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Blog 04.13.2024

MANUSCRIPT IMPROVEMENT

Editing Essentials: A Step-by-Step Guide to Polish Your Manuscript

Writing a manuscript is a major accomplishment. However, the work does not end with the first draft. There is an inevitable editing process that needs to occur before you can publish your work. That is true regardless of whether you have written an article, short story, or book. The processes do vary a bit for each type of work, but there are certain universal steps that are essential in all cases. Follow these important steps to streamline the editing process for any manuscript.

1. Do Not Begin Editing Immediately

It is vital to have “fresh eyes” when editing, according to multiple academic sources, including the University of Nevada, Reno. You should never begin the editing process the same day you complete your manuscript draft. Depending on the type and length of the manuscript, it is best to take at least a few days and up to a few weeks between completion and editing. Doing so gives you time to collect your thoughts.

2. Set Your Environment Up for Editing Success

Edit in a quiet place. Distractions may lead to editing mistakes and missing key issues within the text you need to fix. If you do not like total silence, consider some quiet, consistent background music or soothing sounds. Avoid watching television or working in a crowded environment.

3. Change the Formatting of the Manuscript Before You Edit

Some writers prefer to edit their manuscripts on computers. Others prefer to print them and edit hard copies because it makes them look different and makes errors easier to see. You can use whichever method suits you. If you edit the manuscript on your computer, change its formatting first. A simple change of font style or color makes the manuscript look entirely different. It is a way to trick your brain into paying more attention. It may keep you from missing things you might miss when looking at it in the original format.

4. Identify Problems to Watch for Before Editing for Content

The actual editing process begins with editing for content. See how the manuscript flows. Several issues can influence flow. Look for each one as you edit. Specifics vary by manuscript type, but some components you may need to inspect include:

  • Accuracy of Facts and Figures
  • Tense Usage
  • Point of View Changes
  • Potential Plot Holes
  • General Language (Clarity, Conciseness)
  • Properly Cited Sources (If Applicable)

5. Read Your Manuscript Aloud

After your initial edit for content, read your manuscript aloud. Doing so gives you a chance to pick up on any passages that may still not sound quite right. You may find it helpful to read it to another person, such as a friend or family member. He or she can help you figure out if your manuscript has any common content-related problems you have missed.

6. Verify Your Structure is Sound

Each type of manuscript has different structural requirements. For example, a scientific article needs a clear thesis statement in the beginning and a clear conclusion at the end. A work of fiction, on the other hand, needs a good introduction, clearly defined characters, and a satisfying conclusion. Regardless of type, make sure your manuscript stays interesting from start to finish. Create clear transitions between concepts or chapters to promote good flow.

7. Perform Line Editing and Copy Editing

Line editing is a process of going through a manuscript sentence by sentence. According to the popular book production services website Reedsy, line editing requires looking for general style, consistency, and readability of each sentence. Copy editing, on the other hand, is the process of correcting punctuation, eliminating extraneous words, and fixing spelling or grammar mistakes. Both are vital to the success of any manuscript.

8. Check for Common Formatting Problems

There are two categories of common formatting problems in writing. The first category is universally common formatting problems. For example, many people hit the space bar twice when ending a sentence. Only one space between sentences is necessary by modern standards. The second category is personally common formatting problems. For example, you might personally have a tendency to put periods at the end of sentences that are supposed to be questions. You might also personally type certain words or phrases incorrectly all the time, such as typing “tot he” when you mean to type “to the.” Know your own personally common formatting problems and edit with them in mind.

9. Use Technology to Help You Perform a Final Proofread

Today’s technological advancements mean you have access to many useful editing and proofreading tools. One of the best is Grammarly. Grammarly and tools like it can immediately point out mistakes in both spelling and grammar. Using them, you can quickly complete a large portion of the last part of the editing process, proofreading.

The steps above are a great start. However, you still may not be done. Once you have completed them the first time, read your work again. You might even opt to ask someone else to read it for you. If you find any more changes are necessary, go back through the steps again. Sometimes, a manuscript only takes one round of editing, but in other cases, a few rounds are required.

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