Useful Tips for Self-Editing a Manuscript



by Emily Nemchick


Whilst there is no substitute for hiring a professional editor, self-editing is an important skill for any writer to hone. For one thing, the more passes a manuscript gets, the fewer errors will remain in the final product. If you are using an editor, be sure to self-edit thoroughly first so they can focus on the things you have missed. If you are not using an editor, then self-editing is doubly essential. Here are a few tips to make sure you catch as many errors as possible.


Use spellcheck (or an outside grammar tool)

This is really the most fundamental thing you need to do before anything else. If you are writing in Word, even running the basic Spelling and Grammar tool can catch a whole host of mistakes that you’ve made. You can go one step further and use another tool such as Grammarly too. Make sure you use your best judgment though, as automated tools often pick up things that aren’t actually errors.


Read out loud

You might feel silly, but there is nothing like reading out loud to help you see mistakes like confusing sentences, word duplication or repetitive vocabulary. This is a great way to eliminate careless mistakes and refine your sentence structure.


Take a break before rereading

It’s easy to get too wrapped up in your work to see things objectively. After your first proofread, take a step back and tuck your manuscript away for a few weeks then come back and reread it. As well as seeing errors that you missed the first time, you might have a few ideas for story tweaks and be better at spotting plot holes or inconsistencies too.


Ask for a second opinion

If you’re not sure if a word is in the right context or if a sentence sounds good, ask someone else. Forums like KBoards are great for getting a second opinion from other writers, or you could just ask a grammar-savvy friend or two. If in doubt, always check, don’t just let things slide.


Learn the rules of grammar and punctuation

If you are going to take the time to self-edit your work, make sure you know what to look for. Not sure when to use a comma or how to punctuate speech? There are hundreds of free online resources to help you out. GrammarBook and Grammar Girl are two handy resources, but just type your query into Google and do a bit of research and you’ll be able to learn the rules in a jiffy.


Make a list of common mistakes

If you know you are prone to mixing up your and you’re or using then instead of than, make a point of checking specifically for those mistakes. Here is a list of common errors to check for. (You can use the Find tool to skip through the manuscript to find specific words.)




Emily Nemchick is a freelance copy editor. She enjoys reading practically anything, preferably curled up somewhere cozy with a cup of tea. She can generally be found in front of her laptop, probably eating a cookie.

32 thoughts on “Useful Tips for Self-Editing a Manuscript

  1. Reblogged this on Jens Lyon and commented:
    In addition to these tips, it helps to start at the end and read your manuscript backwards. I did this when I was proofing both of my books. It’s a great way to catch typos and other little mistakes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was reading a self-published novella on Amazon where the writer apparently forgot the main character’s name because it changed abruptly in the middle of the book from Amanda to Samantha. No explanation, no plot twist–she was Amanda in the first part of a paragraph and then Samantha for the remainder of the book! Oi.


  3. As a graduate writing consultant at Florida International University we make the same recommendations! The most surprising is always “read it out loud,” but that is exactly what we do. No matter how many times students have read and revised a thesis or dissertation, the minute they read it out loud, they find things they never noticed before.


  4. Reblogged this on C. Foley's Writing Blog and commented:
    I’ve joined Camp NaNoWriMo for July with the express goal of completely editing and revising my novel ‘Wild and Free’ which I finished back in February and put away to give myself enough distance before I start editing.

    I’m feeling ready now, and have a deadline to work to, so this article is a great starting point for things to look out for!


  5. Great advice! I have met a few professional editors, and I have heard time and time again that when a manuscript is submitted for potential publication, a host of spelling and grammatical errors make them feel as though the writer doesn’t take themselves seriously. In this competitive market, it’s very important to only submit your best (and most polished) work.


  6. Very sound advice on the most basic and thus important points when self-publishing. I must read out loud to myself- hadn’t thought of that (I get a chance to do all the voices).
    Just has to be re-blogged


  7. Really, the ‘learn rudimentary of grammar’ should be higher up this list as the most important if you want to be taken seriously. And you catch more typos reading backwards. Great blog I will be back.


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