mean we’re going to catch them all. Before I published my last book, I ordered four copies for people to proofread. Each one either circled or highlighted the typos or grammatical errors to make it easier for me to find them and make corrections. One proofreader actually wrote them down on a sheet of lined paper. Were there that many? No, but what I found amazing was that each reader found similar mistakes, but one of them found something the others had missed.
That said, don’t beat yourself over the head if, after you’ve pressed the PUBLISH button, you start receiving email from readers who point the typos in your book. It’s not unheard. It’s very easy to miss one here and there. If it’ll make you feel any better, my former co-worker used to analyze books to death (I always wondered if she actually enjoyed them). While she nitpicked at every detail, she pointed out several typos in a novel written by a famous bestselling author.
How do you avoid missing typos and grammatical errors?
- I like to listen to my story, using Microsoft Word’s text-to-speech feature. I’ll be the first to admit it’s very robotic, but you can hear the mistakes because the computer reads what’s there. If you reverse two letters in a word, for example, or when changing a sentence around, you forgot to delete a word, you’ll hear it.
- Then, I go over it with my editor before I ask others to proofread my story.
- Once I’ve heard the whole thing, I hire an editor and we go over it together. At the end of the edits, I pass it on to at least four people.
- Something else I’ve heard of, was that some writers read each line backwards, from right to left. I can’t imagine doing it that way, specially with a 200+ page books.
How do you search for typos and grammatical errors? Do you use an editing a software? Leave a comment below.