With all the talk of proofing lately, I thought I might share my own proofreading guidelines. With the exception of #1 below, I go through this with every edit of my own manuscripts, as well as those of friends and other writers who trust me with their work. Here's how it works:
1. Read the entire work and enjoy it.
Make a note of any major problems but don't focus on editing.
Why? Because events in chapter 1 have consequences in chapter 20. How can I give someone advice on plotlines and structure in the beginning when I don't know what it could mean for the end?
Now that I know the outcome...
2. Read chapter 1 again.
Highlight any SPaG (spelling, punctuation, and grammar). Make a note of any breaks in the flow of reading. Give suggestions on sentence structure if needed.
Now that it's more clear and flowing...
3. Read through the chapter again.
Focus on plot holes and timeline. Highlight strong and weak points of EVaD (essence, voice, and development).
4. Wash, Rinse, Repeat for all chapters.
After I've brushed up the ms to the best of my ability, I write a pre-review. A Pre review is simply a 'letter' of sorts to the author detailing my own opinions and suggestions for the overall ms,
I look at things like:
-Was a certain excerpt too dragged out?
-Was it too descriptive? Or not enough?
-Was there anything that could have been left out without consequence?
-Was there something that needed more explanation?
-Was there something I wanted to know, but it doesn't tell?
-If I could change anything, what would it be?
-Is there anything that just doesn't fit.
-ALWAYS tell them the parts of their ms that I loved
And then I hit send and start the journey of e-mailing back and forth with the author to clarify things, talk to them about the ms, and get THEIR feedback on what I've suggested. I always reinforce my belief that everything I give them is purely suggestion and they're welcome to throw it all out if they don't feel it is right for their work. The author knows their work better than any other person in the world, only they can decide what is really right for their ms and what isn't.
If you have any suggestions to add to my list, of course I'm always up for improving my proofreading along with my writing.