10-step editing checklist for every writer

Whether you’re revising your own work or that of another writer, you can ensure proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar by following these guidelines.

When you’re part of a writing community, there comes a time when you’re asked to edit a friend or family member’s work. This recently was the case for me when I accepted a request to review a friend’s magazine.

After an hour of review, I was surprised by the sheer number of grammatical errors, and I attempted to negotiate how to help my friend. There were three stages to our conversation:

  1. Denial: “You’re too strict,” she said.
  2. Anger: Feeling frustrated and cornered, she spat out, “I was never formally educated in school.”
  3. Bargaining: “Don’t worry about punctuation or sentence structure,” she told me. “Just look for spelling and misused words.”

I was confused. Punctuation and sentence structure are part of good grammar.

The next time you’re editing your own writing or reviewing another author’s work, use this checklist:

  1. Spelling—Check for misspelled words.
  2. Misused words—Review a list of words you’re prone to misuse (even if they’re typos). For example: it’s vs. its, your vs. you’re, their vs. there, and a vs. an.
  3. Apostrophes—Look for all non-possessive plural nouns (to ensure there’s no apostrophe) , and review contractions or possessive nouns for apostrophe use.
  4. Commas—Review for comma splices (a comma joining two independent clauses without the presence of a coordinating conjunction), and revise commas used in a series.
  5. Colons and semicolons—Check colons for introducing long quotes, announcements, and introducing a series without expressions such as namely, that is, etc. Fix comma splices by joining independent clauses with a semicolon when stylistically correct.
  6. Dashes and hyphens—Ensure dashes are not used excessively. Check whether your compound modifiers are using hyphens correctly (no space on either side).
  7. Other punctuation—Review for excessive exclamation points and ellipses as well as period use relative to quotation marks.
  8. Run-on sentences—Find every occurrence of coordinating conjunctions—e.g., and, but, or, and yet—and revise any run-on sentences.
  9. Sentence structure—Check for unclear syntax and unnecessary passive voice.
  10. Asides—Check parentheticals, and adjust sentences to ensure they’re used only when absolutely necessary.

There you have it—my 10-step checklist. What resources do you use in your writing space?

Penny Knutson is the managing editor of EzineArticles.com, where a version of this article originally appeared.


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