How important is it to have a “clean” manuscript when the time comes to submit to an agent or publisher? And by clean, I don’t mean “G-Rated.”
This kind of clean deals with punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
Coming from a writer who is on the edge of being published, I can tell you what I’ve learned. The cleaner, the better.
Yes, if you intend to publish traditionally, then you will have an editor who will go over your work with a fine-toothed comb, but I believe they appreciate effort on the writer’s part even before they see the manuscript. I know that if I was sitting in their position, I would be more inclined to read something clean, than something that had bothersome errors staring at me in every sentence.
Have you ever read a book and found typos? I know I have, and they tend to throw off my reading. I know that we’re all human, and it’s impossible to catch every typo, but give it your best. This definitely applies if you plan to self-publish. And if that’s something you plan to do, I would highly suggest you hire a professional editor to go over your work. The last thing you want to do is publish something that isn’t ready.
As for the rules of writing…they can change.
Years ago, (back in the days of typewriters), the rule for spaces after a period, was two spaces. Somewhere along the line, that changed. The rule is now, one space. This may seem trivial, but it makes a difference. It took me a while to get used to not hitting the space bar twice at the end of a sentence, but have now almost mastered it. I occasionally slip!
Which brings up something else. The word, (or words), awhile. I read a very good article about how to know when to use awhile, or a while. I’ve been using this little trick ever since: It will almost always be two words, unless you can replace the words in your sentence with “for a short time.”
So, if I were to write: I’m going out for a while, it would be two words, because it wouldn’t make sense to say: I’m going out for for a short time. However, if you wanted to write: I’m going out awhile, (leaving out “for”), then it would work. If you replace awhile in this sentence with, for a short time, then it would read: I’m going out for a short time. I hope that makes sense!!
I use Word 2010 for all of my writing, and I drive it crazy! I write dialog to fit my characters, and most of them do not speak proper English. So the automated “grammar and spell check” freaks out. I laughed the first time I saw the message, “this document contains too many grammatical/spelling errors to display.” I don’t think those are the exact words, but close.
If you have any fun little rules of writing that you would like to share, please do. I find that I’m constantly learning new things and would love your input.
No matter, what…keep on writing. The more you write, the better you will get.