Sunday, 6 January 2013

Tips, Tricks and Tales - Lesson 3

Editing your story: Be your own Proofreader and Copyeditor first


About a month ago, I asked four fellow writers to proofread PERFECT for me, before I published it. You know, just to make sure the language and grammar is as it should be. What I got back was the proofreading feedback from three people, and copyediting comments from the fourth.

Now I have to confess my ignorance - either of my knowledge of English or my own stupidity. Probably a bit of both, since English is not my home language. I thought that proofreading and copyediting was the same thing, and yes, they are not.

My proofreaders caught all my punctuation, language and grammar errors, as I had expected they would. Grateful for their feedback I copied their redlines into a document with the original to make sure I didn’t miss anything, since they did not all find the same mistakes, as you would expect. The fourth email message was the surprise - and not a bad one either!

Her feedback was about the contents of the story itself. Now I have to give a little of the plot away here. Dal is fe/male. That means he/she is genderless so the piece was written in first person point of view, as the normal pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she’ would not have worked. Describing someone as an ‘it’ did not quite come across comfortably either.
My friendly copyeditor suggested changes in the text to better bring out the relationship between Dal and Andrew and she also pointed out that I had a knight-in-shining-armour riding-to-the-rescue ending to resolve a problem in the plot. A definite no-no.

So here are the fundamental differences: a proofreader checks the language and use of language in your manuscript; the copyeditor takes it a few steps further to check facts, voice and plot issues as well.

Lesson 4 will show you a helpful way to deal with both proofreading and copyediting in your own writing while you write or edit.