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Why every writer needs a second pair of eyes

January 30th, 2014 by Bob Bly

The awkward paragraph below appears in a Kindle e-book of my
short stories I just published:

“No problem,” Van Helsing said, looking them up and down
appraisingly. “I’m sure there’ll be plenty of goulash for
everybody.” He looked at them appraisingly. “Though I may need
to use a bigger pot.”

The flaw, of course, is the repetition of “appraisingly.”

What makes this error particularly awful is that I read the
story half a dozen times before publishing it.

Yet it wasn’t until I sat down to read a copy of the published
book that I finally noticed the error.

Worse, my fiction writing teacher read and edited the story
before the book was published.

So did the professional proofreader I hired to review the book
in galley. And they both missed it, as did I.

My point is: whether you are a fiction writer, nonfiction
writer, copywriter, or any other kind of writer, it’s a
challenge to prevent these kinds of sloppy and obvious errors
from slipping in.

Therefore, it’s my belief that you should NEVER submit a draft
to your publisher, printer, or client without having your copy
checked over several times … by you as well as by at least one
other person.

In my freelance copywriting business, when I come up with a
concept for a new promotion – usually consisting of a few
headlines and a lead of a few hundred words – I always run it by
IB.

IB is on a monthly retainer to me for the express purposes of
being available to review and render an immediate opinion on
almost everything I write – not only copy for my clients but
blog posts, essays, articles, and e-mails and landing pages for
my information marketing business.

I often show my concepts to one or two other trusted associates
in addition to IB to be sure that my ideas are on the right
track – in other words, that they are compelling, fresh, and
engaging.

When I have written the copy, I then show it to JK, my
proofreader, who goes through it to catch any typos I may have
made.

The benefits of this in-house review process are twofold.

First, it enables me to be confident that I am showing only good
work to clients, publishers, and subscribers.

Second, it allows me to submit very clean copy, which in turn
gives clients and publishers confidence in the work I give them.

Typos and other errors – such as in my example of repeating
“appraisingly” twice in one paragraph – jar readers. Spotting
even a minor error can go a long way in ruining their opinion of
the rest of the piece. Unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.

Very early in my career, my client ZC, to my great surprise,
told me he thought my copy for his software brochure was weak.

I read it again and didn’t see any problem, so I asked him what
was wrong.

“You wrote it too quickly and didn’t take any care with the
work,” he said in an annoyed tone.

I asked ZC how he reached this conclusion.

His answer: “You must have rushed it because on page 3, you
misspelled ‘algorithm.'”

I don’t ever again want to have the client or reader become
unfairly prejudiced against a great piece of copy for the sole
reason that it contains a sloppy typo.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 30th, 2014 at 10:09 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

79 responses about “Why every writer needs a second pair of eyes”

  1. Monique said:

    I agree that it’s important to have someone proofread your work. I’m surprised at the number of self-published ebooks with multiple errors of grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

    I understand that paying a (professional) proofreader can be prohibitively expensive, but that’s no excuse for having a friend, family member, or close friend review your work before publication.

  2. Kevin Dawson said:

    I’ve had to get a proofreader, too. I’m always surprised by the number of dumb mistakes I make, and can’t see, even after I’ve read the copy out loud two or three times.

    Clayton Makepeace also once said he can’t spot his own typos. Not that I’m at that level, but…

    When I see that Bob Bly and Clayton Makepeace sometimes makes the same mistakes, it makes me feel a little less silly.

    Thanks for the post, Bob.

    BTW – love your Amazon Cowboy Hat book.

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