Successful manuscript proofreading requires the eye of an eagle. It's easy to transpose letters, omit or duplicate words and have words spelled correctly, but be the incorrect word (i.e. you and your). It's far better to take some extra time now, rather than suffer the heartbreak of catching major errors when the completed book is in your hands. To help you in your proofreading mission, here are some specific things to look for:
- Watch for widows and orphans (no, not women who have lost their husbands or parentless children). A widow is the last line of a paragraph that appears alone at the top of a new page. An orphan is the first line of a paragraph that appears alone at the bottom of a page. You display a cleaner page design if you let the page fall short or run long rather than allowing widows and orphans.
- Check the bottom of each page against the beginning of the next page to be sure words or entire lines didn't accidentally get left out.
- Be sure all artwork, photographs, charts, or graphs are in appropriate places and have the necessary cutlines.
- Check the headers and footers on each page.
- In a nonfiction book, remember to leave blank pages if necessary so that chapters will start on recto pages.
- Check the page numbers on each page.
- Check that the page numbers in the table of contents are accurate.'
From an overall perspective, is your book thoughtfully presented? Are the subject areas and subareas clearly marked? How about arty touches that make reading a pleasure? Do graphics provide a visual rest as well as add helpful and stimulating information?
It's always a good idea to ask a friend, relative or associate to cross-check your manuscript against the typeset copy with you. Typesetters who must rekey the manuscript have been known to omit entire paragrahs or omit words. Or you may want to have a professional proofreader do the job for you. Either way, it best to have fresh eyes take another look.
Proofreading may cost some money and take extra time, but your book will be the better for it.
[This post was created from excerpts from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]