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.
STEP #1 - EDIT FOR TONE AND FLOW
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
Check the flow of the manuscript by jotting down a
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
STEP #2 - PLAY "HOW FEW WORDS?"
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
STEP #3 - PROOF FOR GRAMMAR AND SPELLING
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 http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/.
STEP #4 - FINAL READ-THROUGH
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
Want to learn
more? Visit http://www.organizedwriter.com?src=a102.
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 OrganizedWriter.com 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.
2002 (c) Julie Hood, Finally Organized LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission.