Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Proofing Your Work

by Donna K. Weaver

Editing. Proofing. What's the difference?

Editing is when you correct, condense, or otherwise modify something. In the case of writers, written material.

Proofing is when you examine for flaws or errors.

Sometimes--too often for me--my eyes can play tricks on me. My mind wants me to see what I'm looking for. And I miss things.

Here's an example for you. How many Fs do you see in the sentence below?

Finished files are the result of years of scientific study
combined with the experience of years.

How many did you find? (I'll tell you how many you should have found at the end of the post.)

One way to get around this is to read your manuscript aloud. While that works to see how the sentences flow, it's not the best for proofing. That stupid brain again.

Newer versions of MS Word have something called Speak. Up at the top of your opened document, you should have a Quick Access Toolbar. Some people choose to have it at the top of the Ribbon and others (like me) have it at the bottom. Here you can add icons for all the features you use a lot.

Click on the drop-down thingy on the left in yellow to get the window you see to the left.

Select More Commands (second from the bottom)
It assumes you want to use Popular Commands. Click on the down arrow and choose All Commands.

Click into the list on the left under All Commands. Type in the letter S, and it will take you to the first option that begins with S.

You will still need to scroll down because there are a lot of Ss.

When you get to Speak, click the Add>> button to put it on your toolbar list in the right column. Then click OK at the bottom of the window.

You will now have this little box that resembles a cartoon dialogue box. If you scroll over it, the box will say Speak selected text.

Now you're ready for what I call my final proof. I highlight a paragraph of text and click this icon. Word reads it to me. I use it at work too. There, the voice is masculine (mechanical) but, at home, it's feminine (not quite so mechanical). 

Yes, it messes up some word pronunciations. It says "Braedon" without a problem but wants to make "pointed" sound French. O_o

As it reads, though, it catches those things my brain makes up because it thinks they should be there. There was a paragraph in the manuscript for A Change of Plans that used the word "martial". That particular paragraph had been unchanged for several edits. Probably a dozen people had read it (including three editors), and everyone had missed that I'd type it "marital". 

Big difference between martial and marital. What my eyes missed, my ears caught immediately.

So, back to that first test. The number of Fs is six.
How many did you find?
(hint: Finished files are the result of years of scientific study
combined with the experience of years.  
It's those tricksy "of" words that tripped me up the first time I read that sentence years ago.)

Do you have any proofing tricks?


Tammy Theriault said...

my trick is i am write, i mean right, and you are wrong. no. not really. i suck at proofing. i'm better at content finding. :)

love the profile pic!!!

Donna K. Weaver said...

lol I totally get what you mean about content vs proofing. Thanks.

Christy Monson said...

So true!

Anonymous said...

Okay, that is cool. I've been trying to figure that out, but of course got frustrated and gave up (too easily, I admit). Thanks for posting this Donna!


Lauren said...

I use Adobe rather than word to read aloud, and I edit backwards for the final.

Canda said...

This is great--I didn't even know it was there.

Deanna said...

I need to do better at proofing as I go, perhaps then I wouldn't struggle and spend so much time in the editing!

Sherry Gammon said...

I missed the of's two! Good post. I use that feature all the time. What a difference it makes!

Nas said...

In another person's new story, I can point out all the typos, mistakes yet in mine, I simply can't. No matter how many times I go through it!

Great post.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

My poor old computer hasn't got the strength for any more proofing tricks. Donna, this is an awesome post. Very helpful. I'm sending it to all my networks.

Charity West said...

Oh my gosh. I had no idea, NO IDEA, Word would read to me. I had it read my first paragraph of my WIP, and it made me giggle so bad. This is the greatest thing ever. Thank you!!

AM Woods: said...

Thanks for the instructions on how to find the speak function! I can't wait to try it out-

Renae Mackley said...

Helpful, terrific post, Donna. I'm going to go get that button now.

Renae Mackley said...

I just tried it out. Wahoo! Not as mechanical as I anticipated. Thank you so much!
Now, do you know how to switch the male/female voices?