LESSON Proof-Reading techniques!

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Minibit, Jun 10, 2013.

  1. What is proof-reading? It's not the same as spell-checking, though the two are connected:

    • Proof-Reading makes sure the writing will be read as you intended. Grammar affects the pacing of the story, and helps you catch sentences that are ordered in an awkward or confusing way (dangling participles) that may disorient or confuse the other player(s).
    • Proof-Reading catches errors such as misused words and mangled phrases that spell-checkers miss. Spell-checkers do not catch these because in cases such as typing "Clothe" instead of "Cloth", the word is spelled correctly; it's just not the one you want. Catching this prevents confusion and misunderstandings!
    SO! Before calling your work done, try using these techniques to be sure it is ready!
    • Run a spell-checking program. If your browser does not have spell-check (I suggest using Chrome or Firefox, which have this feature), then paste it into a program that does, such as Microsoft Word or Libre OfficeWriter. A quick Google search will also give you many websites which will happily check your spelling for free!
    • Read it out loud. Better yet, ask someone else to. YOU know how it is meant to be read, but someone else has only your grammar and punctuation to go off of. If they're reading it wrong, you've written it wrong. However if you're familiar with how different parts of grammar affect how something is read, and can objectively criticize your own choices, you should be fine to read it yourself.
    When you're proof-reading, look for:
    • Misused words and mangled expressions
      This is when you use a word that is not appropriate for its context; using the wrong word in an expression (like saying "baited breath" instead of "bated breath") also ruins the expression and/or changes its meaning. Use a dictionary or Google to make sure you are using the right word.
    • Inappropriate pacing
      Pacing is a multifaceted thing; it is affected by grammar, word choice, and how descriptive you get. Make sure your action-focused scenes aren't reading too slow, and that your descriptive scenes aren't being fast-forwarded by speedy pacing.
    • Unclear subjects
      Be certain that your words clearly show in conversations who is talking, and in narrative, what is being talked about.
    • Dangling Participles
      A dangling participle is when your sentence is ordered in an awkward or confusing way.
      "Rotting, my brother carried oranges up from the cellar" means your brother is a zombie who delivers fruit
      "My brother carried rotting oranges up from the cellar" means you should check your produce expiry dates more often.
    • Runon sentences
      Not all spell-checkers catch these effectively. When your sentence goes on too long, even if it's broken up with commas and such, it can not only effect the pacing, but also make it unclear how the sentence should be read; which words one should stress and what the object of the sentence is, because the longer it goes on the more confusing it gets; the bottom line is that if you are out of breath at or before the end of a sentence like you probably will be if you read this one aloud, then it's time to break it up into smaller, clearer sentences. ;-)

    • Affect vs Effect
      A very common mistake;
      ""Effect" can be used as a verb, but it doesn't mean the same thing as "affect". For example, "The plague affected Cherbourg" means the city of Cherbourg is sick with the plague; "The plague effected Cherbourg"means the plague did... er, a Cherbourg. That is, "affect" means the subject is somehow a part of or an state inflicted upon the object, whereas "effect" means the subject is causing the object." - @RiverNotch
    • "Accept" vs. "Except"
      "Accept" means to receive
      "Except" means an exclusion
      "I accepted every gift except the one with the odd smell"
    • "Alot" and "Allot"
      "Alot" (wrong) is not a substitute for "a lot" (right). Alot is not a real word, although it has become acceptable as a slang contraction in informal writing.
      "Allot" is a verb meaning to dole out.
      "He got his allotted rations at noon"
    • Apostrophes (')
      Outside of acronyms, these are marks of possessives or contractions, not plurals
      "Mr Brown's cars are blue and white"
      "Mr Brown's car's acting up again." (Car's is being used here as a contraction of "car is")
      When pluralizing acronyms, apostrophes are only to be used if the acronym is spelled with periods. Additionally, Acronyms should always be in upper case, and the S in lower case
      "I have to organize all my CDs today"
      "If there are two Earths, are there also two N.A.S.A.'s?"
    • "Bate" vs "Bait"
      "Bate" is a verb that refers to birds (typically hunting birds like hawks or falcons) beating their wings to attempt to leave a perch.
      "Bait" is something you leave out to attract something else.
      Today, "Bate" is almost exclusively used in the expression "Bated breath", which refers to someone (metaphorically or literally) holding their breath in suspense.
      "The audience watched with bated breath"
      "We baited the fishhooks with worms"
    • "Breathe" vs. "Breath"
      "Breathe is a verb, pronounced with a long E
      "Breath" is a noun, pronounced with a short E
      When you breathe deeply, you take deep breaths
    • "Break" vs "Brake
      "Break" can mean to rend, to damage, or be an informal noun meaning a rest
      "Brake" is a mechanism to slow something down.
      "you're gonna break it!"
      "I need a break in routine"
      "Take a break, you've been working hard"
      "Hit the brakes or we'll crash!"
    • "Cloth/Cloths" vs. "Clothe/Clothes"
      "Cloth" is a synonym of fabric, pronounced with a short O. "Cloths" is the plural form.
      "Clothes" are garments you wear, pronounced with a long O.
      "Clothe" is a verb meaning to put clothes on.
      You make clothes out of cloth. When you dress someone, you clothe them
    • "Dialog" vs "Dialogue"
      "Dialog" is a popup of text on a computer
      "Dialogue" is conversation or spoken words
      "A dialog box popped up, what do I do?"
      "I just can't get interested in this character's dialogue"
    • "Die/dying/died" vs "dye/dying/dyed"
      This can be confusing because both of the active (-ing) forms use a Y, but there is a difference in meaning between die/died and dye/dyed
      To die/have died makes one dead
      To dye/have dyed means to colour or have coloured something using a dye.
    • "Discrete" vs "discreet"
      "Discrete" means distinct or separated.
      "Discreet" means politely private, unobtrusive, on the down low.
      "The instructions were in three discrete steps"
      "She discreetly handed me a napkin to clean the spill with"
    • "Dual" vs "Duel"
      "Dual" means two of something.
      "Duel" is a one on one contest, such as a fencing match.
      "It's a dual-purpose tool"
      "I challenge you to a duel!"
    • "Elicit" vs. "Illicit"
      "Elicit" means to draw out
      "Illicit" means morally wrong or illegal
      "Through torture, they elicited the information"
      "It turns out he was involved in some illicit affairs"
    • Ellipses (...)
      Ellipses may be used correctly in many ways, but to indicate quietness or trailing off is not one of them. Use descriptive words instead
      '"Hi" she said quietly' not '"hi..." She said'
    • "Fiery" vs "Firey"
      "Fiery" is an adjective indicating something possesses the qualities of fire.
      "Firey" is not a word, it is a misspelling of "fiery"
      You can remember the difference by sounding it out syllable by syllable. It's "Fy-er-ee", not 'Fy-ree'. Also by using a spell-checker.
    • "It's" vs "Its"
      "It's" is a contraction of 'it is', whereas "its" is a possessive of 'it'.
      "It's always shedding its fur on my carpet!"
    • "Lie", "lay", and "laid"
      ""Lie" (not the one involving saying falsities) means to put the subject down.
      "Lay" means to put the object down. It is also the past tense for "lie"
      "Laid" is the past tense for "lay"
      This means that with "lay", there's an object, whereas with "lie", there isn't one. For example: compare "I lay myself down" and "I lie down". They both mean the same thing, but with "lay" one has to state what is being put down first, whereas with "lie" it is clear that I am the one putting myself down." - @RiverNotch (rearranged/paraphrased for guide formatting)
    • "Lose" vs "Loose"
      "Lose" refers to a loss
      "Loose" is the opposite of "Tight"
      "My wallet is on a chain so I don't lose it"
      "I think I lost weight; lately my pants are loose about the waist"
    • "Pique", "Peek", and "Peak"
      Pique means a height or breaking point, it is metaphorical
      Peek means to sneak a look
      Peak is the literal top of something
      "The secret piqued my curiosity"
      "The children peeked into the living room, hoping to see Santa Claus"
      "He planted his flag on the mountain's peak"
    • "Secrete" vs "secret"
      "Secrete" is a verb that means you are producing secretions, like a cow secretes milk. The second E is pronounced as a long E.
      "Secret" means something private or hush-hush, both Es are pronounced as short letters.
    • "There", "Their", and "They're"
      "There" indicates a place
      "Their" is a possessive of "they"
      "They're" is a contraction of "they are"
      "they're leaving their stuff over there"
    • "Too" vs. "To"
      "To" can be a preposition, or put a verb into infinitive form as in "To run"
      "Too" can mean "as well" or "also", it can also mean an excess.
      "I can do that, too!"
      "Too much cute!"
      "How sweet to sing all day"
      "Take this package from here to there"
      "One O said to the other O, 'There are too many of us!"
    • "Waste" vs. "Waist"
      "Waste" is an unnecessary loss
      "Waist" is a part of the body between the hips and ribs
      "It's a waste to throw leftovers away"
      "The belt fit snugly around her waist"
    • "You're" vs. "Your"
      "You're" is a contraction (two words squished into one) of "You Are"
      "Your" is a possessive of "you"
      When you aren't sure, try substituting the word for "you are". If it makes sense, use "you're", if it doesn't, use "your".
    #1 Minibit, Jun 10, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2015
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  2. This is an excellent set of tips for proof-reading posts!
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  3. This is a great list!
  4. When you did the effect and affect--- I was waiting for you to do something like--
    It's super effective! (I'm a Pokemon geek n-n sorry XD)

    but great proof reading guide though! ^3^
    and then there's the its and it's.

    I do believe it's is= it is
    and its is a possessive noun/whatever part of speech it is

    (We learned the its and it's thing last year n-n ^^ my state is a very slow state n__n)

    but it was either it's was possessive
    and its was it is

    .__. I don't remember-- but I'm pretty sure it's is it is--- or it doesn't mean anything at all! o3o

    Anyways-- this was great! ^w^
  5. It's = a contraction of 'it is'
    Its = a possessive of 'it'
    My phone is convinced they can't both be words
    Example: "it's super effective!"

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  6. yaaaay XDD

    It's super effective! XDDD //hugs// x3
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  7. Notes:
    • Effect vs. Affect - "Effect" can be used as a verb, but it doesn't mean the same thing as "affect". For example, "The plague affected Cherbourg" means the city of Cherbourg is sick with the plague; "The plague effected Cherbourg" means the plague did... er, a Cherbourg. That is, "affect" means the subject is somehow a part of or an state inflicted upon the object, whereas "effect" means the subject is causing the object.
    • Lay vs. Lie vs. Laid - "Lay" means to put the object down; "lie" (not the one involving saying falsities) means to put the subject down. This means that with "lay", there's an object, whereas with "lie", there isn't one. For example: compare "I lay myself down" and "I lie down". They both mean the same thing, but with "lay" one has to state what is being put down first, whereas with "lie" it is clear that I am the one putting myself down. "Laid" is the past tense for "lay", and "lay" is the past tense for "lie".
    • On ellipses - Although I agree with using more descriptive language to show "trailing off" or "silence", ellipses have long been accepted for use in representing such things (the specific term, in fact, for an ellipsis representing trailing off is "Aposiopesis", and according to Wikipedia, there's an example of it dating as far back as Virgil's Aeneid). What you're suggesting there is more of a stylistic choice than anything appropriate for proofreading, a mostly grammatical exercise; and as such it's really quite misleading, and should be removed from your list. Lol, that's a bad mental fumble on my part: one of the points of proofreading is to create a consistency in style.
    • It's vs. Its - You know why your phone won't accept "it's" as a word? Because it isn't a word; it's two, "it" and "is" (Cue laughter). Anyway, that's why I just disengaged autocorrect, and I'm pretty sure that's possible for pretty much all phones.
    Other than that, it's all wonderful, and very useful. :)
    #7 RiverNotch, Sep 3, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2014
  8. What Minibit is describing regarding the misuse of ellipses is not aposiopesis. In the case of the latter (which is actually Oxford-approved), the dialogue is read as incomplete or grammatically fragmented. What Minibit has rightly pointed out is that using ellipses to signal a pause or frailty in the voice of the speaker is conventionally incorrect, not merely a stylistic preference.

    Compare these conventionally incorrect examples (and the greater number of unique abuses):

    "Um... Hello."
    Since this is a very oral case, punctuation nearly fails to represent this dialogue; the most correct way to write it is with a comma instead of an ellipsis, separating phrases.

    "I... I don't know what you're talking about!"
    Repetition of this sort is best represented by the Em Dash (—).

    "There's nothing we could have... done about it, though."
    The pause cannot be represented with punctuation, but can be implied by emphasizing 'done' or described with interrupting narration.

    "I don't really want to talk about it..."
    This is a complete sentence and does not require any special attention from punctuation. If the tone of the speaker's voice trails off, either drop word or two from the end and use the ellipsis (as in the aposiopesis case) or describe it in narration.

    "...No way."
    There is no means to signal the pause with punctuation; narration is the answer.

    Also consider these conventionally correct examples (and the lesser number of correct functions):

    "I was just wondering if... Y'know, nevermind."
    The first section of this quote is a sentence fragment, thus demanding special attention from our friendly neighborhood ellipsis.

    Because this does not constitute a complete sentence, the aposiopesis ellipsis is applicable.

    Here is a couple of marginally correct examples!

    "I didn't say... That's not... How can you... Do you believe them over me?"
    Although none of these ellipses are wrong, this is a situation where the Em Dash (—) would better serve our purposes.

    "You didn't... Did you?"
    Because "You didn't" may or may not stand on its own depending on context, this may technically be correct in some situations; however, a safer solution is to write this as two separate sentences and perhaps narrate a hesitation.

    The Em Dash (—) is probably one of the best solutions to many of our problems, since it is an ambiguous, context-sensitive, and unstandardized mark. So many style guides have prescribed contradicting rules over the past few centuries that a significant number of canonized writers have precedented its use in a number of ways. It's essentially a safe catch-all, because there really is no exclusively correct way to use it. There's not even a common consensus as to if and when to put spaces around it!

    The En Dash (–) is similarly unstandardized, but there are some specialized uses for it (such as ordered ranges [1–9, Mon–Wed]) and so I feel it is best to save it for those situations for consistency's sake.

    Some precedented uses of these marks are repetition, interruption, censorship, hesitation, and implication. Some poets are especially fond of implication.

    Be aware, however, that all of this freedom goes to the wind in formal writing; typically, you are following a styling guide (such as Oxford or Chicago) which may limit the use of specialized punctuation marks to their special cases. Make sure to read up on unstandardized punctuation, because it may be internally standardized within the styling guide in question.
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  9. I thought the em dash could pretty much be used interchangeably (for the purposes of trailing off and such) with the ellipsis, especially in the case of your second 'conventionally incorrect' examples? It actually conflicts somewhat with what you noted as 'conventionally correct': the "I..." in "I... I don't..." is just as incomplete as the "I was just wondering if..." in "I was just wondering if... Y'know, nevermind".

    Anyway, yeah, that seems to be a much clearer explanation on how the whole ellipsis thing works, though "I don't really want to talk about it..." is, I believe, a valid case of aposiopesis, since though the sentence is a complete sentence, the invocation therein is clear enough for the usage to be considered valid (perhaps the speaker trailed off so as to prevent a full explosion into anger?).
  10. Come to think of it, your note on the repetition case deserves some explanation. It's because it's repetition that this is a special case; so long as the sentence could be complete without the repetition and ellipsis, the ellipsis is unnecessary for the same reasons as in a pausing ellipsis. "I... don't know what to do." is equally as asyntactic as "I... I don't know what do."

    The aposiopesis case is present if and only if the sentence is verbally incomplete. Unless the sentence is grammatically incomplete or ideologically fragmented (in cases where there would be more words in the already-complete sentence), the ellipsis is unnecessary; it never represents tone. It is a solely syntactical mark. The "I don't want to talk about it..." example does not naturally lead into an unspoken phrase; compare to "Don't you dare..." ("...Or else.") or "You don't even know..." ("...Do you?"). Personally, I avoid this case because I feel like it's toeing the line, but as far as I'm aware it's perfectly valid.

    The Em Dash (—) can effectively be used however you want as long as you're not writing with a specific styling guide in mind. I grant that there are plenty of uses that are not precedented, understood, or accepted, but these are all subjective concerns. Like I wrote above, it's so unstandardized, there's really no wrong way to use it, which gives us a lot of freedom with it. Incidentally, that means it can often replace the incorrect ellipses we encounter, so you'd be right. :3
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