Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Query Letters: Proofreading with Passion and Purpose

Ha! Today's title is a take-off on the title of my new book, Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose. It is a shameless plug, but it is also, truthfully, the way you must proofread before submitting anything that will be read by a professional. Query letters should NOT contain any errors! When an editor gets tons of queries every day, a spelling error or a misplaced comma will send your letter straight to file 13! Why should she bother with taking a chance on a writer who is going to make her work as an editor that much more difficult?

Proofreeding is not easy, however, and here's why: Our eyes will fool us. We often read what is not there! We read, in fact, what we expect to be there. You may or may not have noticed that I purposely put an error in the first word of this paragraph! Check it out! And let me tell you, it is KILLING me to leave it there! (Oh, the things I do for y'all!) This is why one of the first rules of good writing is to set aside what you have written for a couple of hours, a day, or even several days before going back to clean it up. You will catch more goofs when you look at your work with fresh eyes. (Btw, spelling errors that are in the middle of words are the most difficult to catch!)

Here are some of my favorite proofreading tips!

Read your paper backwards. Reading your paper backwards enables you to slow down, look at each word individually, and be sure that it is spelled correctly.

Have a friend read over your work. Two sets of eyes are better than one!

Read your paper aloud. The egomaniac in you will love reading your own work out loud. Doing this will help you catch the goofs that spell check will miss. For example, one of my writing students recently misused the word "disgust" for "discussed." Spell check didn't catch it, and neither did he.

Finally, use the spell check feature on your computer. It's there, so use it! But use it with caution. Don't rely on it; it will let you down!

When it comes to query letters, your writing style is the editor's first impression of you. Be as passionate about checking for errors as you would be about your personal appearance before an important job interview. Consider spelling errors equivalent to lipstick on your teeth!

Happy proofreading!

1 comment:

Truth4thejourney said...

Thank you for this post! Honestly, I had missed your "proofreading" error until I went back to look for it.

You are right, it is more difficult to proofread our own items. Great suggestions, glad I stopped by today. :)

Now we just need to convince blogger to add a spell check to the comments section!

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