#EdenLit - Lessons: Proofreading Common Mistakes part 1

Airen Wolf Airen Wolf
Proofreading- Common Mistakes part 1
First of all don’t begin the work of proofreading before you have actually gotten your complete ideas down. If you still need to work on the organization, focus, or development of your paper then continue with that until you have everything in order. Then take a break.

Start your process by eliminating unnecessary words. You want your sentences to be clear, concise and easily read. Begin your proofreading by looking for mistakes you know you are apt to make. For instance if you know you use “it’s” improperly then begin there!
Now you are going to want to go sentence by sentence looking for spelling errors, grammar mistakes and cleaning up syntax errors. Try reading the sentences out loud to be sure they are clear and “sound” correct. You would be surprised how often if a sentence sounds wrong it turns out to be wrong. Trust your instincts unless you know you have poor diction.

If you know that you are going to make many mistakes then slow down and look for individual issues. Tackle spelling only; then look for grammar mistakes, and etc. Your memory will play tricks on you and words that you have always misspelled will, most likely, be misspelled!

Slow down and really look at each word because the natural tendency of the eye and brain is to look at the first two letters of a word and the last few letters. The problem is most mistakes of spelling occur in the middle of the word. When you read normally you only really see about 3-4 words per line, the rest you sort of skim over. This is why we often catch ourselves garnering more meaning from a story the second or even third time we read it!

While professional proofreaders can read an article over ten times just to be sure they have caught every mistake, a good thorough proofing will be fine for our purposes. Some publishing houses actually have their proofreaders work in pairs and read the material out loud! Mistakes are still made, though. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you have to go back to a review to remove an extra “I “ or add punctuation you may have missed.

Proofreading for Common Errors

Spelling- These are the most common errors in written work. Use a spell check program but don’t rely on it 100% because it cannot distinguish between similar sounding words or a homonyms. Here’s a handy list of the most commonly misspelled words:
Accept- a verb, meaning to receive or to admit to a group
Except- usually a preposition, meaning but or only
Its- possessive form of it
It’s- contraction of it is or it has
Than- used in comparison
Then- refers to a time in the past
Their- possessive form of they
There- in that place
They’re- contraction of they are
Who’s- contraction of who is or who has
Whose- possessive form of who
Were- form of the verb to be
We’re- contraction of we are
Where- related to location or place
Your- possessive form of you
You’re- contraction of you are

Punctuation- I will go through some critical problem areas for the vast majority of writers. Remember that this is an “at a glance” type of overview of the subject. Check the Eden Lit Lessons Directory for more lessons that go farther into these problem areas.

*Commas- You may use a comma to show where the beginning idea of a sentence changes to the main idea of the sentence. (for example: Frankly My Dear, I don’t give a damn!)

Use a comma when you join two independent sentences with a conjunction: and, or, nor, but, yet, so.

Use a comma when you have inserted an idea or phrase that gives more information but is not necessary to the understanding of the sentence. If the group of words could be totally removed from the sentence without altering the meaning of the sentence then you must separate the clause with commas. (for example: We all like to think, to ourselves, that we write intelligibly.)
Do not use a comma, or a set of commas, if you cannot remove the words from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. To check try taking out the clause or group of words and seeing if the meaning of the sentence is altered.

Commas separate all items in a series (three or more words, phrases, or clauses that appear consecutively in a sentence). It is not necessary to place a comma before the and or between the last two items. The real trick is to be consistent.

Be aware of comma splices that mush two sentences together that could stand alone. Either separate them with proper punctuation or use a semi colon. You could also add a comma and the word and or but to separate then sentences. You could also restructure the two clauses to make them one stand alone sentence.

On the other hand fused sentences occur when two sentences are mushed together without roper punctuation between them! Separate or combine the two sentences the exact same way as the comma splice.

*Apostrophes- Are used to show ownership. Generally an apostrophe is added to the word along with an s. This set up is used for singular nouns, indefinite pronouns (anybody, everybody, nobody, somebody), and for plural nouns not ending in “s”. For plural nouns that end in “s” use only an apostrophe.
The only real exception to the rule is with the noun “it”. The word is spelled its to show possession because it’s is a contraction of the words it is or it has.

Verbs- These are some common verb tense errors.

Active vs. Passive Verb Choice: If the subject of the sentence performs an action this is called the active voice. If, however, the subject receives the action it is the passive voice. Most writers naturally write in active voice but there are some times when you want to minimize the importance of the subject’s action. If you do choose a passive voice construction then you will need to add the appropriate form of the verb “to be”. In most active constructions the subject comes first and then performs the action. Most readers view this set up as the most easily understood. The subject doing the action, in the passive voice, will either come after the action or will be included in a prepositional phrase. Of course in the passive voice the actual doer may not even be present in the sentence!

Shifting Verb Tense: This is a real bug-a-boo for most writers. You must be sure that the subject and verb agrees in each sentence. This can be tricky and is actually one of the hardest things to catch during proofreading especially with longer and more complex sentences. You need to fine the “real” subject and the “real” verb and be sure that they are agreeing.

Wrong: The profits earned by EdenFantasys is not high enough to cover the review program.
Right: The profits earned by EdenFantasys are not high enough to cover the review program.

The easiest way to tell is to pull out the subject, see if it’s singular or plural, and then choose the proper verb tense. “The profits”- “are” enough. Simplify the sentence and you will have the correct tense.

What is you have two or more otherwise singular subjects in one sentence? The simple answer is to treat them as one plural subject. Don’t be confused though; if you have only one subject but it is made up of individual units, it is still one subject.
Airen reads many reviews a day.
Airen and her students read many reviews a day.
A staff member of EdenFantasys reads many reviews a day.
The staff at EdenFantasys also read many reviews a day!

I will continue this lesson in Proofreading Common Mistakes part 2
10/24/2012
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ScarletFox ScarletFox
You know a little trick that I have learned for this, is to read the things I write out loud. Espically reviews and other posts that are going to be posted on my blog.
11/07/2012
Airen Wolf Airen Wolf
Quote:
Originally posted by ScarletFox
You know a little trick that I have learned for this, is to read the things I write out loud. Espically reviews and other posts that are going to be posted on my blog.
Good point editing partners often read the work they are editing aloud to catch mistakes and check the "readability" of a piece. Your ears will often catch mistakes your eyes miss!
11/07/2012
SassySam SassySam
I would not have caught the Active vs. Passive Verb Choice part.
11/16/2012
freshbananas freshbananas
Quote:
Originally posted by Airen Wolf
Proofreading- Common Mistakes part 1
First of all don’t begin the work of proofreading before you have actually gotten your complete ideas down. If you still need to work on the organization, focus, or development of your paper then continue with ... More
Thanks I took notes
01/11/2013
Septimus Septimus
Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing!
I always refer to The Oatmeal's 10 Words Your Need to Stop Misspelling
01/11/2013
Airen Wolf Airen Wolf
Quote:
Originally posted by Septimus
Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing!
I always refer to The Oatmeal's 10 Words Your Need to Stop Misspelling
The Oatmeal should be required reading in any writing class....except MAYBE grade school ones...unless you are a very progressive parent.
01/14/2013
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