It’s hard to catch mistakes in our own writing. No matter how hard I try, I still miss a lot. With every piece I get back from an editor, I’m dismayed over the many errors I didn’t catch, even though I know better.
Of course, they also spot many mistakes I would have never caught, which is why I always use at least two editors for every book. Despite these shortcomings, editors often remark that my writing is clean. But given all their corrections, I’d hate to see a piece that wasn’t.
So how do we catch errors in our writing before sending it to an editor?
Edit from a printed copy: Many authors print their work and edit from a hard copy. One author says she touches the tip of her pen to each word as she reads it. Though this is a good idea, I don’t have that much patience.
I don’t print my work. I’m too frugal (codename for cheap) and environmentally conscience to waste paper and ink printing each book multiple times. Therefore, I do all my editing onscreen, knowing I’d catch more errors if I scrutinized it in printed form as opposed to an electronic version.
Read Backwards: Though it seems nonsensical, I’ve heard writers who insist they read backward when proofing their work. I tried it—for about ten seconds—and gave up. I don’t get this technique, not at all.
Read Aloud: To combat my aversion to printing my work, I began reading it out loud. Though my wife gave me strange looks and mocked me, I caught many more errors with this approach. Unfortunately, since I knew what I intended to write, that’s often what I read, even though that’s not what I typed.
Use Text-to-Speech Software: An even more effective way to proof work is through text-to-speech software. That way my computer reads my words to me. I catch so many errors this way. It may be why editors often say my writing is clean. This method works for me and works well.
I use this approach when editing my work. I do so three times for each book. The first is before it goes to my developmental editor. The second is before it goes to my copy editor/proofreader. And the third is just before I publish it.