Proofing Tips for Fiction Writers

Posted 5 years ago under Uncategorised,

While there are some common proofing tips for writers of all kinds – from poets through to advertising copywriters – there are some hints that writers of fiction may find particularly useful. Here, we present our top ten proofing techniques for serious creative writers looking to hone their words and sharpen their practice.


Give your work some breathing space. When you are wrapped up in the process of writing it can be difficult to see your work objectively and therefore accurately spot errors. There isn’t a prescribed length of time to wait, but allow at least a day or two before you plunge into the proofing process.

Editing vs Proofing

There is a difference between editing and proofing. The former is concerned with the content and structure of your work. It will make changes to the way the story is written, for example, by addressing repetition and over-writing. Proofing is the final step and ensures absolute accuracy of the piece.

Make time

Give proofing the time that it deserves and make it a core part of the process. Proofing is a skill in its own right that requires practice and concentration. Therefore, make sure you pick a time when you will be able to focus fully on the task without distractions.

Keep a list

There will be a long list of things that you need to check during proofing, so create a crib sheet of the key areas. These could include:


Go back to basics and check that your commas, apostrophes, quotation marks etc. are all being used correctly.


In particular, check words that you know you normally struggle to spell, that you don’t frequently use, and homophones – where words have the same pronunciation but mean different things.


Though a work of fiction, your writing may contain references to real events, people and places. Get the facts relating to these wrong, and you could undermine the credibility of your story for the reader.

Have a personalised style guide

Many publications have in-house style guides for their writers to follow, which ensure consistency in the way words are presented. There is no reason you shouldn’t do the same. Decide how you will use contractions and refer to dates for example, but also decide how you will consistently refer to your characters and place names.


Use a consistent mark-up system in your proofing that you will be able to understand at a later date. For example, if you highlight a passage make sure you know why you have highlighted it.

Beware: plot holes!

As with factual inaccuracies plot holes will undermine your story, so keep track of key events and characters and their timelines, to avoid any embarrassing clashes. While writing the Booker Prize nominated novel “The Children’s Book” author A S Byatt kept track of her complicated set of characters with an Excel Spreadsheet.

Employ extra eyes

Ask friends, family and colleagues to help proof your work. They may pick up on errors that you would never have spotted.

Ask for expert help

As we have mentioned before, proofing is a skill in its own right and its importance cannot be underestimated. It is the finishing touch to all your hard work – the proverbial icing on the cake. We are available to help proof your work, for a modest fee. We will be able to provide thorough guidance and advice, and put your mind at rest that your writing is as polished as possible.


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