Print out your manuscript when proofreading. My husband — who is forever keeping tabs on the amount of ink used in our printer (and because his desk is right next to the darn thing, it’s difficult to sneak) — can’t understand why I need to print all the time.
I wish I could explain it. The truth is I can’t figure it out myself. I could go over my manuscript again and again — even over a period of time where I go for walks or do laundry or see a movie in between readings — and I will miss stuff. Sometimes, as my 16-year-old son (whom I use as my in-house copyeditor) will tell you, I will miss ridiculous things like this (taken from my current project, a nonfiction book about French duo Daft Punk):
Upon its release Homework got lots of buzz from the clubbing scene as well as major promotional support from Records Daft Punk’s label, Virgin Records.
“How could you not see that?” he asked incredulously.
Simple. I probably wrote and rewrote that sentence through various drafts, moving the phrase “Virgin Records” here and there. When you do that, coupled with working on something for a long period of time, your brain sort of takes over and reads what it THINKS it sees, or what the copy SHOULD say, rather than what it DOES say.
That’s why it’s important to SNAP your brain out of its trance, and — and if you don’t have time to stick your manuscript in a drawer for a week, which also works — show your brain who’s boss and print that sucker out. When you read your copy on paper, rather than in your Word document on a screen, you will find lots of mistakes you’ve missed.
It really does work. Try it. And if you’ve got a penny-pinching husband standing over you, you can also try copying your manuscript (or a page or two of it) into an email. Same idea: Reading the copy in a visually different way, with a different font, etc., will help you catch all those wayward items you missed before.