I remember when I was in school and we had an assignment that included some kind of writing exercise. We would always ask, “Does spelling count?” I guess, as kids, we were always looking for the easy way out. In those days, we had pencil and paper and teachers would usually want assignments written in ink. Now, we have all kinds of tools to keep us from making errors. These tools are a blessing and a curse.
If we are talking about publishing an article, a novella, or a novel, it is important that the work you produce is as high a quality as you can possibly achieve. This is especially true when you’re trying to self-publish.
Spelling mistakes and errors in grammar are dead giveaways to readers. They show you don’t care. Readers scratch their heads and think, ‘Why didn’t they at least spellcheck their copy?’ You can really turn readers off with simple blunders. What can you do to make sure your copy reads well and you’re not going to turn off your readers? Here are a couple of tips that will help you get to a clean copy and you don’t turn off your readers with your ineptitude.
Read Your Copy
What sounds good in your head doesn’t always sound good out loud. One of the best things that you can do to make sure your copy reads well is to read it out loud. Read it word for word and make sure you are reading the words on the page and you aren’t just saying what you think you wanted to say. If it doesn’t make sense, change it.
Edit on Paper
Print out your copy to read it out loud. When you read something from the screen on your computer, it’s easy to try to make changes while you’re going along. Though you can do that, and you may be able to do it successfully, you will be much better off if you print it out and mark it up on paper. Then, you can go in and make the changes in the electronic copy all at once. This will force you to go through the whole article, chapter, or section. It is easier to do all at once rather than piece by piece.
Rhythm and Pace
Check for rhythm or pace in your writing. While you’re reading your copy out loud, you can check that it reads properly and the pace and rhythm makes for easy reading. When it sounds good coming out of your mouth, it will make much more sense to the person reading it. When somebody is reading your work, you don’t get a second chance to explain yourself. You have to make sure it makes sense to you so you can be sure it makes sense to somebody else.
Don’t Try to Be Clever
Not everybody is a scholar. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” This is absolutely true. If you try to make yourself sound smart, you’ll actually be proving that you don’t understand your audience or your subject matter. I used to love essay questions in school. I could write a ton of stuff and just hope some of it stuck. When you are trying to attract and keep an audience, don’t bother them with things that you may think sound smart. Make it straight forward and easy to understand. Your audience will tire quickly if they don’t understand the point.
So, in short
Keep is simple and remember that spelling, grammar, clearness, and tempo count for a lot when you’re trying to get your point across. Take advantage of all the tricks you can. Then, when you think it’s really really okay - get somebody else to edit your work. I’m not the best judge of my own writing and I am sure you aren’t either.
You should never take the easy way out. Do the work. Make the effort and do the absolute best you can. Only then can you be considered a professional at your craft.
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