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:
- Denial: “You’re too strict,” she said.
- Anger: Feeling frustrated and cornered, she spat out, “I was never formally educated in school.”
- 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:
- Spelling—Check for misspelled words.
- 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.
- Apostrophes—Look for all non-possessive plural nouns (to ensure there’s no apostrophe) , and review contractions or possessive nouns for apostrophe use.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dashes and hyphens—Ensure dashes are not used excessively. Check whether your compound modifiers are using hyphens correctly (no space on either side).
- Other punctuation—Review for excessive exclamation points and ellipses as well as period use relative to quotation marks.
- Run-on sentences—Find every occurrence of coordinating conjunctions—e.g., and, but, or, and yet—and revise any run-on sentences.
- Sentence structure—Check for unclear syntax and unnecessary passive voice.
- 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.