The Wonderful PDF Lady

by Kim Pearson on October 9, 2012

Copyediting means trying to catch and fix all the errors in a manuscript. It is a tedious job, and not one for perfectionists, because perfect does not exist. If you’ve been writing or working on a manuscript for a while, those small and pesky errors, such as “I’m got an idea” instead of “I’ve got an idea” will sneak right by you. I think these errors breed in the night and you don’t see them until they have hatched on the printed page. Kind of like bacteria.

I usually pass on the final stage of copyediting and let someone who loves it handle it for me. Proofreaders and copyeditors are marvelous people and I am thankful they are around. However, as an author, a ghostwriter, and a content editor, I still perform first-pass copyediting on my own and my clients’ work to ensure that the text makes sense – and also because the cleaner my manuscript is, the happier it makes my copyeditor/proofreader, and the less money it will cost me because it will take her less time to fix it.

I recommend that you too self-edit your own work before you hand it off to your copyeditor, which brings me to one of the best editing tips I ever received. I have passed on this tip on my own blog (www.primary-sources.com/blog) and on an excellent blog about editing and writing that I contribute to, The Blood Red Pencil (http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com). I call this tip “Listen to the PDF Lady” and here it is.

Editors are often advised to read manuscripts aloud, as you will catch mistakes that you might not when reading silently. This tip takes this advice one step further:

Convert the manuscript into a PDF file, then on the View menu click the Read Aloud function. Adobe will read aloud to you. It’s true, the voice (mine is female, but some may be male) reads in a mechanical monotone, but this is a plus. You will hear each individual word that way. The first time I tried this, I was amazed at how much easier, faster, and more efficient this was. If you are editing your own, or someone else’s work, I urge you to try this.

Of course, it’s not perfect. Adobe has some strange ideas about pronunciation. The manuscript I first edited this way was about succeeding in small business, and it included the word “referral” (and its variations) often. The PDF lady thinks this word is pronounced “reFAYrul.” I can’t imagine why, but that’s what she thinks.

She also does not recognize the name “Jan.” The book mentioned a person named “Jan” but the PDF lady read this as “January.” There was a “Cal Jones” in the manuscript, and the PDF lady read this as “calendar Jones.” And if you end a sentence with the word “is,” be prepared for the PDF lady to read this as “island.”

But after you get used to these peculiarities, it’s a fine way to edit. I recommend it.

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