My Christmas present to you: proofreading tips (and my year in summary)

With the flurry of activity in the Spellegance family household this morning, it’ll be a short one from me this week!

I thought I’d start with my Christmas gifts to you – firstly, a link to a blog from 9 December, 11 Proofreading Tips to Help You Write with Confidence, which contains handy tips for non-proofreaders to write with confidence, in instances where they don’t have a proofreader on hand.*

Secondly, for all you other bloggers out there, I found this post (admittedly from August 2011, but still relevant) entitled 11 Blog Proofreading Tips You Can’t Afford to Ignore.

As the end of the year is rapidly approaching, I thought I’d finish with a quick summary of this year’s happenings, and hopefully illustrate in the process why I love my job…

Since January, I’ve proofread or edited 15 different books – not bad considering I’ve only been working very part-time and have only increased my hours recently. These have ranged from an acclaimed novel written in Brazil and published in the UK for the first time this year to a philosophical look at the nature of belief.

I’ve had a varied and interesting year in factual titles, reading about science fiction films, the philosophy of belief, a massacre in Angola, the state of arts funding in Britain, the Royal Navy during World War I, Aneurin Bevan (the founder of the NHS) and the current situation in and history of Ukraine. I’m finishing off the year in style, with a look at the world of beauty, burlesque and feminism, which seems appropriate given the pressure women’s magazines place on us to be glamorous over the party season!

In fiction I’ve travelled on a road trip round Africa, met a Brazilian girl living by the roadside and her older lover, followed a young Libyan boy on his journey of self-discovery, investigated Finnish murders, had a taste of life in South Africa, experienced life in Ukraine during World War II through the eyes of a German major, and got to know a Maori detective a little better after my previous meeting with him two years ago.

And I’ve become a writer as well as a reader/editor since starting this blog…

This is all in addition to the less exciting elements of my work: business planning, attending training, researching websites and logos, record-keeping and trying to keep on top of Twitter and social media in general.

(And of course there’s the non-work stuff of family and hobbies, but that would be another blog in itself. No wonder I feel tired!)

Things to do, places to be…so I’ll end by raising a goblet of mulled wine to you all! Have a very Happy Christmas, and I’ll see you all in 2015!

Merry Christmas!


* Please note that this is not a substitute for hiring a professional!


The pleasure of beautiful writing – an appreciation of some lesser-known titles

Just a quick one from me this week after the whirlwind of school Christmas events, editing work and endless list-making…

It’s all too easy to focus on things that are ‘wrong’ or pick out amusing typos (I still snigger like a child when I see ‘pubic’ in place of ‘public’, and could barely contain my mirth when my husband recounted the tale of an e-book where OCR software had converted the printed ‘burn’ to ‘bum’), but I think it’s also important to celebrate what’s being done well.

Following on from Buzzfeed’s ’51 Of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature’ and their ‘6 Perfect Sentences’ last December, I thought I’d share a selection of my favourite excerpts taken from books I’ve edited or proofread this year. (Please note that I can’t provide the source for some of these, as some won’t be published until 2015.) In no particular order, here they are:

From Nowhere People, Paulo Scott:

In the story she told him there was a colourless girl who very much liked being kissed. One day ‘the colourless girl was by the side of the road when a squad of bikers passed her and one of them threw an apple at her back. She almost fell over, she was hurt. They stopped a few metres on, took off their helmets, laughedat her. The day, which had been lovely and sunny, clouded over. Hurt, the apple looked sad, sadder even than the girl,’ that’s how he wrote it down. And she will watch the leaves on the trees and she won’t know when his leg has gone to sleep and the time has come for them to go.

From a book due to be published in April 2015:

He travelled along a dirt lane, straight and white like a parting in the hair, between fields of new grass where larks sang and quails called out with their three notes, clear like water drops.

Due to be published in January 2015:

The thunderstorm was right overhead now. It was like the sky was pummelling the city in its ribs.

Due for publication in March 2015, this description of the prelude to the protagonist settling down to watch a rugby match on TV:

All was in readiness. The highly decorated (and priced) bottle of Pinot Noir had been breathing for a couple of hours. The fire, craftily tended and force-fed, had worked itself into a yellow-orange fury generating so much heat that the room had been opened up and outer layers discarded. The lamb shanks had been slow-cooked into submission. The panel of pundits had squeezed every last drop out of the bleeding obvious and hedged their bets. The players were about to take the field.

Another book due out in January 2015:

There were fiery and unknowable impulses just below the smooth skin. A frail bravado, an unsettling unpredictability. Above all, he possessed a hungry kind of beauty.

Under the Tripoli Sky, Kamal Ben Hameda:

And, as often happens when the night decides to divulge its secrets, the darkness was vast, like a confession of love. The stars looked on calmly as they busily wove the sky’s face. They were there in their groups, jostling for position as if wanting to console me with an initial burst of chaotic movement, for once forgetting their place in the heavenly hierarchy so that I could touch them with my hand.

And my personal favourite, from the book mentioned above due out in April 2015:

The crickets outside were like steel nibs scratching the dark.

I love the fact that however tedious an editing task may be (I’m sure all editors must hate proofreading footnotes and bibliography sections as much as I do!), I also sometimes stumble across sentences of unexpected beauty and poetry like the ones above.

And with that, I’ll have to love you and leave you, as I have another Christmas concert to attend! Until next week…

Most people need a proofreader or editor at some point…

It’s been a bit quiet on the business-planning front this week, what with the copy-editing job, school Christmas events and shopping to do, so I thought I’d take a moment to look a bit more at some examples of why – however big or small a business you have – a proofreader can make the world of difference.

I mentioned the issue a couple of weeks ago in this blog (Are Spelling Mistakes Costing You Money?), quoting a BBC article which stated that spelling is

important to the credibility of a website (…) When there are underlying concerns about fraud and safety, then getting the basics right is essential.

And this doesn’t just apply to websites; it goes for any written documentation, and is particularly relevant if you’re trying to project a professional and educated image.

To start things off, on Wednesday this week Metro had this lovely picture of a polce car:

polceObviously they won’t lose customers over it, but if you can’t even spell your job title, you’re in danger of looking just a little bit silly…

If you’re primarily using print advertising, particularly if you’re a sole trader, you don’t want to risk putting off potential customers in the space of a few lines. Take this example of an advert that appeared in one of my local papers this week:

“No protections of assests can lead to no inheritance”

xx [name left out for obvious reasons]

8 year’s experience

House Trusts, Wills, Probate

Lasting Power of Attorney

I’m no legal expert, but I can immediately see two major errors in those 20 words – ‘assests’ and ‘8 year’s experience’ – and I would have to query whether it should in fact be ‘protection’ in the bold red heading, rather than the plural ‘protections’. The final nail in the coffin for me is the fact that the web address the solicitor gives is incorrect: the real address has hyphens between the three words, yet if you type in the one printed in the advert, you get

This web page is not available

in a lovely clear font in the middle of your browser window.

If I asked this man to write me a will, would he even spell my name right?

As for the big guys, well…

This classic video from ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Word Crimes, makes a really good argument for employing a proofreader (although his inappropriate usage of the word ‘spastic’ really rankles) in a much funnier way than I ever could, but at 3:20 the following appears on the screen:

Weird Al Word Crimes ERROR

Have you spotted it yet? No?

Try the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

Learn your ABC’s, doofus

As the indispensable reference work New Hart’s Rules (Oxford University Press, 2005) puts it,

[t]he apostrophe is not necessary in forming the plural of names, abbreviations, and other words not used as nouns.

The only case it is acceptable – and this isn’t one of those cases – is

when clarity calls for it, for example when letters or symbols are referred to as objects:

dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

‘Weird Al’, you’ve undermined your own argument.

In some cases – such as the police car pictured above – it would just take a second pair of eyes to check before the request goes to the signage company. In others, it wouldn’t do any harm to track down a proofreader and ask them about their rates. Whether you’re putting together a small advert in your local paper, a leaflet, brochure, annual report or even self-publishing a novel, spending a relatively small amount extra could really make a big difference to how your business is perceived.


P.S. My rates are very reasonable, and no job is too small!