The Burden of Proof: Why Proofreading Matters

Picture the scene: you’re flicking through a recipe book, looking for a quick and delicious dinner, and suddenly you come across a somewhat unsavoury ingredient:

"salt and freshly ground black people"

Oh dear! Needless to say, the writers of The Pasta Bible did not intend to endorse cannibalism. According to the publishers, the Australian branch of the international publishing giant Penguin, 
they simply fell victim to the dreaded typographical error.

With spell-check now coming as standard on word processors and the option to access language resources such as the Oxford Dictionary online, spelling mistakes are easier to catch than ever before. Unfortunately, some errors, such as the bloodthirsty one mentioned above, are not detectable by a spell-check program, and some may even be caused by one!

What’s the best way to avoid such mistakes? The SilverWood team always advises that a manuscript is proofread before it is published. We work with highly experienced proofreaders, most of whom also work for large mainstream publishing houses and all of whom have been trained by professional proofreading and editing organisations.

Why should I pay for a proofread?

A good proofread is always a worthwhile investment. English grammar and punctuation are complex and often confusing. It takes a lot of time and study to learn the rules, and training to be able to pick up on them in long texts. You may not think that placing a comma in the middle of a sentence is a problem, but other people will and they may criticise your book on the basis of it. Even if your standard of written English is exceptional, any manuscript will benefit from a second pair of eyes. We spend so much time reading our own work that we can begin to see what we expect rather than what is actually there, and errors and inconsistencies slip by us. A new person reading the manuscript for the first time will be much more likely to pick up on them, and if they are SFEP-trained they will have the knowledge and skills to correct them. This is why SilverWood always recommends authors use an SfEP Professional or Advanced Member.

What does a SilverWood proofread involve?

With SilverWood it’s not simply a case of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. We are perfectionists and we want to make sure that everything is done to the highest possible standard, especially something as important as proofreading. When a manuscript is proofread through us it will go through four different stages:


The Proofreader
This is the first stage. Our professional proofreader receives the manuscript and will carefully work through it on a line-by-line basis, making corrections to any errors found. These can be as minor as additional spaces between words, or those that impact on the reader more significantly, such as repetition and overlong or over-complex sentences. Our proofreader will use the Microsoft Word feature Track Changes as they work so that their amendments can be seen by the author and the SilverWood editorial team.

SilverWood Checks
Once the proofreader has completed his or her work on the manuscript, it is checked through by a member of the SilverWood editorial team. They will ensure that the proofreader has been thorough and consistent, and maintained any stylistic choices that the author has requested. They will also ensure that any comments left by the proofreader have clarity for the author on return of the manuscript, and may also run the manuscript through proofreading software such as PerfectIt Pro. This checks consistency and a wide range of other potential issues and allows us at SilverWood to be absolutely sure the proofreader hasn’t missed anything (we are all human, after all).

Author Checks
The author will receive a copy of the proofread and checked manuscript. The use of Track Changes allows authors to see the extent of what has been done; many people are surprised at how much work actually goes into a thorough proofread! At this stage, the author has the opportunity to ensure that they agree with the changes, and address any queries or suggestions that the proofreader and editorial team have made. The author can also make any final changes to the manuscript before the typesetting and page layout process begins.

More SilverWood Checks
You can never have too many checks! Once the author has returned the manuscript, a SilverWood Publishing Assistant will then check it a final time. This is to ensure that any changes that the author has introduced during their checks are consistent with the rest of the text and error-free. Once this stage has finished, the manuscript is ready to be typeset.


It happens to the best of us...

Typos and spelling mistakes are not exclusive to self-published books! Can you spot the errors we've found below? (If you get stuck, hover your cursor over the photo for a hint)

A rogue indent in 'Original Rockers'A missing speech mark in 'Funny Girl'A four-point ellipsis in '1984'

Harry Potter fans have even come up with a name for the errors and inconsistencies they’ve found in the series: "Flints", after Marcus Flint, a sixth-year Hogwarts student in Book One who reappeared in Book Three, set a year after he should have left.

The English language has been tripping us up since time immemorial and no book is too sacred, as demonstrated by this 1631 edition of The Bible which lists the Seventh Commandment as "Thou shalt commit adultery".

Want to know more...?
SilverWood Books’ copy-editing and proofreading services, as well as editorial feedback, are open to all authors, regardless of whether they have purchased one of our publishing packages.

If you are interested in having your manuscript copy-edited or proofread by SilverWood, please get in touch with the SilverWood team by email, or call 0117 910 5829.

Not ready for a proofread yet?
Our Reader's Report Service offers feedback on the first three chapters of your manuscript for only £55 + VAT (so £66 if you're a UK tax payer). 

Read more and buy online here: SilverWood Reader's Report.

“The personal service I received was superior. No query or problem was left unanswered or unattended.”

Nicholas King