8 Proofreading Tools for Beta Readers

8 Proofreading Tools for Beta ReadersBy C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted on April 4, 2014.

Many self-publishing authors use beta readers to get feedback on a book before publication. You don't have to work on paper; you can use a computer or a tablet to "mark up" or make notes on an author's manuscript.

Below is a list of tools for beta readers. An author may send you a manuscript in a variety of formats, so I've included options for several file formats.

File Formats

Sometimes it will make sense to convert the author's file to another format. Many of the proofreading tools below will read PDFs. You can save an .rtf, .doc, or .docx file as a PDF with Microsoft Word or WPS Writer (free). If you have a stylus for your tablet, you may be able to mark up text like you would on paper.

This table will tell you which tool will read which file format. I summarize the features of the tools below.

Tablet Apps

Adobe Reader (free)

  • Reads PDF files
  • Available for Android and iOS
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs, and comments
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Works well with a stylus
  • Search function, so you can search all instances of an error

iAnnotate

  • Reads PDF files
  • Available for Android (free) and iOS ($9.99)
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs and comments
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Works well with a stylus

WPS Writer (free)

  • Part of the WPS Office suite
  • Available for Android and iOS tablets and phones
  • Reads .doc and .docx files
  • Track changes
  • Comments
  • Find and replace
  • Voice search
  • Syncs with desktop version so you can alternately work on a computer and a tablet

Computer Apps

WPS Writer (free and paid)

  • Part of the WPS Office suite
  • Reads .doc, .docx and .rtf files
  • Track changes
  • Comments
  • Robust find and replace
  • Wildcards
  • Pro version can run proofreading macros
  • Syncs with the tablet app version so you can alternately work on a computer and a tablet

Adobe Reader XI (free)

  • Reads PDFs
  • Used by professional proofreaders
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Allows you to load PDF stamps into the software (see below), so you can mark a variety of proofreading errors with symbols instead of with comments
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs and comments
  • Robust search function
  • Read-aloud feature so you can listen for mistakes that your eyes might miss

PDF XChange Editor (free)

  • Reads PDFs
  • Used by professional proofreaders
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Allows you to load PDF stamps into the software
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs and comments
  • Robust search function

Adobe Digital Editions

  • Reads epubs
  • Use ADE if the book has already been professionally formatted for e-readers
  • It's not possible to mark up in ADE, but you can copy sections of text into a word processor and mark up the changes there—procedure explained by Rob at 52 Novels

Kindle E-ink Readers and Apps

App or Desktop Version?

Computer software tends to have more robust search functions than tablet apps, but it can take a while to figure out how to use the drawing tools to mark up the text with a mouse.

Proofreading stamps are a shorthand for proofreading errors, and tend to make the proofreading process faster. Use them if the author knows what they mean (or provide the author with a glossary of symbols, if you like).

Note: As far as I know, stamps tend to only work in the desktop versions of proofreading software.

8 Proofreading Tools for Beta Readers
Wiley Publishing stamps in PDF XChange Editor

If you want to imitate the pros, you can import* proofreading stamps into your proofreading software or design your own. Louise Harnby of the Proofreading Parlour offers a collection of British proofreading stamps for free, and you can find American proofreading stamps on the Wiley Publishing website.

Do you have a favourite proofreading tool not listed here? Tell us about it in the comments below.

*To learn how to import proofreading stamps into Adobe Reader XI or design your own, see this video by Adrienne Montgomerie.

Image by Alan Levine

A Self-Editing Toolkit

Toolkit

by C.K. MacLeod

Editors use a wide variety of tech tools to improve writing and to create a consistent reading experience for the reader. Below is a list of tools in many a professional editor's toolkit. Writers can use these tools, too.

Many of these tools will take of bit of time to learn and use, but the initial investment of time can pay dividends later. Other tools are quick to assimilate into a writing and self-editing workflow. I've marked those with an asterisk (*). Give these tools a try, and bring out your inner editor!

Microsoft Word

The current best tool for editing, mostly because it has a variety of robust built-in tools, and it can run useful editing macros and plug-ins (see below).

Word's Built-in Editing Tools

FileCleaner* (free trial)

Cleans up formatting mishaps such as extra spaces between paragraphs and sentences, changes two hyphens to em dashes, and much more, all with a click. Runs as a Word plug-in. This tool and other editing tools are created by Jack Lyon at the Editorium. Lyon is currently in the process of developing his tools for Mac users. Check his website for details.

Wiley Publishing offers a free clean-up tool* with some similar features to those found in FileCleaner.

PerfectIt*

A consistency checker that checks for typos that spell check won't catch, and helps you determine if you've made consistent style decisions (e.g. spelled a word the same way) throughout your document. For PCs only. The full version is a Word plug-in, and a free lite version, called Consistency Checker* by Intelligent Editing, is available as an Add-on through Google Docs.

EditTools (free trial)

Combines 25 macros into one customizable tool. Created by Rich Adin. Recommended by editor Ruth Thaler-Carter.

Phrase Express (free for personal use)

Corrects typos in all applications, and automatically keys in phrases that you tend to use a lot. It prevents you from keying in phrases and unwieldy terms again and again. I learned about this tool from editor Hilary Cadman.

Bibme (free)

Helps you build your reference list and saves you hours of time by styling your references correctly. This tool works best if you use it while writing your book.

Word 2010 also has a powerful reference-building feature. You can access it in the References tab, Citations & Bibliography area.

ReferenceChecker

Checks that references and citations match up—particularly helpful if you've written a nonfiction book for print. This tool helps you to sort out your references after you've written your book.

Writing Macros* (free)

A list of writing macros that we've been experimenting with at Beyond Paper. Run them in Microsoft Word. Do macros scare you? This free 20-minute macro course will get you using macros in no time.

CrossEyes*

A reveal codes-type tool that helps you see the formatting that lurks in a document’s background. This is particularly helpful for solving mysterious formatting problems that arise while formatting an ebook.

Computer Tools for Editors (free)

An instructional book with a variety of macros designed to handle all sorts of editing challenges. FRedit is one worth trying. Created by Paul Beverley.

Copyscape

A plagiarism checker. Your content is your own, right? Run it through this tool to see if you've wandered too close to the line.

Adobe Reader XI

A PDF mark-up tool for proofreading a print PDF before it's printed. Some editors use Adobe Acrobat Pro, but I've found that Adobe Reader XI and PDF XChangeViewer (both free) do the trick. Adobe XI is available as a tablet app, and iAnnotate is also useful for proofreading on a tablet. See this post for PDF mark-up in action.

Proofreading Stamps (free)

Used with with Adobe Reader XI or PDF XChange Viewer. Proofreader Louise Harnby has designed proofreading stamps for British English and Wiley Publishing offers a free set of American English stamps.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary online* (free and subscription)

To check spelling, definitions, and word breaks. Many editors use the online version, but the tablet app's voice look-up makes it much faster to look up a word. The app is available for Android and iPad.

Link Checker for Microsoft Word (free trial)

Helps you to efficiently check the validity of ebook hyperlinks. You can also export a list of all the links in your book to a spreadsheet.

Editor Ken Endicott has a designed a series of free Microsoft Word utilities, one of which will help you to check the validity of your links.

Editors, do you have a favourite tool that I'm missing? Feel free to add it to the comments below.

Image by zzpza