Proof Please

Writers are often asked to review other people’s work. On the one hand, this is a HUGE honor (and something I love to do.) On the other hand, it can sometimes get a little bit hairy — as in, a coworker asks you to give feedback on her erotic novel and/or super verbose neighbor asks you to proof her 8,000 page memoir.

Here are five tips I’ve found helpful no matter what proofing situation you’re in.

  1. Think about your Ink: Don’t use red ink. Just use blue. Or green. Or something else friendly.
  2. Don’t mess with style: Unless your own reputation is on the line, DO NOT edit for style. If anything, point out areas where the person’s style is shining through. (Hint, “shining through” may very likely equal “bug” if you’re someone who likes things to be “just so.”)
  3. Nit Pick Errors: Point out grammatical errors and typos. These are things that make a bad impression on future readers and your writer is counting on you.
  4. Proof in Moderation: Just because you read it all doesn’t mean you read it well. If the piece is long, consider working with your writer to pick an excerpt and then give that little bit yer all. Identify themes and give broad feedback instead.
  5. Don’t Make Stuff Up: Remember that what you say has the potential to significantly alter the direction of the piece. If you wouldn’t change a thing, say, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Hope this helps. Happy proofing!