Friday, February 1, 2019

The Proof is in the Reading

In the argument over paying editors I talked about yesterday there were people who said you can't proofread your own book.  You have to pay someone to do that!  Which I think is pure bullshit.  Look, if you want to think of yourself as a professional writer you should be able to proofread to the level of basic competence.

This is another "controversial" thing that really shouldn't be.  A writer who can't proofread is like a surgeon who's afraid of blood or a peanut farmer with a peanut allergy:  he's pretty well fucking useless.  I guess in our lazy entitled culture maybe you can just slop down words on a page and pay someone to proofread it and pay someone else to do the "developmental" editing.  Why not just pay someone else to write it for you too?  And pay someone else for an idea?  Why do anything at all?

In an episode of King of the Hill I watched a couple of months ago Hank Hill takes his son Bobby to work where he sells propane and propane accessories.  Before anyone can sell propane grills, Hank makes sure they know all about propane and how to wipe propane tanks.  His son is baffled by this.  Why can't I just sell the grills?  And the answer is that Hank wants his people to actually know what they're selling.  When Bobby ignores this he eventually gets in trouble because he doesn't have any idea what he's doing.  So for instance he tells one guy that a grill will work great for a huge thick steak...and then it doesn't.  And he sells someone 50-gallon tanks when they need 100-gallon tanks or whatever the exact numbers were.  He finally realizes that maybe his dad actually knows what he's talking about.

By the same token you should know at least the basics of how to proofread or else how do you know what you're doing?  Even if you still pay someone to do it for you, how will you know they've actually done something?  Or if you ever do get to be a rich, famous writer maybe your publisher would appreciate it if you didn't have manuscripts that look like a fourth-grader wrote them.

Some people though seem to think proofreading is something akin to magic.  I don't really understand that.  I'm not a grammar Nazi or anything but I think I have at least a basic competency.  Like I know which they're/there/their or your/you're I should use.  Stuff like that.  Some of the finer points not so much but then your average reader probably doesn't know that either.

I mentioned yesterday how someone trying to show me up said "He doesn't know the difference between proofreading (which MS Word does for you) and developmental editing" and how ludicrous that was because MS Word is a pretty shitty proofreader.  I think part of the problem though is people really do think the computer can find the stuff for you.  If not Word then some app like Grammarly or whatever.  But again those aren't guaranteed.  It's just better to use your own fucking eyes and brain.

Maybe a lot of it is just laziness.  To proofread something you have to actually read the whole thing at least once, if not more.  Most of my books are short so it's not that hard to do but I suppose if you wrote a 1000-page epic fantasy it might be a pain in the ass.  I can see where it'd be easier to just pay someone else to do it.  Easier, yes, but to me that seems like throwing money away.

I'm not a "car guy" by any stretch but there are things I can do myself like change the windshield wipers or a flat tire.  Sometimes I wash it with the hose instead of going through the automatic car wash.  The point being that I don't pay someone to do what I can do myself.  That just doesn't make sense to me.  But I guess all the people on writing message boards are independently wealthy playboys--and playgirls.

The only exception to this is if you have some learning disability so you can't really read through something all that effectively.  Otherwise it's better to do your own work as much as you can.  It'll save you money and you'll know that your product is really your product.


  1. I’ve found that a automatic proofreaders are flawed. They can catch obvious spelling and grammar errors but are sometimes wrong. It’s important to know the craft.

  2. I've never hired a proofreader. I usually rewrite and re-read my comic scripts so many times that by the time they're done it's very unlikely that an error went unnoticed

  3. You are good at proofreading. I know from reading your books. When I first published, I did my own proofreading, and I even listened to my books. Still couldn't find every issue. So now I hire just for proofreading, and I wouldn't go back to not having a proofreading. I don't publish often, and the price is right. But with all your books it still would be WAY too much.



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