Tips for Indie Authors – Editing/Proofreading

As an indie author, you are responsible for the entire publishing process – writing, editing, proofreading, publishing, and marketing. But that doesn’t mean that you should do it all yourself. Even if you are working with a low or almost non-existent budget, make sure that you get someone else to participate in the editing process – someone that has editing experience and who won’t be shy about pointing out problems in your manuscript. Your editor can be a paid professional editor or a qualified and capable friend.  You should never unleash your masterpiece on the world without having it properly edited.

Before you submit your work to your editor, make every effort to  weed out as many of the errors in your manuscript as possible. Eliminating simple typos, extra spaces, and so on, will make it easier for your editor to focus on the story flow, the wording, and the important stuff that you simply don’t see because you are too close to the story.

Here are a few tips to help you improve and clean up your manuscript before you submit it to an editor, proofreader, or beta reader. (The specific instructions below are based on Microsoft Word. Most word processors offer similar options.)

Finding overused words

You can use the Find option on the Navigation view to identify the frequency and location of words that you know you tend to overuse.

On the far right end of the Home ribbon, click Find. The Navigation view opens automatically. Type a word or phrase that you want to locate in the field. The number of times that the word or phrase is found is listed and the specific instances are highlighted in yellow in the body of the document.

In the example below, I searched for “but,” one of the words I tend to overuse.  Even Word had something to say about it – “That shows up a lot!”
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I was then able to browse through the document using the up and down arrows and consider ways to vary my phrasing more – especially when those yellow bits were clumped together.

Deleting extra spaces

You can use the Find and Replace option to kill off extra spaces in your manuscript by selecting Replace on the far end of the Home ribbon.

What extra spaces should you delete?

  • Consecutive spaces  (i.e., two or more spaces after a full stop/period/comma, between words, and so on)***
  • Space before a full stop/period
  • Space before a comma, colon, semi-colon, or question mark
  • Space on the inside of a parenthesis (before the first word or after the last word)

The Find and Replace feature searches for a specific string in your document.  A string can include any number of characters and words, including spaces. This makes systematic removal of extra spaces really easy.

For example, to eliminate two consecutive spaces:

  1. On the far right end of the Home ribbon, click Replace.
  2. In the Find what field, type two spaces (hit the space bar twice).
  3. In the Replace with field, type one space.
  4. Click Find Next, then click Replace All*.

Using the same method, you can find and remove spaces before other punctuation marks. In the Find what field, hit the space bar once and type the punctuation mark (comma, colon, semi-colon, or question mark), then in the Replace with field, type only that punctuation mark.

*This is generally a safe option unless your document contains programming code or some other text that must not be changed under any circumstances.

Running the Spell Checker

Almost every word processor has a spell checker of some sort.
Always run the spell checker before submitting a document for any kind of review!
It won’t catch all your mistakes, but it will help you pick off lots of typos.

To run a spell check in Microsoft Word, click Spelling and Grammar on the left end of the Review ribbon.

Important: Never accept spell check recommendations without looking at them.  And if the recommendation pertains to grammar, look twice before accepting them. Best intentions aside, automated spell checks are not infallible.

Note:  Microsoft Word has multiple language options. If you work in more than one language on the same computer,  I suggest that you set the proofing language for your document before running the spell checker the first time or if the spell checker stops at words that are correct in your preferred language:
First, select the entire document by pressing  Ctrl + A.  Next, on the Review ribbon, in the Language section, click Language > Set Proofing Language.
In the Language dialog box, select the dictionary language for checking your text, for example, English (United States) or English (United Kingdom), then click OK.

Post-Edit Proofreading

So the editor has done their thing and you have done your best to implement the necessary revisions. That’s great. But don’t rush to hit Publish just yet. New errors tend to sneak in as a byproduct of the revision process. Words somehow end up stuck together (no space between them) and extra spaces multiply like rabbits. Run the spell checker again, and then search for and remove the extra spaces.  Manually proofread your document, and if possible recruit as many people as possible to proofread and/or beta-read your masterpiece before its release.

Have any tips of your own? Feel free to comment and share your ideas.

***Postscript about spaces (added Aug 13 in response to a reader query):
To the best of my knowledge, a single space is the industry standard for typesetting/publishing these days. I, too, was taught to type two spaces after a period but that was back in the days of typewriters (and other dinosaurs) when all characters and spaces took up exactly the same amount of space (width). Today, modern fonts implement kerning – which basically means that the width of letters is not uniform (think “m” vs “i”) and spacing autoadjusts if your text is justified on both sides so that your text reaches both margins. Sometimes an extra space can make the difference in how the text sits on the line, whether that last word fits on the line or goes onto the next line resulting in very spaced out text.

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44 thoughts on “Tips for Indie Authors – Editing/Proofreading

    1. Hi Kristine, thanks for stopping by. I suspect that Reblog is a “WordPress” thing. The option appears on a bar near the top of the page when WordPress users view other WordPress blogs. I don’t think you can reblog from WordPress into Blogspot.

      Like

  1. Great post. I had a friend/editor read one of my cozy mysteries and found several words that I repeated a lot and have since made a conscious effort to not add it in subsequent work. But I will add that Indie authors shouldn’t be too hard on themselves. Even when reading a book where there is a team to assist the author, errors get through and unlike Indie authors, the publisher isn’t willing to make changes for the next print run.
    Ann

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was taught that you should always have a double space after a period. This is the first time I’ve ever heard that you should eliminate that double space. When did this change? Is this a hard and fast rule now. I find that it is much easier to read a paragraph when there is a double space between the sentences. Please let me know. I’m about to send my ms off to my proofreader and Beta Reader before publishing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great question.
      To the best of my knowledge, a single space is the industry standard for typesetting/publishing these days. I, too, was taught to type two spaces after a period but that was back in the days of typewriters (and other dinosaurs) when all characters and spaces took up exactly the same amount of space (width). Today, modern fonts implement kerning – which basically means that the width of letters is not uniform (think “m” vs “i”) and spacing autoadjusts if your text is justified on both sides so that your text reaches both margins. Sometimes an extra space can make the difference in how the text sits on the line, whether that last word fits on the line or goes onto the next line resulting in very spaced out text.

      That said, are two spaces an absolute taboo? If you are consistent, probably not. I suggest you ask your editor what she thinks.
      BTW, I can’t kick the two space habit when I type – I always have to use Find and Replace to weed them out.
      Good luck with your writing..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Cassidy. I’ll have to do some thinking about this as I am in the same boat (you can see by my typing here). Trying to change to a single space at this point in life may be impossible (yes, I also am a dinosaur, like the typewriter, which is what I used when I learned to type-an old black Royal). Since I am an Indie author and I prefer seeing a double space, I will probably stay with it. But I truly appreciate all the tips.

        Actually, I came to the same conclusion regarding doing all I can before sending my ms. to the proofreader on this book. It’s taken quite a long time but I believe it will be worth it.

        Maybe you can answer another question for me (or two). First, I planned on sending my ms. to both the proofreader and the Beta Reader at the same time. Is there a problem with this?

        Secondly, I have three other books published right now and I know they can be better than they are. I wasn’t going to change the story at all, simply make corrections such as too many uses of the same word, little errors in the characters names and color of eyes, etc. I was going to make it a 2nd edition on all three. One of my followers suggested leaving them as is because my readers have already read them, but I’m thinking of future readers. What do you think?

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  3. Cassidy, this is an excellent resource for all writers. Thank you. I have one more comment to add. After having a half dozen beta readers go over my manuscript for the second book in my Loyalist trilogy I implemented their excellent suggestions. Then I waited about 3 weeks and reread the document myself. I couldn’t believe the number of errors I found. And this after countless corrections and rereadings. That time off before I attacked the book again really made a difference and my senior English teacher skills kicked in with a vengeance. Right now I’m working hard on the third book, launching in fall, 2016, and although I do a lot of editing on the fly–that’s just how my brain works–I know I’ll be using an editor and my beta readers before I finally give the manuscript a really close read, most of it out loud. Here’s to writing well-edited books!

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    1. I know what you mean, Elaine. Those typos seem to have a life of their own – I don’t think anyone ever truly gets rid of them all (including traditionally published books). But I’m determined to keep trying. (I have reuploaded my book several times since its release – each time a new typo was discovered).

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  4. In response to Sharon’s question above. (I guess you can’t reply to a reply to your reply). I think that one of the advantages of being self-published is that we can upload new improved versions of our work at any time (at least this is the case with KDP). I have reuploaded my book several times since its release – each time new typos were discovered.
    As I understand it, making corrections (typos and light editing) does not constitute a new edition. A new edition would be called for when substantive changes are made to the book (and might require new ISBNs). Instead, you can fix your typos and simply upload the new file in place of the old one. You can’t do anything about folks who already read the book, but at least new readers will get a cleaner copy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sharon, my only caution would be if your beta reader came back with significant changes that you want to make, you might have to re-send to a proofreader. You might end up wasting money if you send to a proofreader too early in the process. Just my thoughts…

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  5. Two spaces after a sentence or one? I’ve been trying to transition to one for several years, but two spaces areso ingrained that I don’t even think about spaces, I just automatically do them and then have to use the replace feature to get rid of all the extra spaces.

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    1. Don’t we have enough to worry about, being an Indie author, without having to worry about the spaces between our sentences. I mean really people…I have used 2 spaces between the sentences all my life. I have three novels published now and they all have 2 spaces between the sentences throughout the stories. I haven’t seen any problem in the printing of the books using the 2 spaces. I will continue to use 2 spaces in the book I’m writing now and will publish this year. If anyone can point out to me where the problem is in my books with the 2 spaces, I may consider changing. (And yes, I do know how to spell “two.” LOL)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice post. Very useful advice. I also use a double space after a period. I’m still doing it occasionally, but I’m trying to train myself not to. It’s not easy, considering I learned to type on a typewriter in the late 80s in school. We were always told to use a double space. No need with variable width fonts.

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    1. Along with the “Find and Replace” you can check words in MS by clicking “Find” in the Editing menu on the Home tab. Type a word in the Navigation column to the left and it will give you all the uses up to 100 times. After 100, you have to scroll through them to see how often you’ve used them. I love it.

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