Make human proofreading easier by using software first
Editing and proofreading a long manuscript is laborious and time-consuming, but there are a few ways to make the task easier.
Once you have finished your manuscript, after numerous drafts, edits and re-writes, it’s time to silently read and proofread your manuscript sentence by sentence.
Ideally, this should be the task of someone other than yourself, and even more preferably, by more than one proofreader. As the author, you should leave your final proofreading of the text until others have completed the task and their notations corrected.
However, before rushing into the human proofreading stage, there are a few electronic measures you can take to eradicate many fundamental grammar and punctuation errors and typos by using proofreading software, which will make human proofreading a far less time-consuming task.
Step One. Divide up your manuscript.
Save your original manuscript and make sure you have it backed up.
Now make a copy of it and save it into a new file location. From this copy, select each chapter one by one, and then copy and paste each chapter into a new Word document and save as the chapter number or title.
Why is this necessary?
Because most proofreading software and grammar and spell checkers struggle, go slow and even lock up on long documents.
In fact, MS Word slows to a crawl on very long documents, and this increases the chance of crashes and save failures.
Working on chapter size files makes the work a lot faster. On top of that, by working one chapter at a time, you can keep notes of the errors that recur frequently, and use these notes to assist you in the following chapters.
In fact, this is a good writing habit. Write one chapter, save it safely, and start a new document for the next chapter.
Working on one long document, particularly if it is your only copy is inviting technical disaster.
One crash or file corruption and all your hard work will be gone forever.
Write in chapter files and always have backups.
Step Two. Word Find is your friend
For each chapter, use the standard spelling and grammar checker in MS Word. It will find some errors, but it is not highly reliable as it does not do a good job of finding contextual spelling errors or run on sentences.
To eliminate these errors, Find is your friend.
Use Find in MS Word for common errors such as, it’s and its, than and then, him and his, you and your.
Also, use it to check names.
If you have a character named Sam, there is probably no issue, but for a name like Madeleine, there could well be variations in spelling.
Also use Find to locate titles Mr., Dr. or Mrs and look for missing or inconsistent punctuation.
As a writer you should have a good idea of the types of errors or typos you make repetitively, so use Find to track them down.
Words that are overused such as like, just, really, actually or Oh can also be found with Find.
When you have completed your first chapter, you should have a solid list of your errors that you can tick off in subsequent chapters.
Step Three. Use online and free software.
All electronic proofreading, spelling and grammar checkers work differently, so what one can’t find, another might. My advice is to use at least two others to help in finding errors. There are many alternatives and choices, but here are a few.
On an Apple computer, use Pages.
On a PC use Open Office.
Use an online service. I use Grammarly, which works extremely well, especially for repeated words, the passive and punctuation, but you can try others such as Ginger or Whitesmoke. Here is a link to a review of online grammar checkers and proofreading software.
If you use a free online proofreader or grammar checker, there is usually a text length limit, so having your book already divided into chapters helps again here.
Step Four. Checking for consistency
At any stage of your electronic checking, keep your eyes open for inconsistencies. These can take many forms.
Perhaps your dialogue is using contracted forms but then changes to un-contracted in one chapter. Punctuation can also change, such as double quotes or single quotes.
Check that your spelling is consistent, as it is very easy to mix US and British forms.
Step Five. Create your new manuscript for human proofreading.
Once you have completed your electronic checks of each chapter, copy and paste each chapter back into a new complete Word document so your manuscript will be ready for your proofreaders, or proofreading service.
They will have a lot less work to do now that you have taken the time to eradicate so many fundamental errors.
No electronic form of document checking will ever replace the keen eyes of a good human proofreader, reading silently or aloud, so none of them are to be trusted as a replacement.
However, by following these few basic steps outlined above, you will eradicate a lot of errors and make human proofreading a much easier task.