Friday, February 11, 2011

How Important is Proof-Reading?

A friend sent me a question--- Is proof-reading important? On face value this is a simple question with an easy answer. Yes, you must proof-read. Many times. Publishers should be concerned.  Most publishers won't see your book if it hasn't been proof-read because it won't make it past the agent and editor.  I've posted the letter below and would love to hear your opinion.

"I just wanted to run something by you since you are an aspiring new author.  Do you believe in proof-reading before sending a manuscript to the printers?   Would or should a publisher be concerned if an article or book was NOT proof-read?  

In the last year or so, I have looked at a variety of books (mainly on aviation topics, but also a few others).  To my surprise, I've found multiple errors in spelling, grammar and even explanations and sometimes incorrect diagrams too!  I am not talking about the occasional typo, but errors every few pages.  

Three separate books by different authors, all had tons of mistakes and errors.  IMHO, that is not only distracting but it also shows a lack of credibility and professionalism.  If this is the standard they set, then why should I bother to read their work, let alone purchase it?  Imagine if you were looking for a job and sent a cover letter/resume in for your dream job and it was full of typos, incorrect spelling and bad formatting.  Do you think it may just end up in the circular file? 

The author of this question provided an example of an aviation book that he'd said had multiple negative reviews. I looked at the book in question, and while it's supposed to be a technical book, there are in fact many errors.

"The reason I decided NOT to buy it was my browsing several pages allowed on Amazon and the volume of negative reviews on its content.  I'm not even sure if the author knows that his book is so full of errors!  I would never buy a tech book that is inaccurate to this extent and it kind of makes a mockery of its title, Ace The Pilot Technical Interview  

If you look at the same book under the US Amazon, you get even more negative reviews.  The majority of the positive ones seem to be the entry-level pilots starting out on their careers and perhaps they wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a right and wrong answer." 

---- Excellent point. When you are an expert a particular field like aviation, when the agent is not, perhaps the agent doesn't know the book is in error. I'm sure they don't have technical experts in all areas.  Is this a good excuse? I don't think so.

"Another book on how to answer any question during an interview, had the author come back to a reviewer saying, don't worry so much about the typos, it's the message inside that's important, not the spelling or grammar! --- I assure you that spelling and grammar mean everything.

Maybe as a pilot, I've learned that if you are going to do something, you should do it right, not half-heartily.  Also, I think it is in the pilot psyche to be detail-oriented and meticulous.  Besides, whatever happened to Spell Checker?!  I would think most authors using a word processing or publishing program to write their books would have this feature enabled, so why not use it?

Spelling and grammar are not important--- they are essential. Most people won't read the content if there are errors. If you're going to do it, do it right. I'm sorry you had this experience, but it could be a result of self publishing. I looked up the publisher in question with this aviation book, yes they have a branch of self publishing. 

Unfortunately authors who publish without the pride and ownership, give self-publishing a bad name. I am not against self-publishing, but it you do it, do it right. 

How many times should we proof-read our work?  What steps do you take to create perfection? Inquiring minds want to know.

Happy Writing

~ Karlene



  1. Yikes! Cringe. Let's see: proofread it with a red pen in hand. Then read it out loud all the way through to catch more errors. Have a beta reader go through the whole thing. Then have your crit group read it, at least the key chapters, and when that's all been done, a final readthrough. (And Spellcheck, of course—but it won't catch everything, like their/there, its/it's etc.)

    Great post, Karlene, thanks.

  2. I completely agree, spelling and grammar are essential! I believe self-publishing can be a great thing too but you're right Karlene, it must be done right. If one is going to do it and they know they aren't great with spelling & grammar then they can always (and should) hire an editor to go through it.

  3. Karlene san!!

    Do you believe in proof-reading before sending a manuscript to the printers? Would or should a publisher be concerned if an article or book was NOT proof-read?

    Yes,i believe in proof reading before sending a manuscript to the printers:)
    Because the content of your book is only one in the world.I think proof reading made your book more than 100% perfect if your book's content is 100% perfect. I know the most important thing is content ,not typing errors and grammar error.But by doing proof reading,it will be more awesome book:D

    If there is errors in the book,I cannot fully concentrate on reading.But I think that there is an informal expression is cool because this is author's characteristic.I want to read less error spelling book.because as for me my English is not good and I have to use dictionary to look unknown word up.If unknown word's spelling is incorrect,I cannot understand for sure although I hope I can guess that word.

    When you are an expert a particular field like aviation, when the agent is not, perhaps the agent doesn't know the book is in error. I'm sure they don't have technical experts in all areas. Is this a good excuse? I don't think so.

    I agree with you:)It is not good excuse.

    Because reader is not publisher but world:D
    For world people,we author should correct errors.

    Good luck to you ,Critique Sisters!!!

    I am sure we human can write without mistake,so We reader is very welcome to few error grammar/spelling books.

    thanks for sharing my opinion:D
    have a good day

  4. Do you really want to know the answer, Karlene?

    On my first book I edited and proofed it for a year and a half. I am on a final proof now. I would guestemate around seventy-five times. Yes, it might be extreme, but so necessary.

    My second book I have proofed around four times. It still has a few more run throughs before I will be happy with it.

    I believe a ms should go through at least ten read throughs by the author and then send it to critique partners for their input and after that the author should do a few more.



  5. Great article Karlene! I think it is very important to proof-read, especially if it’s going to print. It doesn’t hurt to have a few eyes scan over the manuscript. There are so many authors in a rush to get their books out, all in the name of drawing readers, and they fail to take this into consideration. Believe me, you don’t want the readers to find inconsistencies and grammar/spelling errors in your work. Don’t just leave it up to the editors to correct everything because they miss things too. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that the hard way. I think in combination with critiquing the document, you should pass it on to another set of eyes, just to be on the safe side.
    Thanks for sharing Karlene.
    Yvonne Nicolas

  6. Excellent Advice Linda. And then--- do it again! As you know, we always find something.

  7. Heather, hiring a professional editor is a great idea. That will definitely help. Then, check the editor's work. We're all capable of mistakes for sure. Thank you for the comment.

  8. Hi Jun, I love your comments and your opinion. You are a student of education and perfection. Good luck with your studies!

  9. Michael, yes--- pure insanity! I'm glad you shared how many times you've read your manuscript. I think we grow impatient and want to send it out to the world. I know when mine sits for a few more months, it will need editing again. When is enough? When you can't find anything wrong.
    Thank you so much for the comment!

  10. Yvonne, Thank you so much for the comment. You're right we don't want to rush it. Instant gratification can destroy long term success. Patience, such a virtue... especially when going to print. Thank you so much for your comment!

  11. Just a quick note to say: You have an award waiting for you at my blog, The Write Words!

  12. I just noticed when I commented to you all, I did it as Critique Sisters. I'm sure you knew it was me. Thank you all. I appreciate your comments.