MAKING COMICS: The Importance of Proofreading

I have been lucky enough to have reviewed a great number of books here on ICN, and consider it a privilege to be part of a site that gives attention to the exciting, emerging talent we have in the Irish comic scene. The past year I have spent writing for the site has opened my eyes to the breadth of talent producing comics in Ireland.

Unfortunately, it has opened my eyes to a few other things as well, no. 1 of which is the importance of proofreading. If you are creating a comic, on any level, it is essential that before it goes to print, or online, the comic has been proofread by someone other than yourself. Preferably a few other people.

I am not talking about editing here. If you think your story is the best thing that’s ever been seen by man or beast and is perfect in structure, theme and execution, and doesn’t need a story editor; fine. That’s a discussion for another day. What I am talking about is the much more straightforward business of proofreading. Simply finding and correcting errors in the words or art. The basics, like spelling, punctuation, speech bubbles assigned to the right characters and in the right order.

I have read some small press titles that have really impressed me. Some fresh, new ideas, with exciting artwork. And in many of these titles, the spell cast by an enthralling story or fine pencilling has been broken by a typo, or misspelling. Something small, easily missed; a silly mistake. And immediately I go from thinking –what a book these guys have put together, to –oh, this is a bit shoddy. It can completely change my perception of a book from polished to amateur.

I am not nit-picking here. I am not a grammar-fascist (I kind of am, though, but that’s not relevant right now). It doesn’t unduly upset me that something has been spelled wrong, or a word misused. It upsets me that whoever went to all the trouble to put together an otherwise-great comic book did not get someone to read over it before rushing it to the printers.

To help illustrate my point of what a difference in perception this makes: In a previous career I managed sales at a distribution company, and did the hiring for the sales team. When looking over CVs for new staff, if I found spelling errors or other typos, that candidate got no further. Their CV was taken out of consideration and would not get an interview. Not because they couldn’t spell, but because they couldn’t be bothered to check their CV for errors. That’s not the type of person I wanted working for me. If you’re not going to check your work, to be thorough about something as important as your CV, then you’re not a good hire.

If you are making comics, everything you publish is your CV. Every book, every web page with your work on it. Whether you want to keep self-publishing or get noticed by a publisher, your reputation is carried by your previous output. So make sure it’s as good as it can be.

Before you send your book to print, get a few people to read it for you, and let them know their job is to find errors. Not to praise your lovely book, not to admire your art or writing, just to check it for mistakes. To this end, they don’t even have to be comic readers. Probably better if they’re not. You want someone who won’t be too caught up in the content to notice the mistakes lurking in those speech bubbles. Your work will be all the more polished for it, and small, silly errors won’t get in the way of an otherwise enjoyable experience for your reader.