News room: 5 Proofreading checks to run before sending your manuscript to a literary agent

5 Proofreading checks to run before sending your manuscript to a literary agent  by Jessica Barrah

This edition of expert tips comes from freelance proofreader, Wendy Janes. Errors can undermine an agent’s confidence in your writing, but these five simple checks (that you can easily carry out using the incredibly useful “find” function in Word) will help your manuscript shine.

If you’d like to learn more about the “find” function, read an article here or watch this YouTube video.

1. Check for overused words.

Here are some common ones that slow down and diminish the reading experience: just, look, moment, really, so, such, that, very. Many of these words can simply be deleted, others can be replaced.

2. Search for words repeated in error.

It is amazing how often “and and”, “in in”, “of of”, “the the”, “this this” can crop up. Sometimes a “had had” or a “that that” is correct, but repeated words are often basic typos requiring deletion.

3. Hunt down words substituted for others by mistake.

Here, I am not talking about grammatical errors such as the misuse of it’s and its, practice and practise, affect and effect, principle and principal, I am referring to words such as, from/form, sign/sigh, through/though/thought, that/than, them/then, woman/women.

4. Make sure spelling is consistent.

As a general rule, it is a good idea to avoid mixing –ize and –ise, –or and –our, while and whilst, toward and towards, among and amongst. I use the Oxford English Dictionary as my go-to book for spelling and hyphenation. If you are considering purchasing books to help with editing and proofreading, I highly recommend The Chicago Manual of Style (US) and the recently released New Oxford Style Manual (UK).

5. Tidy up punctuation.

Eliminate any spaced hyphens used parenthetically and replace them with spaced en dashes (UK style) or unspaced em dashes (US style). Use either curly quote marks or straight quote marks.

Wendy Janes lives in London. She spends her time running her freelance proofreading business, writing novels and short stories, and volunteering for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service.

To find out more about proofreading and the service she offers, go to her website.

You can also connect with Wendy on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

More from our Expert Tips series:

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Written by
Jessica Barrah
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Expert tips, Proof reading, Manuscript, and Writing