Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: 5 Ways to Edit Like a Pro


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

Photo by Nic McPhee.

You have completed your novel, article, or white paper. Now it's time to put all of your grammatical ducks in a row. I know most of you hate this part, but it is crucial to your success. Nothing is perfect. There will always be some errors; we are human, after all. But, as writers, it is our responsibility to use our tools of the trade correctly. These are just some of the things I do before I hand anything in.

1. Spelling

Do not trust spell check. It often misses homophones, which is one of those mistakes that can make a brilliant storyteller look like a complete moron. Check dialogue and slang terms. Make sure character names are spelled consistently. Double check place names. Be on the lookout for red flag words, as well as common mistakes, such as your/you’re and to/too/two.

2. Punctuation

Make sure all of your periods, commas and apostrophes are correct. Remember, don’t make something possessive, if you want it to be plural.

Weather on the 5’s (the fives cannot have anything, right?)
Correct: Weather on the 5s
Wrong: Merry Christmas from the Brown’s (from the Brown’s what?)
Correct: Merry Christmas from the Browns

Also, double check subject and verb agreement. Plural subject=plural verb.

You cannot trust your computer’s proofreading function either. Computers only know the words on the page, not the overall context of the sentence. My computer was wrong about awhile/a while today while I was writing this.

3. Proper Paragraph Formatting

Pay attention to this, especially for checking dialogue. When different characters speak, indent and start a new line.

Any extra spaces? If so, close them up. Don’t put two spaces after periods. It is not done anymore.

4. Set It Down 

Once you have done this, let your manuscript sit for awhile and do something else until you can look at it with fresh eyes. Repeat the process, then let it sit again. And again. Believe me, each time you do this, you will see things you could have sworn you caught the first time. 

5. Read It Aloud

Reading the manuscript aloud offers a good opportunity to hear the pace and gauge the language. It's also a great way to check grammar errors. 


Now it's time to send your manuscript to an editor, whether that person is a professional or an English major you have bribed with Starbuck’s beverages. Congratulations. You are on your way. Bring on the Beta readers.

If you're writing an article, blog post, or white paper, submit to your editors. Believe me, they will appreciate a clean manuscript. When I edited B2B magazines, a clean manuscript literally made my day. And I certainly would be more apt to use that writer again.

Good luck!


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women's fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.

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