Is that really what you mean?


Proofreading is a part of my job. It is also one of the hazards of my job. I see typos, (cue Haley Joel Osment) grammar and punctuation errors everywhere. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading a classic, trash or something in between.

Of course, if I’m reading something I have written, all bets are off. This is true for most authors and proofers. By the time you hand your work off to be read, you have usually reworked it so many times, you won’t see what is right in front of you. Spell check is a wonderful thing, but it won’t catch there, their and they’re if used incorrectly. It also catches words — such as “proofer” — that are trade slang. C’est la guerre.

Grammar check is full of shit. “People” is plural, but also singular. Grammar check wants that modifier to match the subject. Be bold! Tell grammar check to go check itself or you could end up with “There were handfuls of people at the event,” when what you really meant was “There was a handful of people at the event.”

Indie authors — hire a proofreader! Otherwise, I feel like I’m in that old PSA — “These are my proofing skills. These are my proofing skills on crack.”

Of course, that’s not to say mainstream editors won’t miss that blinding error, but at least the reader has a fighting chance.

“… reaching for the waistband of her panties. He kissed his way down her legs, removing them …”

Wait! WHAT? He removed her LEGS??? A little harsh, maybe a little aggressive, don’t you think? I understand what was meant, but that is not what was said. Mainstream editors and proofreaders would catch that.

Another of my peeves is an author using colloquialisms, but not tying the story or a character to a very specific place. If the story is set in New Orleans or if the character is from there and a phrase is used that is specific to that area — no worries.

However, setting the story or saying the characters are from “the mid-west” or “the Pacific coast” is a little broad. The phrase “burning a fire in the fireplace” is an example of a colloquialism from a narrow area. It stopped my reading immediately.

A fire burns in a fireplace. You can burn paper. You can burn a rainforest, but you can’t burn a fire.

I grew up in a college town, have traveled and have friends from all over the world. “Isms” have crept into my speech patterns, so I won’t hold this one against the writer for long. Annoying, but I can let that slide — a bit.

Similes and metaphors — for the love of god! — use these sparingly. While you’re at it, please don’t use the same one in every new paragraph. Thank you!

I love indie writers. There are some gems out there. Then there are some … well, … “These are my proofing skills on crack.”

4 thoughts on “Is that really what you mean?

Add yours

  1. “He kissed his way down her legs, removing them …” That’s truly funny. And burning a fire in the fireplace. Good one. It reminds me of when people refer to a “hot water heater.” Hey, it the water is hot, why do you need to heat it?

    On an unrelated note, I see that you’re not a fan of the Oxford (aka, serial) comma. I am. I’m curious about your preference.

  2. “Hot water heater” — right? What? Like hot isn’t hot enough? lol

    I mostly edit in AP style so we don’t use Oxford commas. It was also the teaching “trend” when I was in school. It’s really more of a habit than a rule for me.

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