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Learn the Four-Step Secret to a Perfect Manuscript 

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Title   Learn the Four-Step Secret to a Perfect Manuscript
Description   This article describes how to save time editing and proofreading with four simple steps.
Author   Julie Hood
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Article No.  102
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Permission is granted to reprint the following article, in your publication or web site, as long as no changes are made to the articles or copyright info, and the resource box is included with the article.  Please email with the date and location of publication. Thanks!


Copyright 2002 (c) Julie Hood, Finally Organized LLC.  All Rights Reserved.


Tired of proofreading for hours? Moving from first draft to perfect manuscript can be a slow and tedious exercise even for the most experienced writers. But you can create a perfect manuscript with just four simple steps.

The secret is to focus on only one area each time you edit. Start with the tone and flow of the overall piece. Then whittle down your word count. Check your grammar and spelling, and finally, read through the piece one last time.


After you have eliminated words, read through the manuscript checking the tone and flow. Is your tone appropriate for your audience? Are you lively and entertaining, or stiff and businesslike? Do you use contractions or perfect English?

If you are not sure about the audience, lean toward a more formal manuscript.

Check the flow of the manuscript by jotting down a quick flow diagram. Each paragraph should have a main topic. List it. Then connect the topics with arrows. Next to each arrow, note how you connect one idea to another. Or use arrows to connect subtopics to the main topic. Make sure all the subtopics support main topics, and main topics support the theme of your manuscript.

To improve the flow of the manuscript, vary the length of your sentences and paragraphs. The change in lengths gives your writing interest.


Have you ever played the "How few words" game? Go through your manuscript to see how many words you can eliminate and still keep the original meaning.

Here's an example:

Long version - To properly edit and proofread a manuscript or other piece of writing by an author, other writers should read the manuscript and then eliminate as many words as possible from the prose. [32 words]

Shorter version - To shorten a manuscript, ask someone to remove words. [9 words]

This game is usually much easier on someone else's writing. We writers often get attached to our words. Ask a friend to eliminate words for you.


In the next read-through, check for grammar and spelling errors. Some of the most common grammar errors include misused tenses, misplaced commas, and subjects, verbs and pronouns that do not agree.

Use the search function in your word processor to check for commonly misspelled words like effect/affect, to/two/too, there/their, its/it's and hear/here. You can find a list of common errors at


Let your manuscript marinate for at least 24 hours. Then, read through it one last time. You'll be amazed at the problems you missed (of course, if you make any major changes, you should start over with step one!).


Want to learn more?  Visit

Julie Hood is the author of "The Organized Writer: 30 Days to More Time, More Money and Less Frustration," a new ebook with a roadmap for combining a writing career with the rest of your life. She manages the web site and writes Writer-Reminders, a weekly newsletter for writers. Newsletter subscribers receive a free ebook, The Sidetracked Writer's Planner.  When she isn't writing, she sneaks in cleaning house around a busy household with two children, her husband, and two avid golfers. 

Copyright 2002 (c) Julie Hood, Finally Organized LLC.  All Rights Reserved.  Reprinted with permission. 


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