Denise M Taylor

Writing Consultant I Editor I Proofreader

If you’re ready, or nearly ready, to have your writing (fiction or non-fiction, thesis or academic paper) proofread (or lightly edited), then why not contact me with a brief overview of your project and any specific requests for assistance (such as a looming deadline or the need to stop writing!). I understand that it takes courage to hand over one’s writing to be scrutinised by a stranger.

Based in Melbourne as a proofreader and editor of the English written word, I am constantly aware that the English language is developing and changing: today’s slang (which Virginia Woolf calls “the speech of the herd”), or condensed words, could eventually become the standard of the future. The spelling of words is certainly not fixed for eternity. Being a Melburnian, I often find myself trying to explain the omission of the letter ‘o’ in ‘Melburnian’ to a non-Melburnian. Reader, I can’t.

So the trend these days is to let spelling off the hook of the past by allowing infiltrations of shortened versions of words; for example, according to the OED, the word, sneak, can be used as a noun, a verb and an adjective; the OED goes on to state that its past tense is written as sneaked (also snuck). Apparently snuck sneaked into our vocabulary in the 1800s and is now considered a standard past tense of sneak, particularly in the US. Bill Bryson writes in Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors that:

The day may well come when snuck super-cedes sneaked — it probably already has in American speech — but it is worth bearing in mind that many authorities continue to regard it as non-standard. Use sneaked instead.

Not long ago, I was proofreading a creative non-fiction written in Microsoft Word. In his manuscript he had spelt ‘verandah’ without the ‘h’, which looks unfinished to me. When I added the letter ‘h’, the word was immediately underlined in red by MS Word, indicating that it was spelt incorrectly (the language was set to UK English). So I investigated, as most proofreaders do on these occasions.  The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) entry is veranda, noting ‘Also – dah’. Even though I was vindicated, and prefer the look of ‘verandah’ on the page, and not ‘veranda’, I conceded and deleted the ‘h’ as per the author’s preference. The wriggly red line disappeared. Reader, I moved on.

Well, not immediately . . . If you’re like me, once you’ve checked out the spelling of an interesting word, you then take the next step and spend too much time tracing its origins, and become an annoying etymologist: “But, why?” we ask. The OED tells me that the origin of ‘veranda’ comes from the Portuguese word, veranda, railing, balustrade, and from the Hindi varandā. I just continue down the garden path until I am overwhelmed by the thickening wilderness. Reader, are you still with me?

I am a proofreader and editor who lives in Melbourne, and although I have edited and proofread manuscripts, theses, academic papers and books, submission material, educational resources and documents from all over Australia, my main source of editing and proofreading work is from Melbourne writers. I guess there is a feeling among local writers that if I’m a Melbourne-based editor, that it’s nice to know that their editor lives ‘just around the corner’. But the world is changing . . . especially the way we work and interact with those with whom we work.

That brings me to the ‘marking’ of a manuscript: the ‘old’ days (as far as I’m concerned) of printer marks and blue pencils are long gone. Even though I still offer the service of proofreading hard-copies, most proofreaders these days work online using MS Word Track Changes; you email your manuscript to me; I proofread using Track Changes; I email the proofread writing back to you, and you can accept or reject each suggested change. Track Changes also allows comments to be written in the right-hand column by the editor/proofreader if anything needs clarifying.

The greatest asset that a proofreader and editor of the English language can have is a keen eye for ambiguity, typos and inaccuracies; a better-than-basic grasp of grammar (e.g. keeping track of tenses and recognising the subjunctive mood even if the author cannot) and punctuation. English-Australian or UK-English spelling is usually the preferred choice of my clients, which means I replace the letter ‘z’ in words like ’emphasize’ with the less harsh letter ‘s’. As Shakespeare’s character Kent said to Oswald in King Lear (Act 2, Scene 2):

Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter!—My lord, if you will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted villain into mortar and daub the wall of a jakes with him.—Spare my grey beard, you wagtail?

(You useless bastard—you’re like the letter ‘z’, a totally unnecessary addition to the alphabet. My lord, please let me grind this lumpy lowlife into a powder and use it to plaster up the bathroom walls. You didn’t kill me because I’m so old, you fawning dog?)

Capitalisation (note the UK/Australian spelling here using ‘s’ instead of ‘z’) remains problematical (i.e., whether to capitalise a word or not), as it has been for much of the history of English, and at times authors will want to reinvent the wheel.

The reality is that many of the bits of grammar that we think of as wrong are actually just a matter of preference. Words that I deem redundant in a sentence are sometimes debated by the author. For example, the sculpture we liked best in the show was the bronze one called ‘Braveheart’; ‘one’ is redundant (a filler word). Words still ring in my ear from a teacher who was obsessed with eliminating redundant words and constantly pointing out ‘fillers’ in sentences such as actually, very, really, just, in fact, in actual fact. I recall proofreading a memoir that was written just how the writer spoke; for example, be that as it may, I really just wanted to get the hell out of there because I’d said all the things I wanted to say about those two different men in fact I’d said too much so I snuck out. Reader, take a guess.

The English language is shifty and can be confusing, but must be respected for all its mood swings and transformations (even by colonial renegades ‘down south’). So, dear Reader, please don’t bully this sensitive Melbourne proofreader if she questions your spelling, punctuation, choice of words and grammar preferences. Your revenge can be exacted with the ‘delete’ button.


The following proofreading feedback is from a longstanding client:

I was delighted with your final proofing on my last draft. So good to get some clarity on the colon issue and the capitalisation. I knew there were still some problems but it was really doing my head in nailing what was the basic principle … with your extra input I finally got it!



If you’re ready to have your writing proofread or edited, or you would like an appraisal of your writing, whether it is a complete manuscript or a work-in-progress, then please contact me via my contact tab above (or email me: with a brief overview of your needs and I will give you an idea of the type of personalised service/s I can offer that  I think would best suit you at this stage in your writing project (mentoring, manuscript appraisal, editing, proofreading).

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