Proofreading and you!

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Riviera
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Proofreading and you!

#1 Post by Riviera » Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:09 am

Hello! I've been proofreading/editing for a while now, and so I figured I would put some of that experience to good use by writing up a series of tips and insights for other proofreaders, or people who are interested in proofreading.


Why do it?

Okay, first off. Why volunteer for the position? Well, to be perfectly honest, when I first started proofreading I did it because it was early access to the game. I know I'm not the only one, don't feel bad if that's your own reason for doing it. However. Be aware of a few things.

If you do it like you're playing a game or reading a book, you're not doing it right.

What? What do I mean by that? Easy. The brain will skip over many errors during casual play/reading. I'm sure you've seen that paragraph floating around that proves the brain will rearrange letters to form the correct word as long as the first and last letter are in place. It's true. It will also rearrange words and a lot of typos if you're not really paying attention as well. You have to be concentrating to catch a lot of stuff.

When I write things, I tend to make a first draft and go over it several times because of this. Try it sometime. Consciously slow yourself down and really analyze what you wrote, instead of simply reading it. It may even help to say what you wrote out loud, since it takes longer than just reading it. In fact, reading things out loud can be a great way to check grammar and sentence flow. After a while, you may not recognize what is wrong, but you'll learn to spot when something is wrong.


Grammar

Grammar is not a bad thing. Many, many people on the internet are tired of hearing about grammar, many people don't see what the big deal is. Good grammar can help writing be a lot more easily accessible, and help reading be a better and easier experience for everyone. That said, be careful when you check grammar. It can be so easy to make mistakes! There are many, many rules of grammar and many variances. Here are just three big things to consider:
  • Dialects. Many regions have their own accepted styles of talking or writing. I've accidentally attempted to correct grammar before and then had it explained to me that no, it's correct, it's just not what I'm used to. It never hurts to clarify with the writer what his/her intentions were. If you have any questions, let them know. For example: Southerners in America use a lot of words that would be considered misspelled or even "not words" in other parts of the world, but in the south they are perfectly correct!
  • Tenses. Be careful with tenses. I guess I could simply emphasize to pay attention. We constantly shift tenses when we speak. You could be talking about something that happened yesterday (past tense), then shift to how you feel about what happened (present tense), then go on to talk about lunch tomorrow (future tense), then back to how you felt in the past (past tense). Four shifts in just one conversation. Certain writing styles also use certain tenses as part of the style.

    "Sure, I went (past) to the grocery store yesterday, but I don't know (present) how I would feel (future) if I have to (present) go again today."

    This is correct. It's a bit on the awkward side, but I pulled it together more to demonstrate than as an actual bit of writing. Basically, just be careful.
  • Character Traits. Many characters also have individual speaking styles that you should be aware of as well. Some characters are meant to speak a certain way. Maybe this girl slurs her words, or that girl doesn't like to use other people's names, or that boy doesn't like to refer to himself in the first person, or that other person over there doesn't like to use gender pronouns. Some of these examples are not going to happen all that often, but it's a good thing to keep in mind. Also note that if the character is spouting off internet memes they are more than likely not going to be grammatically correct, but... no one may care anyway. :lol:
Spelling

Easiest way to check this is to run anything unfamiliar through a spell check. There are loads of them available through your friendly neighborhood search engine. You can also, if you get a text file of the dialogue, run it through something like Microsoft Word. Just be aware that Word may not catch everything, and will flag things like character names and "fantasy" words. Regions also come into play here, as I mentioned before. I'm a southerner. I say "ain't" and "y'all" quite often, and where I live, it's considered correct. You may not recognize those words and it might send up a red flag for you. It never hurts to double check!


Oh my god!! This sounds like some kind of job! What is this, I don't even?!

It can be! Proofreading is a position just like writing or drawing, and can be just as important. It can help to think of it this way: The writer builds the car, the coder puts in the engine and other parts, the artist paints it, and now you have to inspect everything to see that it's in order. Since you're not actually test driving it, you don't (usually) have to worry about it exploding in your face, emitting foul odors or randomly singing the blues out of nowhere, but there may be quite a few things out of order nonetheless.

Proofreading being what it is, it's not likely to be something the magnitude of, say, not having a gas pedal. It'll more than likely be the equivalent of there being a bit of paint scuffed, a seat missing a cushion, the gear shift having a huge spike instead of a handle. Wait, what? Okay, I think we can get away from that analogy for a minute. :lol:

Basically, you help the story look the best that it can. You help the writer get their meaning across so that the readers enjoy reading it as much as the writer hopefully enjoyed writing it. It was written for the enjoyment of others, and to convey a great deal of meaning that can otherwise be lost if the reader has to stop every few sentences and try to figure out what was just said. The vast majority of the writing you proofread is not going to be terrible, just so you know. You may not have a great deal of work to do. But it's still important, and it still makes a difference when you do it. :)


Tips
  • If the writer's specifically asked for it or I get the feeling more help may be needed, I not only do the usual checking, I'll write down suggestions or explanations as well.

    "This is spelled wrong.": Is self-explanatory.

    "This is worded poorly, please consider a rewrite.": Is.. also self-explanatory, but not that helpful.

    It can really help to say WHY something is wrong, or suggest a possible change. They may not like your suggestion, but it may prompt a better re-phrasing of the sentence in question or an explanation of why it is the way it is.

    Example: Instead of saying, "The big smelly dog ate my homework and I'd like it dead," try "That nasty, stinky dog ate my homework! I wish it were dead!"

    Be aware that in this example, the two sentences give off a very different feel. You might not be getting the writer's intent across in your suggestion as well as they might like. :)
  • Expect to take roughly twice as long proofreading a game as you would normally playing it. It may not take this long, but it should not take the same amount of time. If it does, you're probably not taking enough time. I played a game and it took me... not more than an hour. I proofread that same game, intensively (with lots of suggestions and explanations), and it took me about three hours.
  • Do not purposely skip things. This may seem obvious, but when you're proofreading something, sometimes the corrections can seem like they're piling up and you start to doubt yourself or feel bad. Maybe I'm being too hard on them, maybe I'm nit-picking, maybe the players won't particularly care about this mistake over here... you're doing yourself and the writer a disservice doing this. Not to say that it isn't possible that some of it truly is nit-picking, but it's better to err on the side of caution and mention something, then find out it's not a big deal, than it would be to not mention something and have it come up again later.

    I've never personally experienced it, but I can imagine it being frustrating having several proofreaders look over your work only to later stumble upon an error yourself. Then, when you mention it, all of them say they'd seen it but decided it wasn't worth noting. Which brings up another tip.
  • You are only human. You're not going to catch everything. Do your best, but don't beat yourself up too bad if you DO miss stuff. I mean, the writer is only human as well, that's why you're here!
  • Sometimes the best thing to do is look something over, wait an hour or so, then look at it again. Fresh eyes can make a world of difference.
What I do, or "OH MY GOD! SHE'S STILL TALKING!?"

You don't really have to read this part, it's just a small note of my personal method.

First Playthrough: I always do one run where I actually enjoy the game. If I'm going to play it, I want to at least have some fun. It helps to motivate me to dig in and do a good job! I also note spelling and if anything jumps out at me as being really badly worded. This also lets me know how thorough my second playthrough has to be.

Second Playthrough: Usually two is all I need. This is the one where I sit down and give everything a thorough look. Take each screen of dialogue and really look at it. If something seems a bit off, stop and say it out loud. If I'm unsure about something, I run it by a grammar website or through a spellcheck.
Last edited by Riviera on Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:48 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Aleema
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Re: Proofreading and you!

#2 Post by Aleema » Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:20 am

I like this thread. I do believe there is a line between editing and good editing. My proofs are usually riddled with stuff written in the margin (or footnotes for word docs) so that I can better explain why I'm suggesting something. And when I'm getting my work edited, I love it when the same is done to me. Just "it's bad, change it" helps no one. ;_;

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Re: Proofreading and you!

#3 Post by Riviera » Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:05 am

Yeah, there really is... it still amazes me how much I catch the second time I read something. My own personal writing gets a first draft whether I intend to or not, since I end up fixing and changing so much when I reread it.

It's true... just telling someone that something is wrong is technically doing the job, but it won't help them fix the problem. It also won't help them avoid that problem in the future. If you don't know why something is wrong, you're more likely to commit the mistake again.

EDIT: Edited it to make it easier to read, and added some tips.
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Re: Proofreading and you!

#4 Post by Nanashiko » Sat Feb 05, 2011 7:26 am

Bless Proof readers. Good proof readers, not the ones who sit there marking my paper up with red ink just because they are supposed to. Wait, what? Oh, never mind me, I am just rambling on about something not related, and on and going off topic. Proof Readers are my extra brain. They are the ones who are like, "ummm I think you are were trying to say this not this." And I am then going oh yeah, heh eheh.

Anyways this is a good topic, nice tips for writers. The difference between good proof readers and bad ones is pretty simple. You are not just correcting, you are helping to improve the work. A good editor knows when to break the rules so that your writing doesn't sound like a robot is talking to the reader. Yet, they know when to tell you to follow the rules so that you don't sound like an idiot.

I have to proofread, or look over, multiple times. I would never be able to just do it twice. I have a habit where I write everything down first so I don't forget, then clean it up multiple times. The first time I edit to be more correct, then cleaning that up by taking out things not needed or could be reworded better. That's just me probably, I am a bit strange.

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Re: Proofreading and you!

#5 Post by Riviera » Sat Feb 05, 2011 12:59 pm

Nah, that's just an in general. I've looked over things multiple times, too. :)
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Re: Proofreading and you!

#6 Post by Elenakiara » Sat Feb 05, 2011 3:40 pm

This really helps remind me that proofreading isn't as easy as I sometimes think! xD Before, I used to think of it as mostly a grammer and sentence-checking task, but later I found out that proofreaders also help with the flow of the text depending on what storyline you have and all that! :)

It really is a very important task!
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Re: Proofreading and you!

#7 Post by otomegirl24 » Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:45 pm

Great advice, a lot to read but it was very helpful nonetheless. I'll be sure to try and keep in mind the helpful tips you gave. I actually groaned out loud when you mentioned switching tenses, something that's become a bit of a habit for me to do and I'm currently trying to keep from doing so. XDD

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Re: Proofreading and you!

#8 Post by Riviera » Sun Feb 06, 2011 7:48 pm

Well, everything I've mentioned has been things I've had trouble with at some point, myself.

I have ADHD, so I have to fight a bit extra to keep my attention on things... and have caught myself correcting something only to go back and realize that they were right. I just hadn't read it the right way, or hadn't kept the general flow of the story in my mind correctly.

I'm not a professional, so all of this is just what I've picked up. I do strongly recommend taking a quick look at a grammar book or keeping spellchecks on hand. You don't have to study these things like they're a college course, because you aren't really getting paid for this, but it can help to have a little extra info. :)
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Re: Proofreading and you!

#9 Post by Riviera » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:04 pm

Oh! Some more information. TLDR, go to the bottom and read the bold italics. This isn't as necessary since most people here perform the job of an editor and a copy editor. Just thought it'd be interesting.

There is actually a difference between a proofreader and an editor. The type of editor we usually see is, in the business, called a copy editor. A copy editor is what people tend to think of when they think of a proofreader.

Okay, since I threw a lot of terms around, let's go ahead and define them.

Proofread

To examine text looking for spelling errors, punctuation errors, typos and obvious errors, such as the unintentional use of there when it is clear the correct word is their. (Also known as proofing or line editing.) This task requires a trained eye most non-professionals don’t have, as our brains tend to automatically correct small errors in text. In addition, nearly every writer — no matter how good — will usually benefit from a proofer, as it can be even more difficult to notice tiny errors in your own work.

Example: The dog didn’t have a tag: so I coudn’t find it’s owner.
Corrected: The dog didn’t have a tag, so I couldn’t find its owner.


Copy edit

To examine text looking for grammatical errors and style consistency, in addition to spelling errors, punctuation errors, typos and other obvious unintended errors. (Also known as sub-editing in the UK and Australia.) This requires the trained eye of a proofreader as well as additional expertise in matters of style. It takes more time than simple proofreading, because measuring consistency – making sure the names of states are always treated the same, for example – often involves going over the text multiple times. A good copy editor will also be sure that sentences make sense. He will clarify ambiguity and poor wording, but he will only be heavy-handed when he has been asked to do so, otherwise he risks coming across as petty.

Example: Chapter One: The Dog Who New to Much About Alabama
Chapter 3: Dog Houses in Calif. and the Environment
Corrected: Chapter 1: The Dog Who Knew Too Much About Alabama
Chapter 2: Dog Houses in California and the Environment


Editing

To examine text with the intention of improving the flow and quality of writing. Editing usually requires the freedom to omit entire sentences and rewrite entire paragraphs. It also involves correcting grammatical errors or other unintended errors. Quality editing doesn’t necessarily involve proofing or copyediting, however a good editor will correct any obvious errors she comes across. She will also edit unnecessary wordiness. She will bring any potential issues to the attention of the writer and/or publisher — whether it be a legal matter, a question of good taste, a point of confusion, etc. An editor will make sure every base has been covered.


Be sure to let your proofreader/editor know what you want them to do. If you do not want them to directly edit your work, say so. If you want them to only leave you notes on what things they feel should be changed, you should do so. This is your work, and it should be handled the way you want it to be.
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Re: Proofreading and you!

#10 Post by Lumen_Astrum » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:21 pm

I'm not a proofreader, but I just want to say that :
Riviera wrote:If you do it like you're playing a game or reading a book, you're not doing it right.
I agree with this. XD

Why? I once proofread a piece of text for our school papers way back, but I got fired out of the job because when they screened my work again, there are a lot of errors I didn't catch XD

When I usually read a piece of text, all my brain does is to correct the errors in my brain. I'm not careful with tenses either, so I just wanna say that if you have a game, pick out a LOT of proofreaders. Because based on my experience on amateur proofreading, one proofreader is not enough. There should be a first batch of proofreaders, then a second one to scan the first one's work to perfectly scan it. Despite that, errors are still unavoidable. Well, we're all human. DUUUUUUH.

But if you are this skilled like you detect every single grammatical and spelling error, why not have just one XD

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Re: Proofreading and you!

#11 Post by SusanTheCat » Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:53 pm

A trick my english teacher taught me for proofing your own work was to read it backwards. Seeing it out of context makes the errors a little more visible.

My son (who is a much better speller than I am) tried to proofread my nano novel. He gave me the compliment of having to stop proofreading because he was getting too involved in the story.

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Re: Proofreading and you!

#12 Post by Riviera » Sat Feb 26, 2011 5:09 pm

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