Those Tiny Mistakes Can Hurt

I was riding an adrenaline high, having just put my first self-published book on sale at a major online retailer. The cover was beautiful, polished, and professional, and I knew that my message would resonate with people and maybe even help someone who had faced the same struggles as me. I had done what I knew a lot of people talked about but never did: finished a book and put it out there for sale.

That’s when I got the email that changed everything. A customer reached out to say that she had downloaded my book and found errors. Lots of errors.

I cringed as each error glared back at me from the page. Mortified, I issued her a refund. With further inspection of my final draft, I was astonished to find even more issues.  I quickly pulled the book off the site and knew I had to figure out a new plan for this, and all future drafts to avoid this kind of thing ever happening again.

Thankfully, very few copies had been sold, and I was able to contact all of the customers who bought that awful first version and supply them with a new, corrected version later.  In all it was a painful, but extraordinarily valuable experience.  I’d like to save you some of the anguish I felt by providing you with a few tips I picked up. Yes, a mistake or two can still creep through, but overall the grammar and mechanics errors I miss are slim to none.

Do yourself and your readers a big favor and proofread your writing. Here are some of my keys to success:

The 2 to 1 Rule: Proof each piece of material twice yourself, then have an outside proofer take a turn at it. An outside reader often finds errors that you miss.

Proof as You Go: Read each paragraph’s conclusion or “point” and make sure that each supporting statement really does support the argument or statement its making.

Proof backwards: When you read in normal order, your brain tends to make little corrections for you. When you reverse the process and look at things in a non-standard way, your brain is less likely to be as forgiving and more likely to catch mistakes.

Outline first: The process of outlining can get your thoughts aligned and focused. That focus often results in fewer errors and problems in the writing and thus serves a valuable purpose, even if you deviate from the outline so completely that you almost feel as if the final product bears no resemblance to the original outlined document.

Try out these tips on your next project and see if you can limit the number of grammatical errors that sneak through!

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