Thursday, 28 February 2013

Tips, Tricks and Tales: Proofreading (a guest post)

A humorous look at the difficulties when proofreading for a friend

Isn’t it funny how we can sit and write our hearts (and minds!) out, then pour over our own words with great diligence yet miss some basic errors of grammar or spelling? Okay, sure, spell check helps but still, we do miss the odd few (!) and there always seems to be a better way to write it. Then a stranger asks you to proof read their work and every mistake stands forth, lit up in neon lights with arrows flickering. The secret part of us knows we wouldn’t have made that mistake (sure!) so how simple it is to make the mark and suggest a correction.

Okay, so we often miss our own errors yet we pick up those of strangers with seemingly sure simplicity. Great! Until a friend asks to proof read their work of art. “Of course,” I answered. “No problem. Will be great to read your work…Cannot wait…Thanks!” and I truly felt good, almost honoured, that he had entrusted me with what I know has been so difficult for him to get out and down. Writing that has taken hours to think about, craft, and meld into a story, events that have been heartbreakingly difficult to express. What a privilege.

Until the third page!

How could I put so many red marks? Surely, they can’t all be errors? I start proof reading my own proof reading. Yep, it’s simply not the right spelling, not the right grammar. One just can’t put it down like this. And it’s only the third page!

Take a break. Have some coffee. Start again.

By the middle of the book, I’m beginning to realise why it took him so long to write it. Then, after all the red marks (thank goodness it’s digital – can always take them out later I think), I suddenly have an idea. One I’m sure we’ve all had at some stage maybe: where is the line between entertaining the reader and telling the story in the way you want it told and satisfying all the literature and language pundits who will crit the spelling, the grammar and the structure?

Colloquialisms (as in words used informally but not in formal speech or language, or words expressing ideas other than their true meanings), cultural idioms, pronunciations, accents, language localised to specific communities and groups all play a huge role in telling a story and encouraging the reader to identify with certain characters, situations and events (now there’s a sentence in need of proof reading!!). So, how much do we sacrifice for our story and the effect we are looking for and, more importantly maybe when proof reading for a friend rather than a stranger, how much do we ‘correct’ and mark, with friendship in the mix?

I’m off for a break and another coffee!

About Rob: 
Originally trained as a Classical Pianist and in Drama and Theatre Arts in the UK, Rob moved to South Africa and into the medical world. He trained and registered as a Nurse and Midwife and then moved into Sales and Marketing of Medical products. All this time, writing was a passion and words a way of life.
Rob is currently living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a day to day challenge, but continues to write. His latest novel is ‘The MageStaff’, fantasy novel available at and on iTunes, Kindle and Amazon and he has been asked to compile his poetry.