First, this doesn’t take the place of using an editor for your manuscript, but this could result in your work being better prepared, thus saving editing time, which means saving you money.
The following tips will improve your skills whether you are a newbie or an old pro.
Always double-space your document.
will be a lot easier and you can always adjust formatting later. Don’t use anything less than a 12-point font either and preferably one that is easy to read. Reading
Do not rely on software grammar checkers alone. As you all know, these will not catch homophones (words that sound alike but are different, such as here and hear, there and their, to, too and two, etc.) I always have a problem with from and form too, so I pay special attention to those.
Print out your work or use “track changes” to make your corrections. I’ve done it both ways. Sometimes I just want to get my eyes away from the computer screen so I’ll print out some pages to edit. If you’ve double-spaced your work, you can easily make corrections by marking changes above or below the line. Always use a red pen or some color that will stand out from the rest of the text. If you’re worried about paper use, you can print on the reverse side of scratch paper.
Track changes are a feature in Word tools. I find it invaluable. You can turn it on and off as needed. This feature will mark your changes in red on the margin. After you’ve read your document, just go in and accept or reject the changes you’ve made. It’s very slick, but with this method, you do have to proof the whole thing on the computer and not from your easy chair.
Don’t attempt to proofread if you’re tired. It is hard enough after reading the same story five or six times. After awhile we just skip over corrections, as well as missing punctuation.
Read your work aloud. You’d be surprised what this will do. You can easily catch missing words this way, if you go slowly. This will also give you the opportunity to select better word choices. If reading from the computer, make sure to turn on your paragraph marker, on the toolbar, so you can double check your spaces as you go. Most documents these days use one space between sentences instead of two. Many times, I’ll use two because I think it is easier to read, but that’s a personal preference. Whatever you do, keep it consistent throughout the document.
Always check capitalization and character names. I keep a list of this kind of stuff that I use in each story, so it is easy to refer too and you don’t accidentally put in the wrong character’s name or the wrong place. You can also check character descriptions this way if you’ve made a list of characters (looks, mannerisms, dress, eye and hair color, etc). You don’t want to make a mistake with proper names and timelines. In addition, you don’t want Sally to have red hair in one scene and blonde in the next, or give her the wrong eye color.
Double-check the extras. This includes any graphics and captions you’ve added along with mathematical equations. Everything should add up and be in the proper place.
Pay attention to spelling. Always double check and pay attention to words like lie and lay. Also, be aware of hyphenated words and compound words. If in doubt look it up. Often I see different spellings for characters names too, so pay attention to this one as well.
Don’t mix up possessives and contractions. It is easy to do with your fingers flying over the keyboard. You may not even notice if you added an apostrophe or left one out.
Review verb tenses as well as punctuation. This is very easy to mix up. I’ve done it many times. Don’t forget you have a “find” feature in your software program; you can search out your “ing” words and your “ly” words that way and see if you can replace them with a positive voice, which will make your writing better.
Pay attention to quotation marks and dialogue punctuation because it is easy to leave some out.
Don’t forget your headers and footers. You need to proofread them as well.
Once you’ve finished, run your spell and grammar checker. I always turn on everything that Word allows. You can find this under tools and options. This will alert you to passive voice, extra long sentences and fragments, as well as the usual stuff. If necessary, replace what's necessary. I don’t worry much with fragments in dialogue because that may just be your character’s voice.
Always review again for anything you missed, even if you think you’re finished, and look at all of your formatting. This is when you can change it back to single space, if you like, and change your document size unless the editor wants to see it like it is first.
If anyone changes your document into ebook format, make sure you read it again before publishing. Of course, this also goes when you receive it back from your editor. It may be tedious, but you really can’t read it enough. If you get tired, walk away awhile. It will still be there when you return.
Finally, don’t expect your loved ones to correct your document for you.