No manuscript, no matter how hard any of us tries, is perfect; there is always going to be at least one tiny mistake someplace. It’s the nature of what we do. Why? It’s because our brains, when reading, fill things in for us.
One thing that can help cut down on the number of typos/small errors is reading the story or poem aloud; there’s something about the connection between the brain and the mouth that magically exposes items like missing words, misspellings, and even sentences that might be unwieldy or too long.
Beyond that, what are some other items to check before you send your newest baby out into the world? Here’s a checklist we hope will help you, and happy submitting!
CHECKLIST FOR MANUSCRIPT POLISH
♦ Read aloud for typos, missing words, rough sentences
♦ Check paragraphs/sentences for double use of words/phrases too close together
♦ Check Properties for correct title and author name; correct if necessary. You must always hit “Save” after altering anything in Properties, or it won’t take.
♦ Make sure word count is correct
♦ Make sure font and point size in header (Last Name/Title/Page Number) are in same font as manuscript text
♦ Check against Shunn formatting: margins, et cetera
♦ Check to ensure that the text throughout is left-justified. Sometimes, a random paragraph here and there can get centered, right-justified or justified by accident.
♦ Remove spaces in between paragraphs under the Paragraph Tab
♦ Ensure tabs are replaced with hard indents of .5 in the Paragraph Tab
♦ Ensure any notes to self/Track Changes/odd typefaces or colors have been removed or changed
♦ Ensure double spaces are removed after each sentence—there should only be one space after each period, not two
♦ Ensure the em-dashes are not – or — , but –
♦ Check to ensure internal thoughts—or anything else that was meant to be rendered in italics—is in italics
♦ Make sure that, in your contact information, your address/email (this one especially) and phone numbers are correct
♦ Make sure that your scene breaks are separated with #. Unless the market specifies something different, this is the professional default.
♦ Make sure widow and orphan control is turned on.
♦ Make sure the “don’t hyphenate” box is checked. This will keep words from being hyphenated at the ends of lines.
♦ Check that any numbers are rendered correctly. For Chicago style, any numbers 1 – 100 are written out (as in, one – one hundred); there may be some exceptions. A quick Google of “Chicago Style Guide Numbers” will yield the information you need if you’re not sure.
♦ If you changed the names of any characters mid-stream, ensure that there aren’t any of the old names in there. Use the search function to type in the old names and ensure there aren’t any hangers-on.
♦ Check that all apostrophes/quotes are “smart.” Sometimes, when working with a document many times over on several machines, there are sections with flat text apostrophes/quotes.
♦ If you are having trouble fixing formatting or anything on your document, your best bet is to copy, cut, and drop it into a new document and save it as text and “start fresh.” However, you will then have to go through this entire checklist again.