BLOGGER: Kathy Ide
TWO THINGS YOU DO NOT WANT IN YOUR MANUSCRIPT
You want life-changing content in your nonfiction manuscript. Or an intriguing story with lots of conflict and interesting characters in your fiction manuscript. But you don’t want anything that’s going to decrease your chances of getting a traditional publishing house to accept your manuscript. Or pull your readers away from your content or story.
There are two things that can ruin your manuscript, no matter what genre you’re writing: typos and mechanical errors (punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling).
Why should you bother proofreading your manuscript for typos and “PUGS” mistakes?
Here are a few reasons:
1. They can cause miscommunication.
A colleague of mine recently sent me an e-mail about a local writers’ conference, asking if I’d be on board for it. I responded that I would definitely be on board, especially since it was close to my home. When I reread her e-mail later, I realized she had asked if I was interested in being on the board! I gulped. That’s a whole different ballgame. I was certainly “on board” with the idea. But serving on “the board” would require a significant investment of my time—something that’s always in limited supply for me.
I quickly decided the Lord must have wanted me to accept the invitation, and that He allowed me to misread the e-mail so I wouldn’t say no without even considering (or praying about) it. And I have thoroughly enjoyed being on the board for this exciting conference.
This is an example of reader error, not author mistake. But it does point out how one little missed word can change the entire meaning of a sentence.
2. They can cause confusion.
My older son, Tom, is a very busy professional, and even before he moved out of my home, a lot of our communication took place via e-mail. One Sunday, I asked him what he wanted me to make for dinner that evening. His response was: “When you decide what you can say I decided this and if it’s not OK that’s OK.” It took me a while to decipher it. And when I asked my son for permission to quote that, his response was, “Did I write that? What on earth does it mean?” Even he didn’t know! Well, after reading that line several times, I came up with this: “When you decide what, you can say, ‘I decided this,’ and if it’s not OK, that’s OK.” Pretty confusing without the punctuation, isn’t it?
3. They can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.
Most acquisitions editors, people on publishing committees, and avid readers know a lot about proper punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. And they can spot a typo a mile away. You don’t want them looking at your manuscript and thinking, This author has some good things to say, but she doesn’t know a comma from a semicolon.
Even if your manuscript has already been accepted by a traditional publishing house, if their in-house editor has to spend all her time fixing your mistakes, she won’t be able to catch the deeper, more subtle nuances of your text. Besides, you won’t be presenting a very polished, professional image to your publisher.
4. They can be embarrassing.
A friend of mine once picked up a book at a bookstore and noticed a typo on the back cover. When she reported it to our critique group, she didn’t say she’d found a mistake on a book published by “XYZ Publishers.” She said she found the mistake on a “Jane Doe” novel. She didn’t connect the error to the publishing house, but to the author.
5. They may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.
Ireland On-Line ran an article on their website on November 15, 2004, with this title: “Crowe Turns Hero to Help Snake Bite Boy.” The story was about actor Russell Crowe helping a boy who’d been bitten by a snake. But by spelling snakebite as two words, this sentence implies that Mr. Crowe helped a snake bite a boy! Now, I got a good laugh out of that. But I sure don’t want those kinds of mistakes showing up in my own writing.
And take a look at this headline: “Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.” An image of a Tails magazine cover featuring the celebrity chef and that jaw-dropping teaser went viral on Facebook. The magazine cover turned out to be a fake done with Photoshop, but that’s a great illustration of how a missing comma can turn a serious piece of writing into a joke.
6. They can affect the sales of your book.
Readers who find a lot of mistakes in your book will not be as likely to recommend that book to their friends. And who knows? You may have a high school English teacher reading your book, and she just might recommend it to her students … unless there are a lot of mistakes in it.
7. They can give you a poor reputation.
If you self-publish, or work with a small, independent publisher that doesn’t proofread carefully, your book may go out to the public with several typos or PUGS errors. Readers who catch those mistakes may consider you an amateur. For a lot of avid readers, typos practically jump off the page. And many are familiar with the rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. If your reader finds mistakes that you missed, that’s not going to make you look very good.
If you have a hard time finding typos and “PUGS” errors in your writing, consider hiring a professional proofreader. A careful proofread might make a life-or-death difference for your manuscript.
NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the author. To request permission, please e-mail Kathy@KathyIde.com.
$75. Early Bird Discount expires February 1!