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Proofreading your work

Stories are often sent back with a request to carefully proofread the text in order to find spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. Lush prides itself on its high quality content, maintaining a very high standard of erotic literature, so a thorough proofread prior to submission saves both your time and that of the moderating team.

Proofreading? What?

Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, focusing on surface errors such as misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation. You should proofread only after you have finished all of your other editing revisions.

Although content is king, the presentation of that content is of equal importance in how others judge it. When you've worked hard to develop and present your ideas, careless errors distract a reader from what you have to say, so it's worth paying attention to the details that help you to make a good impression.

You probably already use some of the strategies discussed below. Experiment with different tactics until you find a system that works well for you. The important thing is to make the process systematic and focused so that you catch as many errors as possible in the least amount of time.

Productivity tools

Use a spell checker. But don't rely on it entirely. They can be useful tools, but they are far from foolproof. Spell checkers have a limited dictionary, so some words that show up as misspelled may really just be unknown to it. In addition, spell checkers will not catch misspellings that form another valid word. For example, if you type your instead of you're, to instead of too, or there instead of their, the spell checker will likely miss the error.

Likewise, don't rely solely on grammar checkers. As with spell checkers, they have a limited number of rules, so cannot identify every error, and often make mistakes.

Tips and tricks

Proofread for only one kind of error at a time. If you try to identify and revise too many things at once, you risk losing focus, and your proofreading will be less effective. It's easier to catch grammar errors if you aren't checking punctuation and spelling at the same time. In addition, some of the techniques that work well for spotting one kind of mistake won't catch others.

Read slowly, and read every word. Try reading out loud, which forces you to say each word. It also lets you hear how the words sound together, and can indicate where punctuation should be used. When you read silently or too quickly, you may skip over errors or make unconscious corrections.

Separate the text into individual sentences. This is another technique to help you read every sentence carefully. Simply press the return key after every period so that every line begins a new sentence. Then read each sentence separately, looking for grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors.

Read the story backwards. This technique is helpful for checking spelling. Start with the last word on the last page and work your way back to the beginning, reading each word separately. Because content, punctuation, and grammar won't make any sense, your focus will be entirely on the spelling of each word. You can also read backwards sentence by sentence to check grammar; this will help you avoid becoming distracted by content issues.

The proof is in the results

Proofreading is a learning process. You're not just looking for errors that you recognize; you're also learning to recognize and correct new errors. This is where handbooks and dictionaries come in. Keep the ones you find helpful close at hand as you proofread.

Ignorance may be bliss, but it won't make you a better proofreader. You'll often find things that don't seem quite right to you, but you may not be quite sure what's wrong either. A word looks like it might be misspelled, but the spell checker didn't catch it. You think you need a comma between two words, but you're not sure why. Should you use "that" instead of "which"? If you're not sure about something, look it up.

The proofreading process becomes more efficient as you develop and practice a systematic strategy. You'll learn to identify the specific areas of your own writing that need careful attention, and knowing that you have a sound method for finding errors will help you to focus more on developing your ideas while you are drafting the story.