Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Three)

We are finally getting to the end of the second reading of a manuscript. Thank you to everyone who commented on the previous two blogs. It’s great to add new ideas to my process.

In Proofreading Process (Part One) and Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Two) I covered my process for the first and second reading of a manuscript. In the comments section of the blogs you can find lots of interesting ideas on the subject.

Today, I’m going to cover a few more technical areas and finish off the second reading. In the next blog, I’ll cover areas that involve making suggestions to an author but aren’t hard rules.

What about Mom and Dad?

Search for mom, dad, aunt, uncle, etc. and check if they are capitalized correctly. The capitalization of the first letter is easy to type wrong and difficult for the eye to see. A global search will force you to look at each case.

Mom is capitalized for direct address.

“Hey, Mom. I got a tattoo.”

Mom is not capitalized when referring to her.

“My mom doesn’t like my tattoo. Can you believe that?”


Acronyms should be added to your “list” as you read the manuscript. Then it’s easy to check if they are written in a consistent manner. For example:

PH.D or PhD or P.H.D.

AM or am or a.m.

It’s a good idea to check the style manual the author uses and pick the format from there.

Dialogue Format

When editing dialogue pay attention to punctuation and capitalization.

  • Is the punctuation inside the end quote correct?
  • Is the first word after the end quote capitalized when it shouldn’t be?

Correct: “I love my new car,” she said.

Incorrect: “I love my new car.” She said. (Did you notice the 2 errors?)

Correct: “Why did you steal my car?” he asked.

Incorrect: “Why did you steal my car?” He asked.

Possessive or Plural?

Look for words ending in ‘s’ and check if they were meant to be possessive or plural. Remember, it’s the dog’s tail, not the dogs tail – unless there are multiple dogs that share one tail, but then it would be the dogs’ tail. Now that I think about it, I guess that creature could exist in a fantasy or sci-fi novel.

The Dreaded Comma

I used to think I knew how to use a comma. Ha ha. The joke was on me. During my mentorship program with Joan Barfoot through the HSW Correspondence Program, Joan kindly pointed out I needed to learn how to use a comma.  I literally spent two months studying the comma. I guess the saying– you don’t know what you don’t know – is true. I can’t thank Joan enough for pointing this out to me.

I won’t go into the comma rules as there are enough books on the topic, but I wanted to mention how important the pesky little punctuation mark is. To create a professional looking manuscript, it’s worth the effort to learn how to use the comma.

What’s next?

Phew. I feel sweat dripping down my forehead. We are finally at the end of the second reading. The next blog, you guessed it, will start with the third reading.

I’m keeping track of suggestions and comments, and in the final blog in this series, I will post all the great ideas people have been generous enough to send me. I used some of the ideas to proofread this blog. I hope you don’t find a typo 🙂

Thanks for reading . . .


8 thoughts on “Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Three)

  1. I know some prefer to review a printed copy, but to me this kind of detailed screening is so much easier on computer using the Find function. Rather than reading through the document from start to finish, I go through one item at a time. For example, search for “its”, and check each instance to ensure it’s used correctly. Then search for the next item (maybe “it’s”) and again, step through the list of hits.


    1. Jan, I agree. I don’t believe I would find as many errors if I only proofread on paper. I like to use paper early in the process if I’m reading for structure or story line, but not for hard care copyediting or proofing. Who can live without the find function?


    1. Robert,

      I started with the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). It’s very dry and assumes a knowledge of grammar. I don’t’ have my favourite grammar book with me – I’m traveling – or I’d give you the name of that one too. I needed something a little more basic that the CMS where I could learn basic grammatical terms. I went to my local bookstore and thumbed through a bunch of books until I found one that I thought was a good match with the CMS. It was hard work, but I’m glad I did it. And wow, do I wish I’d paid more attention in school.


  2. I love the idea of using the ‘find’ function to track down common mistakes! I like to think that I catch these errors on my other editing passes, (I’m a nit picker that way!) but this way I would be absolutely sure.

    Am I the only one who wouldn’t mind a comma tip or two? Because I fear that my copious commas sometimes clog up my clarity. 😉


    1. I read up on the comma every summer. I make myself choose a new grammar book and read it. I like ones with Q&A so I can test my knowledge. If you like, I can put together the comma rules that seem to get broken more ofter than others. These are the ones I tend to focus on.


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