At last your manuscript is finished, folded, and slipped into an envelope with your SASE. You have addressed it, applied a postage stamp and you are about to lick the flap and send it on its way. Stop! First answer these questions to see if you have goof-proofed your work.
l. Did you send it to your critique partners, and did they look carefully for grammar and punctuation errors in addition to everything else? Before an editor reads your manuscript let other eyes than yours examine it for errors.
2. Did you run a spell check? It's a good idea, but be discerning, the spell checker isn't always right. Double check suggestions to be sure they are correct. Your spell checker doesn't know if you should use "their", "they're", or "there". Is it "write" or is it "right"? After you check the spelling check your grammar. I like "Woe Is I" by Patricia T. O'Conner.
3. Have you read your manuscript aloud? Sometimes reading it aloud will make errors more visible to the writer. Correct them now before an editor sees them.
4. Have you asked someone else to read your manuscript to you? Try it. When they read aloud ask them to point out any "wrong" words or errors they notice.
5. After you have done all of that set your manuscript aside for one week or more. After it has rested read it again. Does anything pop out at you? Change it before you put it in the mail.
Errors are conspicuous to other than the writer. I don't think I have ever read a book where a wrong word or misspelling didn't stand out on the printed page and distract my attention away from the story. Don't let your errors distract an editor from seeing the merits of your work. Your manuscript represents you and your abilities to every editor who reads it. Do all you can to make a good, professional impression.
Can you make your manuscript "goof proof"? You can if you work at it.
(I can't believe how many mistakes I made in this post. I hope I caught all of them.)
(c) 2006 Sharon A. Soffe