There’s hardly a topic more boring than proofreading, but you must proofread your stuff before you send it out to an agent (or, yes, to an editor).
So what is proofreading? It’s a mode of checking written work so that work is in its best form possible.
Proofreading benefits for you, the writer, are:
- professional image
- knowledge demonstration (of grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and format, genre, etc.)
- stress reduction (you know you’re sending out a quality product, so you don’t have to stress over it–just move on to the next article or column or character, etc.)
Most writers would rather be creating than proofreading, so start by creating a positive proofreading environment with these steps.
- Create a schedule that includes timelines, due dates, and reader (editor/agent/customer/etc.) expectations.
- Figure out your best time (some are morning people, others night people, others afternoon), and block out proofreading time when you are most alert.
- Eliminate distractions. Yes, you can turn off the phone, ignore email, or close your door and survive for an hour or so.
- Focus on what you’re proofreading. That means you put away your other projects during proofreading.
- Keep reference material within reach–if you only use online references such as dictionaries, grammar books, style books, etc., you must be disciplined to go back to proofreading once you’ve found the answer to your question online.
- Work in comfort. If your chair isn’t the appropriate height or your lighting is inadequate, you won’t focus on proofreading until you get comfortable anyway, so why not start out that way?
Finally, here are some things you can do to get over proofreading monotony.
- Change the time of day you proofread, but stay in your prime time (example: if your prime time is 6:00 am to 9:00 am, start at 7:00 one morning and 7:30 the next).
- Eat lightly. Snacks can bolster your energy, but heavy meals can bog you down.
- Change your work pace. If your goal is to proofread six pages every fifteen minutes, consider changing to three every ten minutes, then take a short break in between sessions.
- If you’re backed up on proofreading, create criteria to help you prioritize. Could be deadline, could be payment rate, could be which project is shorter, could be which project you enjoy most. You decide how to give preference to your project(s), then use your criteria to keep proofreading moving.
Proofreading can be one of the most rewarding steps in your writing. Once you’re done proofreading, you’re ready to send your work out and move on to the next project. How fun is that!