Four Common Proofreading Errors to Watch For

There are many errors that proofreaders look for when reviewing a manuscript, blog post, etc. We look for spelling errors, punctuation errors, grammar errors, inconsistencies of formatting, and inconsistencies of character. Among each of these areas there are multiple things the proofreaders are looking for. This article will talk about four common proofreading errors, there are of course, many more.

The human brain does not automatically find errors. In fact, the human brain is wired to glaze over those errors for efficiency. A trained proofreader looks for errors. The manuscript is assumed to be guilty of errors until proven innocent of all errors.

Below, you can find four common proofreading errors to watch for when proofreading your own manuscript.

White cup with coffee, orange flowers and green garland, white paper with wooden pen

Spelling

Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Some homophones are super easy to spot, and others are not. Below is an example of harder to spot homophones.

~Bare/Bear
~Break/Brake
~Compliment/Complement
~Hear/Here
~Its/It’s
~New/Knew
~Principal/Principle
~Sight/Site
~Steal/Steel
~Stationery/Stationary
~There/Their/They’re
~To/Too/Two
~You’re/Your

Apostrophes

Possessive, Plural, Plural Possessive

  1. Possessive S: Applied when something belongs to someone or something, ‘s
    1. Singular possessive: Joe’s grill…
    2. Names ending in S: Thomas’s house…
    3. Plural Possessive: All the trees’ acorns…
    4. Name ending in S plural possessive: The Davises’ are going on vacation (Davis is singular, Davises is plural)
  2. Two or more people: When more than one person owns a thing the ‘s comes after the last used name, unless the item/thing can only belong to one person.
    1. Peter and Mary’s uncle is going to…
    2. Jessica’s and Jane’s socks are wet from…
  3. With numbers:
    1. The ‘60s
    2. When not possessive: In the 1870s a man named…
    3. When possessive: The 1980’s fashion was…
  4. Missing letters: Replace missing letters with ‘
    1. singin’
    2. get ‘em
  5. For plurals: Not as common, but sometimes used to clarify a plural form, but not possessive
    1. Cross your t’s.
    2. I got to B’s and three A’s.

Indent at beginning of chapter or scene change

  1. The first line of a new chapter is not indented. It is flush with the left margin. Check out your favorite novel if you are skeptical.
  2. The first line of a scene change or point-of-view change is not indented. It is flush with the left margin. Again, check your favorite novel if you are skeptical.

Comma Splices

  1. I have a whole article devoted to comma splices. Check it out here: Comma Splices. But I’ll briefly break it down here.
  2. A comma splice is when two independent clauses are joined with only a comma.
  3. They can be fixed by use of a conjunction, hard stop, or semi-colon.
  4. John and Jean went to the mall, they had ice cream. (comma splice)
    1. John and Jean went to the mall, and they had ice cream.
    2. John and Jean went to the mall. They had ice cream.
    3. John and Jean went to the mall; they had ice cream.

The first three of these four common proofreading errors are pretty easy to fix when you are proofreading your own work. The last one is a bit more difficult to recognize and fix, but so worth it.

If you thought to yourself, Oh my word, just know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The tip of the tip of the iceberg. If you are not willing or able to spend the time to go through your work and find errors, consider hiring a proofreader. It is difficult to remove yourself from your work, and it is difficult find errors if you are not trained to find them.

Hiring a proofreader will save you so much time and grief. To get more information about my proofreading services, visit my contact page to schedule a free discovery call.

Have an absolutely fantastic day!

Michelle Merritt

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