Polishing Your Manuscript: A 10-Part Check List

You’ve finished your manuscript, had it professionally edited and proofread, you’ve been through it front to back and back to front, and it’s ready to go…almost. One final thing you’ll want to do is a quick polishing, or what I like to call a Final Pass. You can either do this final pass step yourself or have it done by a professional. This last minute check looks for common errors that may have been missed during one of the previous rounds of edits, especially if at any point you’ve gone in and made some tweaks.

PRO TIP: This checklist is also a great tool for proofing blog posts and articles.

Proofreading

10-PART CHECKLIST FOR POLISHING YOUR MANUSCRIPT

1. Homophones (two or more words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spellings): A few common ones include:

Affect/Effect
Threw/Through
Compliment/Compliment
Principal/Principle
Prospective/Perspective


2. Contraction Homophones: Expand contractions as you read. This is helpful catching mistakes such as you’re instead of your.

EXAMPLE:
Its/It’s
They’re/There/Their
We’d/Weed
Here/Hear
Who’s/Whose


3. Double Punctuation: As you read through, look for double periods, commas, etc. Typing double punctuation and running a search is also a great way to be sure you haven’t missed any.

4. Missing Punctuation: This happens more often than you’d think. Be sure to look at the end of each sentence specifically for the presence of punctuation.


5. Double spaces: There should only be one space between sentence. Many of us were taught to include two spaces between sentences years ago, and this can be a very hard habit to break. You can run a search for double spaces or be sure to have your settings set to reveal nonprinting characters (in MS Word). This will show a blue dot for every space, making double spacing easier to spot.

6. Capitalization: Check that words, titles, names are capitalized appropriately.

7. Overuse of words: Run a search for words such as very or really and limit their use. Also, keep track of words that you tend to overuse (we all have our favorites!) and do a search for those as well, replacing them when appropriate.

8. Spelling: Review each word carefully as you read through for proper spelling. Also, be sure to check spelling any time you make any changes to your manuscript.

9. Commas: Be sure to put a comma before direct address in dialogue. A missing comma can change the meaning of an entire sentence. Commas should also be placed after introductory phrases and between compound sentences.

EXAMPLE:
Incorrect: “Let’s eat Bob.”
Correct: “Let’s eat, Bob.”


10. Vague pronouns: Check for pronouns that may cause confusion. For example:

EXAMPLE: JJ annoyed Frank, but that didn’t stop him from asking a favor.

Stop who? JJ or Frank?

I hope you find this list helpful as you polish your manuscript in preparation for publication. Please keep in mind that it is not an all-inclusive list, but does cover some of the most common errors I’ve run into in my editing career.

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