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Editing & Proofreading



You should proofread and edit your work before you publish it or send it in for publishing. Typographical errors, grammatical errors and syntactical errors can be very distracting to your reader, and they may not all be caught by spell check. While giving your work a thorough once-over yourself can help you catch many of the errors, having a fresh pair of eyes on your work is even better. These proofreading and editing tips will help you turn out work that is as close to flawless as you can get. It is well worth the extra time to look over your work.

Typographical Errors

Typographical errors, or "typos" are probably the most common error that plagues written work. Transposed letters, omitted letters or even omitted words can slip by you because your mind fills them in for you. After all, you know what you wanted to say so your mind "sees" the words or letters and fills in the blanks for you. This is why it is so important to have someone else look over your work. When someone else reads your story, they are not familiar with your material so typos will be glaringly apparent to them much of the time. It doesn't take long to pass your work on to someone and ask them to give it a good once over. In the long run you will be glad that you did.

a lot (often misspelled as alot)
all right (often misspelled as alright)
forty (often misspelled as fourty)
separate (often misspelled as seperate)
definitely (often misspelled as definately)
embarrass (often misspelled as embarass or emberass)

Grammatical Errors

Grammatical errors are a little trickier to catch, but poor grammar can wreck a great story. There are several websites and quite a few books (The Little Brown Handbook is a great one) that can help you with grammatical issues. You want to make sure that you use words like loose and lose properly and understand the difference between “its” and “it's”. If you are unsure, you can refer to your handbook or website. Grammar is a huge issue. In a recent survey, some teachers did not understand the proper use for the words who's and whose. It is well worth the time to read up and check on the grammar in your work. When you tighten up on the grammar, you are making your work much easier to read and therefore, much more enjoyable.

Here are some common grammar errors taken from Grammarerrors.com

  • lie/lay

    I lie [not lay] on the floor when I do my homework.
    I lay my books on the table when I get home from school.

  • its/it’s

    It’s [it is] going to rain today.
    Jealousy rears its ugly head

  • loose/ lose

    He tends to lose [not loose] his temper.
    The screw is loose.

  • who/that
    Example 1 (incorrect usage):

    The waitress that served me was very rude. (In this sentence, that is referring to a real person--the waitress--so who should have been used instead.)

    Example 2 (correct usage): The waitress who served me was very rude.

    Example 3 (correct usage): The car that is parked in the street belongs to me. (That is correctly used because a car is not a person. Who would, of course, have been incorrect if used in this sentence.)

  • who/whom Example 1 (who): The woman who [not whom] is standing over there is my mother.

    Example 2 (whom): Whom are you going out with tonight? (Note that in formal writing, the sentence should be read: "With whom are you going out tonight?")

    Example 3 (whom): The stranded motorist whom I helped was very grateful.

Syntactical Errors

Syntax works hand in hand with grammar, but it also includes sentence structure. You want to look for good transitions between paragraphs and thoughts as well as well written sentences. You want paragraphs that are structured properly and are not too long. You also want to look out for run on sentences and sentence fragments. Believe it or not, these are two very common errors in writing. People tend to write the way that they speak and we don't always speak in complete sentences. Watch for this carefully

  • Susan is a great mother she never has mood swings.
  • The movie starts at 9:30 make sure you’re there by 9.
  • I need to find a new employee. Because the last one just quit.

When you sit down to edit, take the suggestions from others into consideration, but you do not have to adhere to them empirically. After all, it is your work. However, you do want your copy to be as clean and error free as possible and work that is free from grammatical and syntactical errors is much easier to read and understand. It is a courtesy to your readers to give them a well thought out story that is free from errors. Errors just make the work look sloppy and that is not the image that you want to project.

Editing and Proofreading