... The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is the difference between a lightning-bug and
lightning. — Mark Twain
Eye coordination is the ability of both eyes to work together as a team. Each eye sees a slightly different image when it gazes at or focuses on something. The brain, through a process called fusion, blends the two eye-images into one three-dimensional picture.
Proofreading using a tablet, laptop, or computer screen is highly ineffective because those screens are pixels that move, making it doubly difficult to focus on each letter typed onto the screen, let alone an entire manuscript of words. If you must proofread on your computer, here's a tip: change the font to Courier or Courier New and zoom the text up to 125% or 130% view. Why Courier or Courier New? Because that is a non-proportional font which is extremely easy for the eyes to see each letter because the letters are the same size. Proportional fonts, like Times New Roman, cram letters together because an L is not the same width as an M, etc.
Can you read this—
For emaxlpe, it deson’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod aepapr, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm ... S1M1L4RLY, Y0UR M1ND 15 R34D1NG 7H15 4U70M471C4LLY W17H0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17.
I'll bet you barely hiccuped skimming through the words because, you see, your brain is a code cracking machine that logically wants order and so it creates order out of misspelled words.
This code-cracking is also what happens when you've read and proofread your manuscript only to find glitches and typos went unnoticed until an editor or reader spots them.
People will tell you to become a better proofreader, as if that was all there was to it. Proofreading is an essential in any writer's or author's toolkit. Only gaining mastery of proofreading isn't easy because first you have to recognize it's a skill— one that can be learned.
Secondly, in order to stop the mind from code-cracking and skimming over words, you have to slow down and look at each word, get your eyes to focus, and give your eyes time to look at EVERY word, comprehend its meaning, and then move on to the next word. Which means, the best and most productive way to proofread is going to be with hard copy.
Of course there are tricks to slowing the eye-mind mangling. They are:
Trick #1 - begin at the bottom right of the page and read to the left before going UP to the next line and going from right to left (and doing so all the way up to the top of the page).
Trick #2 - Using two rulers or two pieces of white paper, place one tool above and the other under a sentence. This will single out the words and cut down the clutter of letters so the eyes can focus on individual words. Do one sentence at a time and move your tools down the page, sentence by sentence.
Trick #3 - Using your word processing program, find the end of every sentence's punctuation and return carriage three times. This separates the sentences and allows for better focus on the words. This method will also showcase long sentences as well as verifying you have a variety of sentence lengths (which is a good thing).
Try all three methods to find one that works best for you. Yes, these methods take time, but the result will be well worth the effort.
Then keep in mind:
1. Concentration is key - Proofreading requires concentration, patience, and time. Prepare mentally. Ensure that you are not tired, rushed, or distracted. Get rid of distractions and potential interruptions. (Switch off the cell phone, turn off the television, or radio, and stay away from emails.)
2. Run a hard copy and read it out loud. Reading out loud means you can listen and hear errors your eyes miss.
3. Trust no word. Read each word of text, each sentence, and each paragraph slowly and carefully. Take nothing for granted. Watch for small word errors, like an, and, of, form/from, is, it, the. These are easy to miss, but more often then not, those words are actually missing from the text and need to be inserted.
4. Double-check numbers. Are you following AP (Associated Press, journalism style) or the Chicago Manual of Style (which publishers of fiction use)? If writing fiction, and with only a very few exceptions, all numbers are written as words. That's because a reader is reading and creating a movie in their mind.
5. Take regular breaks to avoid fatigue and eye strain. Don't rush. Allow twenty minutes or more of a break to give your eyes a rest.
6. Proofread more than once. Allow a day or more before going back through a short story manuscript that you've just proofread. A surprising number of errors can be found in the second (or third) pass. For novel length, it may take a week or more before the story fades enough to proofread.
7. Have a list of specifics you need to look for. In other words, use a Revision Cheat Sheet. This will help you manage your time and not feel overwhelmed by proofreading. And do look for one type of problem at a time.
8. Trust a good dictionary. The fluidity of the language means new words get added and words that were once hyphenated no longer are.
One final comment. There are proofreading sites online and most word processing programs have grammar and spell checkers, but if you trust them, you're shooting yourself in the foot. For example, it is:
a SASE (a self-addressed, stamped envelope)
a history lesson
an SASE (an self-addressed, stamped envelope)
an history lesson
To be a great storyteller means getting the eyes and brain working as a team so every word that you put on the page is the correct one.
****Next month's topic is Sensory Delusion
Available Spring 2017- REVISION IS A PROCESS
Available now - TERRIFIC TITLES