The Power of Proofreading

Kathryn J. Bain

Can a misspelled word cause you to lose a book contract? Probably not. Can it lead to a lifetime of embarrassment? That would depend on the word and whether your book gets published.

I know an author of over twenty published books (she shall remain nameless) who sent her manuscript to be proofed by someone in the military. She had a scene where someone loses their leg in an explosion. Her expert is probably still laughing over the exploded IUD instead of IED. (That’s the difference between an intrauterine device verses and an improvised explosive devise). If the book had been published the way it was written, she would still be embarrassed today.

Another author had her hero arrive in the beginning of the book by way of helicopter and leave in a Jeep. To this day readers ask her about that. She tells them the “Jeep Fairy” put it there.

Could you laugh about this type of error? Getting your manuscript in the best possible shape before publication will keep you from having to find out. Proofreading is one of the things you can do to keep from having these embarrassing blunders. It keeps scenes tight and dialogue sharp. The following are several ways to proof your document to catch the most errors.

  1.  Read your manuscript out loud. Redundant sounding words will stand out, along with too long of narrative, and problems with your dialogue.
  2. Use a critique group. You’ll be amazed how many errors you have in your manuscript when someone else proofs it for you. I have a habit of leaving out words. When I go back and reread my story, I know what belongs there, so I don’t always see something’s missing. Thankfully my critique group does.
  3. Use a reading software like NaturalReader to input your chapters and have them read back to you. It’s a good way to catch things you might have missed.
  4. Use Spell Check on your computer, but don’t rely on it solely. It doesn’t catch every misspelled word because the American language is weird. Do you want there, their, or they’re?
  5. Critique for others. You’ll see your mistakes in other writer’s works. The more your critique for other people, the better your writing will become.

The list above might not catch all your errors, but it will greatly improve your chances. By not carefully proofreading, you might get your readers laughing at your suspense book instead of having their hearts race. After all who wouldn’t laugh at a soldier losing a leg to an exploding birth control device?


Kathryn J. Bain
Breathless, now available


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30 Responses to The Power of Proofreading

  1. Hi Kathryn, so nice to have your post included here. We are excited to know you better. You are welcome back anytime. The information you have provided is GREAT!

  2. Skye says:

    And I am so good at putting my foot in my mouth anyway. This is a really good reminder. Reading aloud is a good tip. Thanks

  3. Great post, Kathryn. I find myself critiquing everything I read. It absolutely does make me aware of areas I need to improve in my own writing. I plan to join a critique goup soon, too. Thanks.

  4. artsmuklermd says:

    Great post. An exploding IUD? Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist is having trouble letting go of that image. LOL. Thanks. Art

  5. Hi there, this is sound advice. I tend to work late at night and often when I read my work from the night before, I wonder what I was thinking. Proof reading is essential for me. I think the advice of having someone else read my work is an excellent idea. Thank you for a great article.

  6. Pete Denton says:

    good advice and the more times I see it hopefully it sinks in and becomes second nature.

  7. t says:

    I feel much better about reading every post I write out loud before I punch my little “publish” button now!

    Of course, I do the same with my college papers, but my children are none to pleased with that =]

  8. Linda,
    For some reason it wouldn’t let me reply to you up above. But in answer to your question, Natural Reader is a free software. The voices don’t sound spot on, but it’s good enough to get what you need from it. The site is

    • Thanks, Kathryn. By the way, I looked at your book Breathless on Amazon. It sounds wonderful! I only have Kindle on my smartphone (so far), and I’ve decided I like it enough to get the ‘big’ one. I plan to buy Breathless soon. I’ve downloaded about eight recently, so I need to catch up on my reading. I’m in the middle of the third one right now.

  9. Linda,

    Please let me know what you think. As a new author, I like to find out what I’m doing wrong and right.

  10. I want to thank everyone who stopped by yesterday. It was good to talk to you all. I also want to wish you all good luck with your writing.

  11. Wayne Tilden says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. Fortunately I haven’t had any of those experiences … yet. I HAVE, however, been able to point them out in others’ writings; documents, blogs, books, and articles. Usually in time.
    I got into “this” when I found how lax the daily newspapers had become. Apparently they use SpellCheck as their only editor.
    Contact me with any editing needs you may have. Also see my books on Smashwords and on

    • I love when you read a news headline, then read the content, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the headline. I understand these people are busy, but reading it over once or twice is not that big a deal.

  12. Pingback: No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links « No Wasted Ink

  13. Loved it! I don’t think that I’ve ever made that kind of mistake in my career. I try to give my writing a good thorough read-through each time I edit it.
    I think one way to avoid that kind of embarrassing error is, in the words of all our writing teachers, “Write what you know”.

  14. Reblogged this on Write On! Publishing and commented:
    We need to always remember the power of proofreading. Kathryn Bain goes into detail in this blog.
    Keep writing!

  15. Kathryn,
    I have just included this post on my “My Very Favorite Blogs” page. (I misspelled your name, but I will fix that very soon.

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