Don’t cause a distraction

Every time I walk into a branch of a, well-known, discount chain, I am distracted by the massive sign they have above one of the aisles. It tells me that I can buy “DVD’s” there.

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This is quite common and a walk along the high street will send shivers down my spine as I see the number of misplaced apostrophes, commas, spelling mistakes and the like in shop windows.

But, I hear you say, what’s the point in getting so worked up about it? The message is clear. It’s quite obvious that you can buy DVDs in that aisle and that nothing belongs to the DVDs! Stop being such a pedant!

Well, that’s all very well in a shop sign. A greengrocer would not be complete without his “carrot’s”. But in your fiction writing…

At best, a typo causes a minor distraction: a moment when the reader stops and says “huh?” It might cause a moment of confusion or maybe just be skipped over without the reader ever noticing. But do you want to take that chance?

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I’ve said before that good editing is more than just typos. But, importantly, it does correct those too. The aim of copyediting and proofreading is to make the reader’s experience as flawless as possible. As a writer, you want the reader to engage with your story, not to stumble over the copy.

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For example, your style might call for double quotation marks for speech. You accidentally type a closing quotation mark as a single. The dialogue is all there, it’s punctuated, the spell check function of your word processor is never going to point that out. You miss it. So what?

Well, a single quotation mark inside a double quotation mark means a quote within a quote (you can also have a double inside a single, depends on your style!). So, a reader who knows this convention may be momentarily distracted as they wonder who is being quoted. It draws them out of the story you’ve crafted.

Or, a rather common error: a character accidently changing name. I’m not talking about Charlie becoming Henry, rather a Joe becoming a Jo, or a Tim becoming Tom. Easily done, a not easily spotted. But, for the moment when the reader’s eye scans the second, they are taken outside of the world you want them to be in.

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And you’d think readers would be forgiving of these little errors. Well, maybe readers who are also writers. But do all your readers know of the effort that is required to construct a narrative, to write the manuscript, to edit and proofread it? Probably not. They see a finished product and expect perfection.

And that’s difficult to achieve on your own. Whatever we write, we are so close to our words, so involved in the meaning of them that we often cannot see our own mistakes. (Embarrassing when it’s this blog but it goes to further the point – self editing is hard, very hard, even impossible at times!)

So how do you stop causing a distraction for your readers? I, of course, would recommend getting a professional editor or proofreader on the case! They are trained, knowledgeable and, if they are fiction experts, know the difference between typos and your writing style.

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There are tools available too. I use PerfectIt as it frequently catches inconsistencies and other errors that might not be picked up by Word’s own spelling checks.

If you’d like to get your manuscript as distraction free as possible, please make sure you get in touch today. I’m always excited to hear from authors!

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Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Fiction editor and proofreader.

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