So many little things came up when I was running through the final copy of my first novel that I decided to create a checklist, so I remember to check for these things in my next book. Although they were all little things, there were so many of them that they would have made my novel look very unprofessional if I hadn’t fixed them before publishing.
These kinds of little errors are a great reason to check your manuscript even after it’s been edited. You may even want to consider hiring more than one editor. I consider these little things to be part of the proofreading process.
I’ve included my own personal Google Keep note at the top of this post so you can see what my checklist looks like. Google Keep is the best for checklists! I’ll be discussing why I’ve included each item, but I recommend you come up with your own checklist for the items you commonly miss. Every writer has their own “ticks” or mistakes that they commonly make.
How do you spell that?
The first item on my list is consistent spelling of names. While I was editing, I was horrified to discover that I had spelled Gayle two different ways throughout my book (Gayle and Gail). Make sure you are consistent with your names, because careful readers will pick up on this.
This is an easy fix using the “find” or “find and replace” function in you software. I’ve used this function in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and InDesign. In these three programs, you get to the search function by holding the control key (on a PC) and typing “f” for find.
Is that really necessary?
In university, I had a linguistics professor that really disliked the use of the word “that” and he drilled it into us that there are actually very few times its use is necessary. I feel like using “that” is a stylistic choice, and I prefer to use it as little as possible, so I used my search function to eliminate as many “that’s” as possible.
That vs. who
One of my beta readers, who also happens to be a proofreader, pointed out to me that when I’m referring to people, I should use “who” rather than “that”. For example, at the beginning of my sentence I could have incorrectly said, “One of my beta readers that also happens to be a proofreader”.
This is another quick fix, thanks to the search function and it’s easy to check for it at the same time you are looking for unnecessary use of the word “that”. Thanks for the tip Sally!
Is it toward or towards?
Both are correct, but you want to make sure that whichever word you use, you use it consistently. Same goes for forward or forwards. Again, easily fixed by using the search function. Just be sure to search for the spelling without the “s” otherwise your software won’t pick out those words without the “s” on the end if you only search for the version with the “s” on the end.
How do you spell that, again?
Another spelling issue only this time with alternate spellings of words rather than names. When I started writing my draft I had it in my head I wanted to use American spelling, but when I was editing, I decided to use Canadian spelling since the book is set in Canada. Thank you search function...again!
What about italics?
I’ve noticed there are some opposing views around the use of italics and whether or not you should use them when people are thinking. I didn’t find a hard and fast rule, so this is based on my preference. I encourage you to do your own research, and see what your favourite authors do when it comes to italics.
The last two items on my self-editing checklist involve the use of italics and I find it way easier to spot italics when I’ve printed a document and then scan each line using a ruler or piece of paper.
I decided to use italics only when showing a text message in my novel. When I took a hard look at what I was trying to accomplish in a scene, I didn’t need the italics when my point of view character was thinking. I tried to make it clear from the scene that it was internal dialogue, but this is my personal choice.
I hope you found this checklist helpful for self-editing. Do you have a similar checklist you use? I know I will be updating mine the more I write and figure out all my writer ticks.
To learn more about self-editing and working with editors, check out the Writer’s Craft Summit happening May 27 - 31, 2019. It’s free to attend live!