C is for Checklist

Jan 10, 2024 | Editing | 0 comments

Now that we’ve developed the write Attitude (ha-ha) and can read and write Body Language, let’s move on to the next stage of successful self-editing. This is sometimes called “mechanical editing.” In this round you should be doing very little rewriting. Here it’s all about checking and double-checking for mistakes. The best way to make sure you don’t miss an important mistake is to work with a checklist.

A comprehensive checklist usually includes these ten points:

1  Grammar: Are sentences clear and complete, with no run-ons, fragments or overly long passages? Do subjects and verbs agree? Is the verb tense consistent? Is the use of adjectives and adverbs sparing? Delete extra words!

2  Spelling & Typos: UK spelling (Oxford Dictionary) or US spelling (Webster’s)? Whichever spelling you choose, be consistent. Use the spellchecker to catch typos and common spelling mistakes but don’t rely blindly on the computer; you still need to check for exceptions.

3  Capitals: proper names (e.g. Ragini Werner) product names (brands and trademarks, e.g. Coca Cola), organizations (e.g. Amnesty International), historical terms (e.g. the Depression), political terms (e.g. Democrats), geographical places (e.g. the Gulf). Are names capitalized correctly and consistently?

Abbreviations & Acronyms: Are they defined on first use (if necessary)?

5  Hyphenation: Make sure that the last word on a (right-hand) page is never hyphenated!

6  Punctuation: periods (full stops), commas, colons, quotation marks, brackets. Are all present and correctly used?

7 Extra spaces: Switch on Show/Hide (¶) in Word to delete the extra “dots” between words and sentences, and at the end of paragraphs. You only need one space between words and one after (never before!) a comma or period.

8 Paragraphing: blocked (web pages) or indented (on paper)? Again, make sure it’s consistent.

10  Numbering: Check that numbered items follow in sequence.

9  Recurring features: Check that the style of recurring headings: bold/italic/underlined? Font type & size? Bullet level?

Technically, point 1 really belongs to the end of the previous phase (Body Language), as it deals with the corrections to word usage you will have made during substantial or stylistic self-editing. However, these aspects still need checking so they are included here. The truly mechanical list actually starts with the point 2.

Seems like there’s plenty of checking to do! But don’t get put off or downhearted by the amount of work involved. Just get started and see how you go. The best advice I can give is: “Do NOT check everything at once.” And before you know it, you’ll be finished.

Did I say finished? Well… not quite. Once you’ve completed this round you’ve certainly come a long way on the route to successful self-editing. Believe me, the end is in sight, but you’re not there yet. Watch out for last part in this series, D is for Details, where I reveal my edidextrous secrets that you can use to add the finishing touches to your story.

Featured image: RawPixel


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