One of the first books I bought as a fledging writer was a book on self editing - it was invaluable for a writer who lacked confidence.
That was more than 30 years ago and I still bolster my confidence with a bookshelf lined with Swan's grammar book, Harraps English punctuation and the Oxford English Dictionary, among others.
Self editing will make you the darling of editors. The fewer red marks - either handwritten on hard copy or changes tracked on soft copy - an editor has to make the better.
How do you self edit? Ideally, draft your document then let it breathe in cyberspace or your desk drawer, if you still write in longhand.
A week later or a few days later if you are on deadline, read it again. You'll be surprised at the clumsy turns of phrase, the delinquent punctuation, and the errant spellings that will leap off the page. Fix them and then give your writing to another pair of eyes to read.
Don't be surprised at the blood on your precious draft when it returns from whence it came. Despite your best efforts, you will have missed some mistakes.
Finally, send it off to the editor for a final spit and polish - brace yourself, more corrections will be made!
Below are some tips to reduce the red on your manuscripts:
- The Law of Consistency or use language and layout consistently, i.e. write dates in the same way every time; use either US or British spellings and not both in one document; decide on headings and sub-headings and stick with them; limit the use of stylistic conventions; commas do count so use punctuation correctly; and, above all, make sure your use of grammar is beyond reproach.
- No matter how careful you are, you will miss something. So never underestimate the value a good editor adds to your writing!