Kathie's Corner

Self-editing, a Guide to Reduce Your Word Count

Before you send your manuscript off to an editor, there are a few things you can do to make the experience as pleasant for you both as possible.
First, you should make sure that the formatting is the same throughout the manuscript:

  • Check to see if all the chapter titles are the same number of returns from the top of the page and that they are all centered.
  • Add a manual page break at the end of each chapter, and not just returns that fill a page until a new page appears.
  • Ensure that the entire manuscript is double spaced automatically, and not with returns between each line.
  • Use automatic indents instead of tabs.

Many editors charge by the word count of the raw manuscript you send them. I’d like to save you a bit of money by pointing out some words that can be deleted.
Contractions, especially in dialogue, help the flow of the manuscript. Per Diva Jen, some rules are made to be broken, and I firmly believe contractions should be used (Break the Rules for Style). Here’s a list of contractions that you should do a search and replace for before sending the manuscript to your editor:  http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/EnglishContractions.htm

Not every one of these should be used every time. Sometimes two words make more of a statement than a contraction:

I will marry you!

I’ll marry you!

You should read through and see where the contraction suits the voice of your characters and use them there. It really is a case by case basis.

The word “that” is not always necessary. Read through and delete the unnecessary ones. Sometimes it is needed, but mostly it isn’t.

This one adds a word, and while some publishing houses allow it, I always think that alright should always be all right.

Towards, backwards, upwards, with the “s” is the British spelling. If you are not British, you need to drop the “s” from these words.

Up, down, over, around. Are they really needed in the sentence? For example: He looked over at me. If you take over away, it still makes sense. He looked at me. It still works, and saves you a word that isn’t necessary.

Gray tends to be a color; Grey tends to be a name.

Off of should be just off.

Would love to hear how many words this saves you. Leave a comment with your saved word count!


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