To proofread or not to proofread?

Surely that’s a stupid question?

“Aha!” I hear you say, “but at English Trackers proofreading is your livelihood; of course you believe in proofreading.”

True. But humour me on this one.


pile of books

Say you’ve just written a book. You’ve got something to say and you’ve written it all down. You’re an expert in your field and you want to share with others. Everyone is writing books and self-publishing these days. It’s easy.

You’ve spent the hours doing the research, you’ve taken time out of your hectic schedule to write it, you’ve organised the cover, you’ve figured out which self-publishing route to take…

Stop! This is where I want to ask my stupid question:

“To proofread or not to proofread?”

It seems that many people either don’t ask the question or give the wrong answer. I’ve just read a self-published book on my Kindle. The author chose not to proofread and I’m still trying to figure out why.

Here’s how it went for me.

Last week I attended a conference. One of the speakers particularly impressed me, and I introduced myself, got her business card and later wrote and requested a meeting with her company. Before the meeting, I visited their website and noticed the CEO had written a book on the conference subject. The Kindle version was only U$3, so I bought it and started to read.



Not a pleasant experience!

Granted, being a professional proofreader can be a handicap, as mistakes tend to jump out of the page and punch you in the face. If I carry that analogy through, you could say that I needed facial reconstruction by the end of it. I can say without a doubt that the CEO in question (a native English speaker) did not spell-check his work, nor did he ask a second party to proofread it.

Why does all this matter?

If the book sells for U$3, the author is probably only getting around U$2.10 per sale; therefore we can assume he’s not doing it to make money. Anyway, he’s an entrepreneur and CEO, presumably he makes money via the expertise he’s expounding in the book.

So, why is he self-publishing a book?

To demonstrate his expertise, to impress clients, to be able to say he’s a published author.

However, by not proofreading his book:

–    he has given a damaging impression of carelessness and unprofessionalism;
–    he has probably alienated many potential clients with his book; the content may be good, but it’s not engaging and it’s painful to read;
–    he has left a lasting trace of his poor writing for all to see, and that may lead to adverse commentary online, including perhaps a negative review on Amazon.

Not only will readers not be sharing his book, he is actually damaging his brand and his company’s image. And his readers – and potential clients – are annoyed at having wasted their $3.

I think it’s great that the barriers to publication have been removed.

I have enjoyed reading many books that would not have been published via the traditional publication route. However, I hope every writer venturing out into the self-publishing world will know how to answer the question that started this whole post:

“To proofread or not to proofread?”




Let me answer, loud and clear:

“To proofread!”

Photo credit: KWDesignssarahluv via photopin cc

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