How To Self-Edit And Proofread Your Book

How To Self Edit And Proofread Your Book

Self-publishing may be an inexpensive way to publish a book.

But without thorough proofreading and editing, it can turn out to be an embarrassing disaster.

But hiring a reliable and professional proofreader or editor, while a wise move, is expensive.

Charges range considerably from $0.02 per word for proofreading and $0.03 and upwards for editing.


For a 100,000-word novel, you could be looking at a sum in excess of $2,000.

There is just no escaping the necessity of having an independent pair of eyes at least proofread your book before publishing.

But you can save yourself a lot of money and embarrassment by doing some of the work yourself.

However, our brains function in an odd way that can make it difficult to find errors in our writing.

So here are a few ways I have found that work effectively. This is not to say that you will achieve perfection.

But I guarantee you will be stunned by the number of errors you find.


How to make a start on your first self-edit and proofread

A thorough check with your word processor’s spellchecker is the obvious place to start.

Make sure you set your document is to your desired form of English. Analyze each found word carefully and don’t just skip through your text quickly.

Also, look for words around the found words. Mistakes often congregate due to your level of concentration when you were writing.

Then use the inbuilt grammar checker on a separate pass of your document. The grammar checker in Word is basic.

There are better online checking options available.

Check every error carefully. But also again, look at the whole sentence and make sure all your agreement is correct.

Because I use a Mac, I also copy my document into Apple’s Pages program as the ‘Proofreader’ function is very useful as well.


Use Find in MS Word

‘Find’ is your friend. The find function in your word processor is the best tool for finding problems in your document.

Think about common grammatical errors such as, its and it’s, there, their and they’were and where, if and of and well, you know which ones the spellchecker can’t find. So go hunting.

Also, use ‘Find’ for annoying double spaces between words.

Another use is to check all of your character’s names.

I have often found that I have used the wrong character’s name in a sentence by this method.


Proofread your book backward. It may sound silly, but your brain concentrates on the story when you read, so proofread out of order.

Perhaps last chapter first, or even print out a chapter and mix the pages up. It helps you to concentrate on the text only.

A new way I have found is to convert my book, or parts of it, into .mobi format and load it onto my Kindle.

For some reason, errors really stand out when it looks like the finished product.

You can use a program called Calibre to convert Word to Kindle.

I also put a copy on my wife’s Kindle, and she always finds more errors.

You can highlight the errors on your Kindle, so you can then go back and correct your original MS.


Take a break

The last and I think the most valuable tip is never proofread or edit unless you have had a few weeks break from writing your manuscript.

Your head is full of ideas at the creative writing stage, so your brain does not want to be critical.

It’s still too much in love with your story to find fault.

Now that you have completed a thorough cleaning up, it’s time to find someone independent to at least proofread for you.

Friend, spouse, son, or daughter is fine. But they are rarely critical enough.

But if professional services are too expensive for your project, at least you know you have tried your best to improve your book.

Then when you are ready to publish, think about reading it just one more time before you hit the button.

I bet you’ll find a few more errors and typos that you’ll be so happy you discovered – that your readers will not.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

4 thoughts on “How To Self-Edit And Proofread Your Book

  • January 5, 2020 at 4:32 am

    I WISH I had done this before printing 1k copies!! Oh well ! Live and learn. I still got the movie deal!! Jamylah and the Giants

  • November 6, 2019 at 1:36 am

    Thank you for the tips! There are one or two tips I hadn’t thought about.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Barbara J

  • March 27, 2019 at 3:19 am

    Another helpful method is to use Word’s text-to-voice option. Have the computer read your book to you out loud. The intonations are often off – it’s a computer, after all – but it is an easy way to find the places where you missed or repeated a word, where a sentence doesn’t read ‘right’ and other errors that automated grammar helpers just won’t catch.

  • December 11, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Nothing beats constant vigilance and double/treble checking and reading. And, as advised above, take a break from your m/s. You’ll be surprised by how many tiny mistakes you’ll find after you think it’s perfect! And, don’t forget, Professional editors, and printers make mistakes too now and then, but you can only worry so much… Letting another GOOD writer, or two, read your work also helps a lot. Be optimistic!


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