Thursday, April 2, 2009

Proofreading, The Forgotten Step

“Proofread every single piece of writing that will be seen by another set of eyes. No exceptions.” -- Melissa Donovan in 18 Do-It-Yourself Proofreading Tips.
I proofread everything I write, but sometimes mistakes still make their way into the final product. Last week, I offered to send a story to any of you interested in reading it. There were errors, not big ones, but errors just the same. It bothers me when that happens. And those errors can be the reason a story isn’t accepted for publication.

As a magazine editor (previously for Flash Me Magazine and now for Apollo’s Lyre) responsible for selecting stories for publication, there are two common problems with the works I reject. The first is the submission isn’t a story. The main character faces no problem, thus there’s no tension and no reason for me to care about what happens. Often the submissions are no more than a well written scene or character study.

The second is poor proofreading. There are verb tense issues, misplaced or missing punctuation, point of view changes, and phrases disguised as complete sentences. Many of these problems could be solved with a careful reading.

Writers don’t realize they’re in a competition to have their stories accepted, or the amount of competition they face. I read over 300 stories last month to fill eight slots. Sloppy writing provided me with an easy reason to move a story to the rejection pile.


GutsyWriter said...

Thanks for pointing this out. I have to ask you though about colons and semi-colons. I hired a freelance editor who removed all of them and told me they were more for academic papers. At the Southern California Writers Conference, I heard the same thing said. Remove them.

Jim Harrington said...

Yep, I remember reading somewhere that the semi-colon and colon shouldn't be used in fiction. I think this might be a reaction to the overuse of both, but that's just my opinion. To be safe, I wouldn't use them.

GutsyWriter said...

Thanks for confirming that Jim. I have a writer friend who uses semi-colons as frequently as commas and it's very annoying to read.

Melissa Donovan said...

Thank you for promoting proofreading, and for mentioning Writing Forward in your post. It's true that even with careful proofreading, mistakes occasionally slip through, but it's also true that refusing to proofread your work might mean no acceptances and no readers. It's a shame that so many talented writers pay no heed to good grammar.