Thursday, July 30, 2015



(Two never fail manuscript polishing methods)

The two best ways to make a manuscript gleam are:

1.      Read your entire manuscript aloud. Overlook nothing. Title, subtitle, headings, signature blurb, tags, and links.  Stop and consider every word you read--if it's not clear enough, crystalize! If an awkward sentence construction distracts you, it will distract your reader.  Typos and misspellings scream carelessness, and diminish your credibility.  For example: When an expert writes a pro Second Amendment argument and submits it with the glaring mistake: 'the right to bare arms,' three things happen: 1) the reader envisions thousands of sleeves being pushed up; 2) the reader wonders if the writer ever read the Second Amendment; 3) the reader wonders if the writer is as careless with her weapons as she is with her manuscript. 

It all boils down to respect for your story and for your readers.  In a 500 word manuscript errors indicate inexcusable laziness. In a 70,000+ word book, frequent errors exhaust readers and force them to abandon your masterpiece and rightfully so. Why should the reader care enough to traipse through a mire of awkwardly constructed sentences, improper grammar, and aggravating typos when there are thousands of similar books and articles that are easier to read? Your story might be positively enthralling but if you don't care enough to clean it up, it may never be read.  Or even worse, if you self-publish shoddily edited material, it will get read and earn deservedly bad reviews as well as resentment from readers.  Why resentment? Because you insulted their intelligence by assuming they wouldn't notice that you didn't respect your story enough to make it gleam. 

2.      Get a second set of eyes.  Spellchecker is only a start; not nearly enough.  You need human eyes that recognize homonyms, misused words, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, sentences heavy with unnecessary prepositional phrases, and sentences that contain cliches instead of original thoughts.  So once you've gone over your manuscript in minute detail, hand it over to someone with decent spelling and writing skills--try a writer friend that you respect on Facebook, or perhaps even join a writer's workshop.  Tell your friend you need a second set of eyes on the manuscript; eyes belonging to someone with no qualms about circling every single imperfection.

When the manuscript comes back be grateful for all the circled errs that won't appear in your final draft.  Go over it one more time, then submit your gleaming manuscript with confidence and pride. 

A writing career is fraught with obstacles, and writers can always use a break.  Polishing a manuscript until it gleams is one you can give yourself. 

Related Materials:


Guide to Grammar and Writing


The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

The AP Style Book and Briefing on Media Law

The Yahoo Style Guide

The Gregg Reference Manual

1 comment:

  1. Truisms for sure, Terri. Authors need to polish the apple.