#Editor: Proofreading Sample

Jeri Walker
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Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
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Two of my proofreading projects have just been published. This proofreading sample shows how Word’s Track Changes feature is used to correct errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. There is no restructuring or re-writing of sentences for clarity. However, proofreading entails much more than merely running the document through spell check.

I’m often asked about various grammar rules. Time and again, I point the curious toward The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition (CMOS) and  Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary. These sources set the professional standard for usage rules. As such, they are also an editor’s best friend. Any writer would be well-served to familiarize themselves with these primary authoritative sources.

The screenshot images for this proofreading sample have been taken from T. B. Markinson’s novel Confessions from a Coffee Shop. The blurb for the book appears below. The other recent proofread I completed was of Denise Baer’s novel Fogged-Up Fairy Tale. Many of you may recall Denise’s guest post on the power of words or the reviews of her two books or author interview that have appeared on this blog.

 

Cover of Confessions from a Coffee Shop by T. B. Markinson

Cori Tisdale was on top of the world. A basketball star at Harvard and a promising author with a lucrative book deal. 

A few years later, Cori’s life is falling apart. Her beautiful girlfriend, Kat Finn, has a shopping addiction. To make ends meet, Cori takes a part-time job at a coffee shop. 

Just when Cori thinks her life can’t get any worse, an old crush appears out of the blue. Cori’s friendship with Samantha Clarke pushes Cori further into a dangerous abyss when Sam reveals two secrets to Cori and asks her not to tell a soul, including Kat. 

Will this be the end of Cori’s and Kat’s relationship? 

Please Note: If the images appear too small for your liking, press Ctrl + or Ctrl – to zoom in and out on your PC keyboard. If using a MAC, follow these steps.  Clicking on each image will also open it in a new window.

My turn-around time on proofreading a manuscript of 320 pages or less is typically two weeks. As with any copy editing or critique projects that I take on, I request all Word documents be submitted in 12 point Times New Roman Font, double-spaced with indented paragraph and one-inch margins. Before turning on Word’s tracking feature, I search for all instances of two spaces after punctuation marks and replace those with just one space. I divide the number of pages by the number of days set aside for the project. That way I avoid overly long sessions. I read each set of pages twice, once in the morning and again in the afternoon. At the end of the entire process, I make one more pass to catch any remaining mistakes.

 

Image of Proofreading Sample

 

Even though this proofread fell into the light category, its Achilles’ Heel revealed itself early on. Above is one of the few comments I made on the manuscript, but I also emailed the author to clarify standard convention calls for keeping the entire narrative in the simple past except where the use of the past perfect tense is necessary.

Notice the red circle above. The screen shot shows the document in All Markup mode, but a simple click to Simple Markup mode allows for easy toggling between both modes. This allows the opportunity to get a better sense of the changes by hiding the corrections indicated in red. The screenshot below shows how same paragraph looks when viewed in Simple Markup mode. The vertical red line down the side indicates a change has been made in each of those lines.

 

Image of Proofreading Sample

 

Once finished, I save the project as two files: one with all of the changes visible for acceptance or rejection and in another CLEAN file where I’ve accepted all of the corrections, deleted the comments, and turned off the Track Changes feature. Some authors will comb through line by line in the tracked document, while others are fine with accepting most (if not all) of the corrections.

If for some reason the author doesn’t want to toggle back and forth between All Markup and Simple Markup modes, the two files can be opened and adjusted to display side by side on the screen as shown in the screenshot below. In order to get each document to only fill half of the screen, minimize the window and then drag it to the corner so it locks in place.

 

Image of Proofreading Sample

 

The majority of the changes in the above image still mostly fall in correcting shifts in verb tense. However, I did capitalize Bean Supreme because it  is functioning as a proper noun. Also, CMOS calls for spelling out whole numbers zero through one hundred. Even though I know much of the manual like the back of my hand, I still take the time to look up any issue I am not one hundred percent sure about.

Please explore my freelance editing services page for more information.

 

What writing manuals or websites do you rely on when it comes to finding answers to your proofreading questions? Are you a grammar geek?

 

 

Permission must be granted by JeriWB to use the images in this post.

Author: Jeri Walker

Need help writing that book blurb, bio, or newsletter? Give your book the attention it deserves. Book your copy edit, manuscript critique, or proofread today. Make every word count.

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80 Comments

  1. Congrats on two new published works with your gold spread through them! You are a brilliant editor, and I am so glad Beth introduced us. I am slowly working through all of your comments, and hopefully soon, I will be submitting my manuscript for proofing. I have no doubt that you will make it perfect. I’m singing your praises to all of my writer friends. I’m truly so impressed by your skills.

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    • Mandi, I’m glad Beth introduced us as well. It makes for a good day to know you are letting others know about my work. Thanks for all the Tweets too 🙂

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  2. Ha, this was AMAZING!! I was literally talking (emailing) with a buddy about proofreading and your email post alert came through! I had never even clicked on the Review tab in Word until I read this just now. I’ve been playing around with it before I commented. Also, I never knew you could use the Ctl+ key to enlarge! Then I had the page super big and said ayyyyee! How to get it back to normal size? Oh…hee hee…Ctl-. Wow, that you proofread 320 pages in 2 weeks! That is A LOT! Thank you again! Oh, and I’ve using those worksheets, Jeri 🙂

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    • Mike, glad my tip about how to zoom in and out of a page came in handy. So many people commented on how small my post font used to be, which led to me eventually getting a web helper to quickly fix it. I was surprised though because I visit a good deal of blogs with tiny font and have just always automatically re-sized them without giving it a second though. It hadn’t occurred to me that it might be a commonly known shortcut. Track Changes is a must these days!

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  3. Hi Jeri – I don’t usually comment on posts from the LinkedIn home page but this looked to interesting to pass up and I was right. I printed this post off, I’m better reading from paper than computer, so will take my time to really dig into the information. Thanks.
    Lenie

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    • Lenie, that’s awesome. I tried to include a few pointers beyond just showing my proofing work because let’s face it, it’s pretty dry stuff this week, but informative.

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  4. This is amazing. I was wondering what the tracking was for exactly. Now I know. Thanks for the lesson. 🙂

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    • Glynis, tracking is definitely an editor’s best friend and well worth a writer’s time to experiment a bit with. As someone who never liked marking on paper, I took to it like a duck to water once I made the plunge to get serious about taking on editing gigs.

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  5. Congrats on publishing your works. Great post and very helpful to see the examples. CMOS & Webster’s are my writing friends as well. Interestingly, one of my readers was English and a few conflicts in spelling came up until I realized she was using the Oxford Dictionary and I was using Webster’s. I opted for Oxford once for no other reason that it flowed better with my eyes. Don’t quote me on that last one, lol.

    Always enjoy your posts.

    Hugs,
    Paulette

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    • Paulette, eye-friendliness can play such a huge role in the reference books we gravitate toward. I’ve gravitated toward the Merriam Webster version since that is what CMOS recommends, but I will admit to liking the online thesaurus at Dictionary.com much more than the one from the M-W site 😉

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  6. I love love love clicking to your pages, Jeri.
    I feel as if I should be tipping you or Something.
    Also, the “Tense” thing is a real bitch. I am finding several mistakes in my own work.
    How does one know FOR SURE? Can one switch tenses on the same essay?
    Thank You! x

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    • Kim, haha. No tips necessary, though would love it if you ever wanted to give my short stories a read one of these days. There are times a writer might want to shift tense within an essay in order to achieve a specific effect with the language, but the effectiveness would need to be judged on a case by case basis. When writing about works of literature, films, and basic facts a writer should use present tense no questions asked. I agree that verb tenses can indeed be a bitch 😉 It really is hard to know for sure, which is why is sooooooo important to get feedback from others.

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      • Thank you for all of your expertise, Jeri!
        I need all the help I can get!!!
        Btw, it was YOU that gave me the idea to record my own voice.
        I will place your link on one of my next blogs as your TIP)) xxxxx

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        • Kim, after listening to you recording the other day, I actually started fiddling around with the software on my microphone again. Next thing I knew, I was standing in my walk-in closet wondering if it would be the best place in the house go record decent audio. One of these days, I’ll develop some kind of system for recording a piece now and again. Hearing an author read their own work always breathes so much life into the material and makes me look at it in ways I hadn’t considered before.

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  7. Absolutely love ‘track changes’ and also subscribe to both The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary. I find them both invaluable tools…and I much confess that I still my decades old Harbace Handbook! Laugh! Even with those tools, I find myself in need of editorial help! I am a very satisfied customer and recipient of your editing Jeri. You sure know how to do it right:)

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    • Jacquie, I have yet to try the online version of the CMOS which is really surprising giving my aversion to printed text. Sometimes it seems like it takes forever to look stuff up! I really had a good time giving you feedback on your query and synopsis. Just this weekend a few people at the PNWA conference asked if I had written mine yet, but I was like, “Nope, but I’ve helped a few authors work on theirs.” I know all that diligence will pay off when it comes time to write my own. People think I’m weird when I admit to liking that type of writing almost more than the creative stuff.

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  8. My proofreader and I use track changes all the time. I find it very helpful to be able to see the final document AND be able to see the exact changes she made and question any if need be – which hasn’t happened yet 🙂

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    • Susan, it will be interesting when I get around to finding a copy editor for my own novel. I know I’m going to be a line-by-line comparison nit-picker. Just today, I cut 1.3k from a 3.4k chapter thanks to the help of one of my critique partners. I edit others’ work with an exacto knife and then become partially blind when it comes to tweaking my own. It’s a common tendency, but not one everyone will admit to–gasp, especially editors and teachers!

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      • The detail and thoroughness you use when editing my stuff is what I love best about your editing. However, I can see how it would difficult to do your own.

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  9. Congrats on your success!! I know Mandi has been very happy with you, and (as I’ve told her before) I wish I’d used you as my editor! 🙁 Oh well, whatdoyado right? when I do finish my storyline edits, I’ll be using you as my proofreader fer sher! You rock.

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    • Beth, ooohhhh I would have loved to developmentally edit your work as well, but whatdoyado indeed. I’ll always be grateful to you for sending Mandi my way though.

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  10. I just might have to use you for my next book. 😉 You’re very thorough, which is what every writer wants – and needs.

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    • Lorraine, thoroughness is great when my editing hat is on. When it comes to my writer hat, I wish I could turn that part off. I’m learning to work on listening to my inner-editor when I draft because I apparently can’t make her be quiet.

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      • Jeri, I have the same problem when writing. I can’t stand to have even ONE typo when I write in Word. It drives me crazy. I’m currently finding ways to combat this, though.

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  11. Hi Jeri,
    Your post highlights the need for proofreading. Those who write creatively may just not think analytically, or are not trained to look for grammatical errors. Anyone serious about producing quality content needs a set of eyes that knows what to look for. The post is also a great way to promote your service.

    All the best!
    Bill

    Post a Reply
    • Bill, it’s always great to have another set of eyes. Proofreading, like all other skills, is something that can be developed with practice and a conscious effort to do so. That’s why I always say it’s really important for all writers to become critique partners so they can practice giving feedback because in the end it makes a person more able to find mistakes on their own. Yet, I’m always more than happy to lend my eyes if someone needs my services.

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  12. Howdy Jeri.
    Such an interesting post. And congratulations on publishing those manuscripts.
    You are doing an excellent job, Jeri “Grammar Queen” Walker-Bickett.
    I usually check out meaning of words a the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.
    But I agree with Paulette, as the chosen one for Cambridge ESOL tests (Foreigners english students ) is the Oxford Dictionary, which by the way I still have at home.
    Happy week ahead to you.
    Thanks for sharing your brilliance,
    Aquileana 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • Aquileana, woot! I’ve been deemed a “Grammar Queen.” It’s good to know that the Oxford Dictionary is the preferred source for ESOL students (I have not taught ESL students for years…)

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  13. As a writer, I found reading about your proofreading process interesting. I would the be writer combing through the changes line by line. I’d want to know what needed correcting to watch for and improve in the future. My experience with editors is limited to smaller pieces to date and my husband is the excellent proofreader for my blog posts.

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    • Donna, you’re lucky to have a husband who is a great proofreader. I can really relate to what you mentioned about wanting to learn from the corrections that are made to your work. I’m the same way. We learn so much by observing the work of others, probably much more than studying grammar books or doing grammar worksheets in school.

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  14. Quite an efficient process Jeri. Thanks for outlining it. Your track changes look so clean. I wonder what my publisher is doing because their changes drive me insane. Or maybe it’s because there are often 2 or more reviewers?

    Regardless, thanks so much for reminding us that proofreading, is more than spell checking. Guilty here.

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    • Pat, I can imagine things get pretty sticky when two more more reviewers are making suggestions, but all the better for your final result! The text I used for this post is also a light proofread.

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  15. I have always had a hard time with track changes in Word; they drive me crazy. I will practice more and follow your lead. Also, thanks for the two links. I will put them in my editing arsenal.

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    • Tim, once you get used to Track Changes you’ll like it a lot since it really is so efficient. Many YouTube tutorial videos can be found on the subject as well 😉

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    • Christi, and to think I used to write comments on student’s papers by hand. I would definitely incorporate this feature in the classroom if I was still teaching. It’s such a valuable tool all writers should familiarize themselves with.

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  16. Congrats on your success. Your posts are very informative. I am sharing this on G+

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  17. Okay Jeri; Grab something solid to hold on to because I have to tell you I don’t use any of these resources in my writing. I’ve been told that my style is readable, but even I know I break quite a few of the writing conventions. And I fear writing for a blog is not improving me in this area. The only thing I can say about blog quality writing is at least i am creating on a regular basis. I read a lot and write a lot and hope for the best. I have had a couple of posts professionally edited, but its not something I do often. Thanks for sharing your editing process with us. I have been working on a possible book some. I haven’t told many people that I am even considering the idea. I wonder how much you would have to adjust this process to work with a blind author. I also wonder if it would be easier to work with an author during the creation process or after the manuscript is finished. Looking forward to hearing more about the editing relationship, max

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    • Max, I would be curious what program you use to type your text or if you use voice recognition software? As an editor, my next question would be if the comments and changes that can be made in Word can then be read aloud to you by the program? I like to give feedback on completed manuscripts, but there are also book coaches who can walk writers through the process of writing a book from start to finish. With the right approach, I’m sure a book based on your experiences could become something special.

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  18. Congratulations Jeri – you must be thrilled! It’s a real milestone for you. Well done on persevering in developing your business.

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    • A.K., thanks so much. I’m exited to say I’ll be working with T.B. again in the coming month to proofread a novella she’s been working on.

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  19. Jeri, it’s so interesting to hear the steps you take with editing projects. What a process…but it’s probably what makes you so good at what you do!
    Michele

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    • Michele, I definitely have the meticulous editor gene which is great for my clients. When it comes to my own drafts, it can be hard to silence that inner editor 😉

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  20. Jeri, I’m glad to have found your blog. It looks like a valuable resource, so thank you for stopping by mine! My editing for blog posts is not as comprehensive as yours, but what I find helps me the most is to read it out loud to myself. I catch a ton of stuff that way. It’s great to read about your process though…I’ll be back.

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    • Michelle, the examples here are for a draft of a fiction manuscript, not a blog post. Every now and again through I have critiqued and copy edited tricky posts when the author needed an extra set of eyes. Glad you stopped by.

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  21. I always thought I’d love to be an editor. It’s so interesting to go behind the scenes and see how you do it. If I ever write a book, I know who to call!

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  22. I am a big fan of using multiple windows to do my work. Having received a sample of your work this post makes perfect sense. I am so glad that people with your expertise exist so that people like me don’t have to know how to do this hard to understand stuff – perfect past tense or whatever. LOL

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    • Cheryl, believe it or not, I learned the most about grammar when I took German classes in both high school and college. Grammar instruction has its place in the earlier grades, but unfortunately, has fallen out of favor in many schools.

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  23. Congrats that your business is taking off! It’s wonderful, but you deserve it because of the hard work and time you put in networking. I can personally say that you did a great job!

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    • Denise, between all the effort I’ve put into this blog and to lining up editing projects, I could have written at least two novels by now! Oh well. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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  24. Great to see you out on the market! I love track changes, and swapping between the two markup views. It makes it really handy when doing critique work.

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    • When I did my internship last fall I was surprised that copies of stories in the university workshops are still being marked on my hand by all the group members of the class. I would hate to have to do that again 🙁

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  25. Good description of how to set up the various modes of Word. I have had my work proofed and also proof that of others but just blog posts usually. It’s so much easier to spot errors in others’ work than in my own.

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    • Beth, a second, third, and even fourth set of eyes can be such a huge help. I learned a lot when doing round table editing with staff members on a literary journey last fall. Everything brought such different insights.

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  26. Hi Jeri,

    This is an excellent guide for many who don’t proofread their posts carefully…hope they learn from this. You are SO benevolent…giving out all the details! Thanks for sharing.
    Sometimes I like to write in my own style, without caring for the traditional rules of grammar and structure, though word keeps warning me to revise!! I think my poetry tries to creep into prose at such times!

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  27. I like your blogs; they are very specific and informative. Track changes are a useful and vital tool to use. Congratulations on all of your success.

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    • William, I occasionally come across editors who state they still will return a printed manuscript marked up by hand. I guess that still works for some, but that’s a definitely turn-off for me as I’ve looked for editors to help me with my own novel.

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  28. It is interesting to see how this works in Word. Most editing that I do is done in Scrivener. Though it works essentially the same, I can take document captures in Scrivener in case I screw stuff up.

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    • Jon, I’ve read about Scrivener’s editing tool capacity and a former critique partner told me the track changes from Word even showed up when she would open it in Scrivener. She would always send me her files saved as html. Since the majority of people work within Word, I will use that for my clients. They can always open the document in Scrivener if they need too. One of these days, I’ll explore it further.

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  29. Thanks so much for all of your help with Confessions. It’s wonderful working with such a fantastic editor. Not only does it give me peace of mind, but I learn so much each time. Looking forward to our next project.

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    • TB, as with teaching, I also learn a lot about every manuscript I work on. It keeps my writing skills on alert all the time so to speak. Now I need to listen to my inner-editor when it comes to my own stuff as well 🙂

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  30. Congratulations, Jeri. If I ever need help with proof reading a book in English, I will let you know.

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  31. Congratulations on publishing your works. I am not written a book or plan to as it is hard enough to do my blog post. I have to say I could probably use someone to proof read by posts and blog responses.

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    • Arleen, when it comes to getting blog posts proofed, maybe you could team up with another fellow blogger to help each other out? I find that if I schedule a post late at night, there will inevitably be a few typos. It’s always best to proofread and edit before the brain gets too sleepy.

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  32. I think Proof reading is an art only some people have the patience for. I use spell check and track changes etc when producing brochures etc. for shows and events…but still send my work to a proof reader as they have the expertise which I feel I lack. Also when looking at my articles for too long – my brain reads what I think it should read….

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    • Mina, I abhor knowing that my brain will read a page of my own work correctly when they are errors on it. It’s so true that we are often too close to our work to catch all the mistakes, but overtime, many of use become quite adept at it. Where I struggle the most is plotting my own fiction drafts and comping up with a great concept. Thank goodness there are always others I can turn to for assistance when needed.

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  33. Yes I’m a grammar geek! My mother taught me to be one as she is as well. When I worked for my collegiate newspaper, we utilized the AP Stylebook most often. So when I was working in marketing a few years ago, that’s what I would reference when I had questions. I have utilized the ‘track changes’ feature in Word also. Usually it’s when I have written an article that I want my mom to proofread! My husband usually hands me his laptop and asks me to proof any emails he’s composing as he’s not the best speller. I enjoy helping! And congrats on being published!!

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    • Pamela, thanks. That’s great that you can get your mom to lend a hand in proofreading matters. The sheer number of style books can feel overwhelming, but after a bit, everyone adjusts.

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  34. Congrats on being published but I’m sure you are very used to having that happen, judging from your work. I had the pleasure of writing by the Good Book of Turabian when in college so usage is a thing I sometimes remember. Though I try to shy away from strict adherence. I always hated how different schools had distinct usage manuals, like Chicago and APA. I wish there could just be one agreed-upon book so everyone get on with their lives and not worry about what’s best. Of course, that’d be Chicago/Turabian.

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    • Carl, my encounters with APA were mostly for college classes, and I taught MLA to high school students for years. I only came to Chicago by default when I started doing freelance editing projects. Who knew that years and years of teaching grammar exercises in the classroom would have cemented so much of Chicago in my brain before I even knew it.

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  35. I’m definitely more of a writer than an editor. That said, the work you do is invaluable to people like me, and there are a great many of us out there.

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  36. I am sheepishly admitting that I have never heard of CMOS, but I will be investigating. I also didn’t realize that you wrote out all numbers between zero and hundred (thought it was ten). I won’t go on with what else I learned, suffice it to say that I learned lots. Excellent post. 🙂

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    • Debra, an amended version of Chicago does allow for only spelling-out numbers 1-10 rather than 1-100, but I prefer to go by the most traditional guidelines. It’s an awesome reference source, and I need to look into getting the online version.

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  37. Hi Jeri,

    Congratulations on your new published work. Although I’m new here but with this editorial skill, you sound perfect with what you are doing. I’m currently writing a book which I believe you can help me with proofreading when am done writing it?

    Post a Reply
    • Adesanmi, that is certainly a possibility. When you feel you are ready, please contact me via the Editing Services page on this website.

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