Advice for Professional Writers: Proofread Your Posts

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today on a mini-rant about a pet peeve that’s bothered me for some time now. I know it’s the accepted thing not to worry about accurate typing when it comes to emails and social media posts. For one thing, it’s so easy to blame mistakes on autocorrect. But what professional writers send out into cyberspace has the potential to stay there forever, warts and all. Do you really want an infinite number of people, most of them total strangers, even if they are your “friends” on Facebook, reading posts with your name on them and wondering if the books you write are just as slipshod when it comes to spelling, grammar, and usage? And that’s not even taking into account the impression readers may get if you’ve accidentally left out a key word. A missing not can make it seem as if you’re saying exactly the opposite of what you intended.

Word choice is important, too. Even smaller mini-rant: I refer to myself and others who write books and short stories as writers rather than authors. Yes, I am the author of many books, but I didn’t “auth” them. I wrote them.

I also write emails, blog posts, and Facebook posts and comments. I proofread all of them before I send or post, and I read them again after they are published and make corrections if it turns out I missed a typo. Sometimes mistakes still sneak in, but I try very hard to catch them all before anyone else sees them. I think of that as part of my job as a writer, just as it’s my job to try to catch and correct all errors in a manuscript before I submit it to my editor. I may not find them all, but if I’m going to call myself a professional, I’m obliged to do my best, just as I do my best to invent interesting characters, create a gripping plot, and put it all together in a way that will keep readers turning the pages.

I don’t know what’s being taught in schools these days, but there was a time when “English” class included learning how sentences are constructed, the rules of punctuation, grammar, usage, and spelling, and how to write essays (even if nowadays it’s called blogging). I have no problem with casually breaking rules in spoken English, but once I put something in writing, especially in a public forum where it can be easily misinterpreted and could well go viral, then I believe I have an obligation to do my best. If I’m going to list “writer” as my profession, then whatever I write, no matter when, no matter where, should be as accurate as I can make it. Yes, even private email. To my fellow professional writers, I have this to say: it’s not all that hard or time consuming to proofread, revise if necessary, and make sure you end up saying exactly what you intended. If nothing else, think about the legacy you’re leaving for posterity. One careless covfefe could live on long after every book you’ve ever written has faded from memory.

 

With the June 2019 publication of Clause & Effect, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett will have had sixty books traditionally published. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.

 

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24 Responses to Advice for Professional Writers: Proofread Your Posts

  1. Marsha Evans says:

    Thank you for posting this! I have been frequently annoyed by these careless mistakes from people who should know better. And, indeed, I have been less likely to pay for a book whose author is careless about proofreading blogs. Bravo 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ann says:

    Oh how I agree with you. When I was working I was amazed at the sloppy email writing by “professionals” in the business world. Now in retirement when I look at facebook, emails, blogs and our local newspaper I get so disgusted at the cringe worthy writing and editing that is being done…or maybe I should revise that to say Not Being Done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      Online newspapers are major offenders. The missing words and typos drive me nuts!

      Like

      • Julianne Spreng says:

        Our local was bought by a big syndicate and the quality of the copy has suffered. I was told the proofreaders were the first to go.

        Like

  3. Anne Cass says:

    I taught high school English for forty years. This topic is near and dear to my heart. I cannot bring myself even to text with letters replacing words. Or to split an infinitive. Stuffy? Perhaps. Accurate? As much as possible! Thanks for the rant. And for the record, most of my teaching colleagues would agree that proofreading is a skill integral to clear communication.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Julianne Spreng says:

    I agree. I agree. I agree!!!!! I don’t have a smart phone, so I don’t text. It is just as well, because it would take me for ever. I thought I was just being obsessive about spelling, capitalization, punctuation, sentence structure, and word choices in emails. Now I know it isn’t me…huge smile!
    Sloppiness in one area will spill over into others.

    Anne, I still use the rhymes we learned in English class such as ‘I before E’ and even the simple spelling help ‘There is a rat in separate.’ When I mention them to younger folk most times I get a puzzled look. They’ve never heard them before. How sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      I have a “stupid phone” so I don’t even know how to text, but I suspect my fingers are too fat to be successful at it anyway. The keyboard on my iPad is hard enough to use.

      Like

      • Dee White says:

        I use a sylus. My fingers are arthritic, so it’s much easier for me. I found some at the Dollar Store, and always keep one with my phone and another with my computer. When my hands are especially painful or stiff, it’s much easier to use, even on my computer keyboard. Slower, but more accurate in the long run.

        Like

      • Dee White says:

        Good example here. I meant “stylus”, not “sylus”.

        Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Spelling it “seperate” is so rampant, and the rat is still there!

      Like

  5. Lea Wait says:

    I agree with you totally, Kathy — event though I know errors sneak through in my own posts and blogs. A good reminder to re-read — and then re-read again!

    Like

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      There’s always something that sneaks in, and that doesn’t even count the things we’re positive are right, so we don’t bother to check. There are a couple of words I’ve regularly misspelled for years, all the while being absolutely positive everyone else was wrong!

      Like

  6. Richard Cass says:

    D’accord. Though, having just corrected about fifty or sixty typos in a manuscript I’d been through at least ten times, I also bow to the MEGO factor–Me Eyes Glaze Over. But that’s another topic . . .
    I think the whole journaling vs. writing thing in English classes may have something to do with it.

    Like

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      I know what you mean. And since we know what we MEANT to write, that’s often what we see on the page, even when it isn’t there.

      Like

    • Dee White says:

      One reason it pays to have someone else proofread your material when it’s intended for publication. Definitely the MEGO factor, but also your brain tends to skip ahead when the material is familiar.

      Like

  7. Charlene Fox Clemons says:

    Thank you for writing this! It is also a pet peeve of mine and I can not begin to tell you how many books I have wanted to red-line and send to the author to see if they knew what was being published. Missing words, mis-spelled words, commas where they do not belong…and the list goes on. And, yes, schools are depending way too much on computers taking care of all the mistakes the students make.

    Like

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      I had to turn off spellcheck on my word processing program, especially when I was writing books set in Tudor England. It was questioning every other word.

      Like

      • kaitlynkathy says:

        In one book, ages ago, I used a sixteenth-century word for American Indians–Aberginians, if I’m remembering correctly–and somewhere along the line it was changed to Amerindians. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice in time to change it back before publication and I got mail from people who rightly pointed out that Amerindians was a modern word that would never have been used that long ago. Frustrating!

        Like

  8. Dee White says:

    I was raised by an English professor. Grammar, spelling and punctuation errors put my teeth on edge. I’m willing to overlook occasional errors, but when a “professional” writer’s posts are littered with them, I’m not inclined to buy or read their books. Lord knows I make my share of typos, but I try to go back and fix them if I can. The written word is precious and deserves to be taken seriously.

    Like

  9. Dee White says:

    When I was teaching, I used our local newspaper (big city paper, too) in English lessons. I gave extra credit to the students who found the most errors. It got to be a real competition to see who would win. Extra bonus was the kids learning about current events and the world they lived in.

    Like

  10. TLynn says:

    Wholeheartedly agree !
    I seem to find every misused word or poor grammar when I read, and it makes the story stutter as my mind corrects and then moves on. So, poorly constructed blog or other posts would give me pause when deciding whether or not to read that author.

    Like

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