Will little mistakes in your book turn people off? Is proofreading really that important?
I hesitated to write this post because I know there are typos in my blog posts. I do proofread them but I post just about every day, sometimes under time pressure, and things slip through. For that reason, when I read blogs I cut them some slack regarding typos and little errors.
This came to mind earlier today when I was reading the “look inside” preview of a book about research into psychic phenomena. It said that many famous people followed this research, including "Rod Sterling".
The late Rod Serling happens to be one of my heroes. I grew up loving the Twilight Zone series and later read a number of his plays. When I was a teen-ager I wrote him a letter and he was kind enough to reply. I guess that’s why seeing his name misspelled bothered me. More importantly, though, it provoked this question:
“If the author got that wrong, what else did she get wrong?”
That’s the question you don’t want your readers to ask. It undermines their confidence in you and it may even make them put the book aside (or not buy it if they spot the error while browsing).
Here are some tips for proofreading a manuscript:
* Get at least one other person to proofread it
* Use a ruler or piece of paper and move it down one line at a time. That stops your eyes from moving ahead too far. Even better: in a piece of paper or light cardboard cut a horizontal slot the length of your lines, so anything above and below the line you are looking at is covered.
* Read backward. That makes you isolate each word and you’ll notice misspellings much more easily.
PS: I bought the book anyway…but I’ll be on the lookout for any other mistakes.
-----For friendly help with writing your book, get a copy of Your Writing Coach, published by Nicholas Brealey and avaialable from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.