- Don’t rely on self-editing. Do it, do it again and again, and the tips below will help, but don’t rely on it.
- Use your software’s built-in Spelling and Grammar check. Often. It won’t be 100% but it will pick up a lot of errors.
- Make a list of your pet words and phrases, and keep it up to date. Some you won’t even realise you over-use, the ones that will have to be pointed out by friends. You may be amazed to find out how often you use the word amazed. Never release a final document without using the search facility to check each and every pet word and phrase. My characters ‘grinned’ 29 times, ‘laughed’ 51 times, and ‘smiled’ 28 times before I got the thesaurus at work. It’s a light-hearted book, but they shouldn’t sound like a pack of hyenas.
- Read your book aloud. That seems to activate a different part of the brain which won’t skip over gems like ‘she dog then bit the cat’.
- Don’t edit for too long at a time. Take a break after half an hour, an hour at most. You’ll get bored and start to skip things.
- Make an edit copy, change the font, and split the page into columns. The change of format also kick-starts the brain. If you have Jutoh, or similar software which provides a final version Kindle mock-up, you’ll see exactly how it will look on the different types of e-reader. I’m sure I’m not the only one to read the Kindle version and instantly spot an error that escaped every test already thrown at the original Word document.
- Older typists (like me) – don’t use a double space after a full stop. It isn’t done nowadays and eBook software doesn’t allow for it, so you could have an untidy left margin where hanging spaces jump in.
- Pay a copy-editor. Really. I’m not saying it to generate work, because I mainly do technical documents, but I did all the above and still got back an edited document with thirty or more changes in red. Most of which I accepted, blushing.
- Never automatically accept all changes. Check every one. Sometimes the copy-editor misunderstood the context, in which case you should probably clarify it for the eventual reader, too. Copy-editors, even the best, are human and won’t pick up everything but after all these checks, you should have something clean enough to leave the most critical of your readers with only a short list.