Friday, March 15, 2013

Please, Please, Please Edit

I find it interesting, when I teach writing in an academic setting, the only editing that takes place is usually basic grammar and "wordsmithing." When I work in the creative writing setting and publishing, writers spend all of their time editing content. Now, while this element is certainly important since writers are telling a story, not taking the time to edit for the basics of grammar, punctuation and spelling is a huge red-flag for editors and agents. This is especially the case when we look at the query letters, emails you send to us and the synopsis of your story.

Please understand, we are not completely inhuman with our obsession over grammar. In the end, we too are simply looking at the story, but, when the grammar mistakes are obvious, and certainly mistakes that a basic understand of writing would have fixed, then we simply cannot over-look these mistakes.

Fixing this is very easy, especially with the tools available to you within most writing processing programs. For example in MSWord 2010 using the grammar and spell checker can find an amazing amount of the problems. You might not get all, but at least you will get close. It goes like this:

You opening screen will look like this. We will move our mouse up to the tool bar section where you have the buttons for FONT, PARAGRAPH and so forth. When you get you mouse up there right click on it and you will get a screen that looks like this...
You will want to move down to the pull down tab to Customize the Tool Bar. This will get you to some amazing things you can do with your computer.

In this menu, go over to the PROOFING tab. This will get you a screen that looks like this. What you want to look for is the box in the third grouping that says something about check for GRAMMAR. Click on the button that says settings. This will get you a screen that looks like this.
What most of you will notices is that if only the GRAMMAR Button is clicked, then you are only looking for about 1/3 of the problems. By clicking GRAMMAR AND STYLE, you will get all of the boxes clicked (with the exception of first person). Once you have done this, you will find when your run your manuscripts through the grammar checker, a ton of the problems would have been found.
Now, I do have to stress again that you cannot rely 100% on the technology to save you. It still comes down to you knowing the proper grammar and checking it over for yourself.
I should also add that this includes properly formatted and structured business letters and business emails. Demonstrate you have the skills as a writer.
In the end, remember that "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." You just don't want to give the impression to the editor or agent that you don't know how to write.

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