Editing Your Manuscript

Before you move on to the page layout step of your book, you will want to finalize the editing process to keep your costs lower. It is possible to make modifications after the editing phase, but it will cost you, because you will have subsequently entered the phase where your manuscript is in page layout software. At that point, you will have to make any further edits by marking up proofs at an additional charge. So, it will really benefit you to pay close attention to all the editing details of your manuscript before moving on to the page layout.

There are two types of editing for manuscripts––Substantive Edits and Mechanical Edits.

Substantive Edit

While you were writing your manuscript, and hopefully turning your book concept into a compelling must-read, you’ve done so with the goal of creating a style and presentation that will best inform, enlighten and hold your audience’s attention.

Like many authors often do, once you’ve completed writing your manuscript, you may find it necessary to initiate a substantive edit. This type of editing is primarily applicable to manuscripts that require extra attention to the organization, presentation and sentence structure––in order to clarify the meaning of your text and give it a smoother flow. This in turn will heighten the reader’s experience with your book.

There are a number of options within a substantive edit that may or may not apply to your book. Some involve minor touch-ups, others might require a re-working of certain passages. Here are some of the edits you might want to consider utilizing on your manuscript, depending on its current state––

• Adjusting the format used to present the material
• Add or delete sections of the manuscript
• Re-order some of the material
• Re-configure tables or charts
• Check formatting of references
• Flagging terms that may express a bias or offensive viewpoint

You will also want to make sure that your manuscript does not communicate an unintended alternative message to your audience.

If any of the above pertain to your manuscript, make the necessary changes so that it reads exactly the way you want it to. Then you can then move forward to a mechanical edit.

Mechanical Edit

The mechanical edit begins when you are satisfied that your manuscript is right where you want it. Now comes the serious detail work––going over every word and every sentence to ensure that they are correct in spelling, word usage, punctuation, grammar, capitalization and basic language. The following steps will give you an idea of what’s involved in a standard mechanical edit.

Spelling / Special Words

• Correct errors in spelling
• Correct words that can be found easily in a dictionary
or on-line resource
• Correct errors involving words that have similar spelling or sound, such as:
––  manager and manger
––  there, their, and they’re
––  affect and effect

• Check for inconsistencies in specialty terms that are not commonly known by the public
• Check for inconsistencies in names and places that are fictional or not well-known

Punctuation Errors

• Ellipses
• Different types of dashes, including en and em dashes
• Hyphenations
• Commas
• Colons
• Semicolons
• Quotation marks
• Apostrophes
• Various punctuation marks within sentences and at the end of sentences
• Sentence fragments
• Run-on sentences

Grammatical Errors

• Subject/verb agreement
• Mixture of tenses
• Issues involving plural and singular
• Treatment of possessives
• Basic syntax
• Possessives involving names, as well as both
singular and plural possessives


• Correct errors in capitalization
• Apply proper capitalization rules in different situations, such as:
–– Titles of persons
–– Titles of various types of works
–– Specific terms, including those referring to directions, seasons and languages

Word Changes / Basic Language

There may be cases where you will want to make word changes in your manuscript. This usually occurs when a word is overused or when a different word better conveys the meaning or intent of your sentence. You may also want to change a word that you feel readers will find to be offensive.

Finalize the Edits

Once you’ve made the substantive edits and mechanical edits, take a second or even third pass through your manuscript to determine that all of the proper edits have been made. Then your manuscript will be ready to go on to the next phase––Page Layout.