5 Tips to Help You Write Faster

National Novel Writing Month, also called NaNoWriMo, is right around the corner. As writers prepare for the challenge of writing a novel in a month, many wonder how they will manage it. Writing 50k words in 30 days is a daunting task.

A pocket watch laying on a book that used self-publishing services

These tips will help writers be more productive every month of the year. Especially for self-publishing authors, more time to write means more opportunities to write their bestselling masterpiece.

1. Use an Outline

Many writers like to let their story unfold as they write but doing so costs time and wasted words when the author realizes they are taking a detour they never planned and their story suddenly is heading in a completely different direction than the one they thought. This can result in thousands of wasted words and hours of wasted time.

Having a solid outline for a story is one of the best ways for a writer to use their writing time to its full potential.

2. Be Prepared Before Sitting at the Keyboard

This ties into tip #1. The time to plan and daydream stories isn’t while sitting at the keyboard.

Keyboard time is for writing. Thinking through scenes can be done while showering, washing dishes, or any other number of menial tasks that people do throughout their day. Before a writer sits down to write they should already have a solid idea of what will be said and done in the scene they are writing. This allows their time at the keyboard to be more productive as it will be spent turning the story into words instead of weaving plot threads.

3. Use Speech to Text

Most people can talk faster than they can type. A good speech-to-text program will increase the number of words most writers can get on the page in a writing session.

4. Create a Writing Routine

Write at the same time every day, if that is at all possible.

Many writers benefit from having things in their writing routine that signal to their brain it is writing time. That could be a specific time, a place they sit with their laptop, a hat they only wear when writing, an electronic typewriter that is only used for writing, or even the act of turning off the internet on a computer to avoid distractions.

Just as bedtime routines help children calm down and prepare to sleep, so too do writing routines get the writer in writing mode and call the muse forward to do her work.

5. Focus on One Step at a Time

Writing a novel can feel overwhelming and writers often feel as though they have to have all the answers when they sit down to the blank page. In actuality, most writers are more productive when they can focus on the scene they are writing today. Writers should not let themselves get distracted by things like interior book design or book manuscript formatting while writing their first draft. They also should not edit as they go but wait to edit until the first draft is completed. This eliminates unnecessary backtracking and time spent editing scenes that will be cut from the final draft.

Whether a writer is attempting to pen a novel in November or chipping away at the epic that is their magnum opus, time-saving techniques will help them find the time in their busy lives to birth their remarkable stories.

Once your story is created, InstantPublisher offers a wide range of self-publishing services to turn your draft into a digital or printed book. Call 1 800 259 2592, fill out our online contact form, or send an email to questions@instantpublisher.com for more information.

5 Things Every Writer Should Know About Outlining

Almost every writer has an opinion about outlines. Some writers swear by them. Some hate them. Many writers are baffled by them.

As National Novel Writing Month approaches, many writers will find outlining a key ingredient in the recipe of finishing their novel in a month.

1. Outlines are a Road Map

Very few people would jump in a car to take a long journey with no concept of destination.

Writing a novel without some sort of outline is like deciding to take a vacation and jumping in the car with no plan. There might be some awesome sights seen along the way but there are also many avoidable challenges.

Outlines, at a minimum, should show the author the direction they want to take. It is the map equivalent of saying one wants to visit Disneyland and planning a trip with that destination in mind.

Before sitting down to create the roadmap for your book you should understand your end goal. Not just for the story but for the journey you want your book to take. For more thoughts on writing end goals read How to Organize Your Writing  Project.

2. Outlines Don’t Have to Be Too Detailed

Many writers feel that outlines will restrict the adventures they can take on their writing journey and they fear they will miss exciting roadside attractions on their quest to the destination.

A woman writing an outline before starting to type her self-published novel

Outlines can be minimalistic with a beginning, key scenes, and end noted in bullet points. It can equally be a detailed excel sheet describing every planned scene and listing who is present in the scene and what the goal of that scene is for the novel.

3. Detours Are Okay

Once a writer maps out the outline they can still take detours along the way if a new idea strikes them or if they stumble across a better road to take as the story is unveiled.

Outlines are tools, not contracts. Writers shouldn’t adhere to them to the detriment of their stories but they are a good way of keeping the writer focused on where the story is intended to go and to get the writer back on track after a detour is taken.

4. Genre Matters

Most genres have a built-in road map that writers of the genre should follow. Writers who plan to self-publish can deviate a bit more from genre norms but they should still be aware of them so that their audience is satisfied.

For example: in a romance novel, the characters who will fall in love must meet. They must spend time developing a relationship. The relationship must blossom and then there must be an incident that threatens to tear the couple apart. Finally, the couple must come back together and there must be an indication that the couple will live happily ever after. Even if a writer only plots out these points of their romance they are more likely to stay on their story’s path than an author floundering around with only the goal of a happily ever after somewhere near the end.

5. Map Out the Characters as Well as the Plot

Many writers assume outlining only involves planning the plot but that does them a disservice.

The plot is important and understanding where a story goes is extremely valuable for discovering a story but plots without characters don’t come alive. When an author outlines they should include the character arcs along with the plot. This allows them to write character growth and to map that growth along with the map of the plot.

Outlining is a valuable skill even when an author isn’t trying to write a novel in a month.

Once you’ve completed your novel, InstantPublisher can help assist in completing the book publishing process.

InstantPublisher offers a wide variety of self-publishing services including book printing and binding, interior book design, and custom book covers.

For more information about self-publishing services visit our website at https://www.instantpublisher.com. You can also call 1 800 259 2592, fill out our online contact form, or send an email to questions@instantpublisher.com.

4 Questions to Help You Set Realistic Writing Goals for Your Book

By the beginning of March, most authors have given up on their New Year’s resolutions to write a book and publish their own book. Maybe you don’t think you have enough time, or that things have gotten too hectic at home or work, etc., but these are just excuses. Maybe the real reason that you have given up is that the goals you set for yourself were not realistic in the first place. How do you set realistic writing goals for your book? Getting answers to the following questions is an excellent place to start.

A woman setting goals for writing and self-publishing a book

1–Who Are You Writing For?

Figuring out who the audience is for your work can help you focus and identify what kind of information the audience is looking for (non-fiction) or what the reader expects to see (fiction). Thinking about every aspect of your ideal reader is essential. Here are a few things to think about when identifying the audience for your book:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Education level
  • Hobbies and personal interests
  • Favorite books and authors
  • Occupation/Income Level

Even if you are not sure who your ideal reader might be, take a guess—the more specific your ideal reader profile, the better. You can always refine your description as you write.

2–Why Are You Writing the Book?

This is a question that is often overlooked when beginning the writing process. Still, it is crucial because it closely ties to your motivation and the objectives you want to accomplish by writing the book. Here are a few examples of reasons:

  • For your personal satisfaction
  • To create a family history for a small group of family and friends
  • To share an account of your personal experiences so that others may learn from them
  • To reach #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List
  • To share your knowledge and build a platform for the professional speaking circuit

The reasons are as unique as each individual starting out on their book-writing journey.

3–What Critical Information Should Be Included in the Book?

For non-fiction books, this is easy. If you have a clear idea of what your project is about, you will probably know what questions need to be answered by your book. You will know the people, the places, or events involved with the book’s subject. You may also need to research specific information to help support the overall thesis of the book.

For fiction, this is a bit more subjective. But readers, especially readers of genre fiction, have certain expectations when it comes to story. Readers of science-fiction novels expect futuristic technology, aliens, robots, and spaceships in the story. Many types of romances need to include a “happily-ever-after” ending. For fiction, a lot of this information depends on the specific type of fiction you are writing. Read several books similar to the kind of book you want to write to identify these expectations.

4–How Much Time Can You Devote Toward Writing Your Book?

This is extremely important and one of the questions that writers often fail to answer realistically. It is unrealistic to say that you can write four hours a day, seven days a week, if you have a full-time job, four kids, and two dogs. But you may be able to dedicate 15 to 30 minutes each day for your writing project.

Another approach is to ask yourself: “What am I willing to give up to write this book?” This might mean giving up your nightly Netflix watching or reducing the amount of time you spend socializing with friends, on social media, or aimlessly surfing the Web. In order to take your writing seriously, you will need to make sacrifices to do so. If you are not willing to make these sacrifices, you may not be serious about writing a book.

Answer These Questions at the Beginning of Your Writing Process

Spending 15 minutes freewriting answers to each question is a great way at the start of your writing project to focus on it and give you direction on what goals you need to meet to finish your book. Getting this information down on the page is one way to clearly define what you want to write about and make your writing goals realistic and achievable.

Allow InstantPublisher to Publish Your Book Today!

Once you have written your book, reach out to us. We are a full-service self-publishing book printer, and we also provide a variety of publishing support services such as book manuscript formatting, custom book cover design, and bookbinding. For more information, call 1-800-259-2592, fill out our online contact form, or send an email to questions@instantpublisher.com.

17 Tips for Proofreading Your Book Manuscript

You’ve finished the fun part of the writing process, and you’ve had a couple of trusted readers review your book and provide feedback. Now you need to proofread the book to capture all of those quirky little typos, misspellings, and other issues that (if unnoticed) would distract the reader from your story or information and maybe even result in losing their trust as a reader altogether.

Most book printing companies do not proofread your self-published book before printing it, so to avoid embarrassing mistakes, proofread it before submitting the final manuscript to the printer.

1 – Print Out the Manuscript to Review and Mark Changes On

Several studies have shown individuals proofreading a hard copy manuscript catch more errors than those who edit onscreen. One study showed that people who are proofreading on paper can do it anywhere from 20 to 30% faster than those reviewing the manuscript on screen. To save time and improve your accuracy, kill a few trees by printing it out. (You can always plant a few trees in penance for your waste later.)

Proofreading a manuscript for book printing service.

Double-space the manuscript before you print it out so there’s room to insert comments and corrections. You must number the pages as well because you never know when your manuscript pages might get mixed up and out of order.

2 – Read the Manuscript Out Loud

This is the best way to catch errors such as missing articles (a, an, the, etc.) and words, typos that spellcheck misses (meaning to type “from” but entering “form” instead), and awkward and confusing passages. Better yet, have a friend read it out loud to you as you take notes. This way you can hear where they get confused or stumble when reading the manuscript.

3 – Look for Passive Constructions

If you remember from your high school grammar days that passive voice sentences are bad (most of the time). The passive construction is a sentence where the object of the sentence acts on the subject. Example: There was a great amount of snow covering the ground. (Passive) A lot of snow covered the ground. (Active). This is just a simple example, but make it a practice to look for all sentences that use linking verbs such as: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been (all forms of the verb “be”) and highlight them.

Next, go back and review each of the sentences with a verb underlined and see if you can rewrite it in an active form. You should identify and rewrite a good percentage of these sentences to make them stronger.

4 – Read the Manuscript Backwards

This approach helps when looking for missing punctuation or misspelled words. But also for catching things that you might have missed using other proofreading techniques. Read the last sentence. Then the next to last. And so on, until you reach the first sentence of the manuscript.

5 – Wait a While After Writing Before Proofreading

Writing and proofreading/editing are different processes that use different parts of the brain. If you jump from one task (such as writing) immediately into proofreading, you tend to miss things or “autocorrect” errors in your brain since the writing side of you still knows what you intended to say. Putting it away for at least a couple of hours (a couple of days would be better) to allow you to gain some distance from the project before you go into proofreading mode. This will improve the number of errors you find.

6 – Get Someone Else to Proofread the Manuscript

There is something to be said for “being too close to the work.” Especially if you’ve spent a lot of time writing and rewriting the same pages. Get another person to proofread the manuscript for you. They will see it with a fresh perspective and catch things you would typically miss.

7 – Review Apostrophes Carefully

One of the most common amateur author mistakes is misusing apostrophes in contractions vs. possessives–the most common example being the use of “your” instead of “you’re” when you are trying to say “you are.” Slow down and look at all apostrophes to make sure you use them correctly in your manuscript.

8 – Use a Red Pen to Mark Up the Manuscript

Using a red pen, or any other bright color, helps you make sure that you don’t miss any of the change suggestions you note on the manuscript. You can easily miss these if you mark them using black ink or pencil.

Proofreading marks for self-publishing book printing.

9 – Look for Words That End with the Suffix –“ly”

Words that end in “ly” are indicators of adverbs, a typically unnecessary modifier to verbs. Most of the time adverbs can be eliminated by choosing a stronger specific verb. For example – Ran quickly vs. Sprinted. Which one paints a clearer picture in your head? Use the “Find” feature in your word processor and highlight all of them. See if you can remove at least some of them. Also look at empty words that try to “intensify” verbs such as “much, more, very, less,” etc. You can eliminate these most of the time.

10 – Confirm That You Use Homonyms the Correct Way

Homonyms are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently, and have completely different meanings. When you are deep within the writing process, it is easy for your brain to enter the word that sounds like the word you meant. Imagine how embarrassing it would be if you sent out an invitation to “Meat the Parents.”

11 – Proofread During Periods of Focused Attention and Concentration

You should not save proofreading tasks until the end of the day when you are tired from doing other concentration-heavy tasks. You also shouldn’t try to do it while listening to a podcast, sitting on a conference call, or watching TV either. Proofreading requires deep concentration to do a good job, so limit your distractions and only proofread during times when you are very alert.

12– Turn the Manuscript Upside Down

This technique doesn’t work for everyone, but for those who like it swear by it. Turn your manuscript upside-down, face up. This requires you to slow down when reading each word and decipher it. This makes errors stand out.

13 – Make Multiple Proofreading “Passes”

This method of proofreading is time-consuming but works well. Only look for one issue at a time when you proofread the manuscript. For example, you review the manuscript once only looking for punctuation errors. Next, you go through the manuscript looking for homonym issues, then go through it again looking for passive voice construction, and so on. Reviewing the document multiple times assures that you plenty of chances to catch mistakes.

14 – Use Spellcheck, But Don’t Rely on It

Spellcheck does not catch wrong words that are spelled correctly because of a mistyped letter. (See Tip 2 – Read the Manuscript Out Loud for an example)

15 – Fact Check Carefully

Any time you quote someone, make sure it’s accurate and you know the source. Any time you use a figure or number, double-check it for accuracy. Confirm that the names of people, businesses, and products are spelled correctly. Make sure you cite all of your sources, providing links where applicable.

16 – Use a Checklist

Pilots go through a checklist before every flight. Doctors verify each step on the checklist before each surgery, so you should also use a checklist. Especially if you are writing several documents or one long document. It is easy to forget the spelling of a character name or a person of interest in your study. Use checklists to track these mistakes, especially those you make often. Include your commonly misspelled or misused words on the list and any other important project information on the list as well.

17 – Don’t Edit While Writing

Writing and proofreading need to be completely separate processes. While writing it is tempting to make corrections and tweak the wording but try to get a draft down on paper first and then (after observing Tip #5) proofread the manuscript when you are in a completely different mindset.

Following these tips will make you an excellent proofreader. Never underestimate the importance of a good proofread to make your book the best that it can be.

InstantPublisher is Your Premier Book Printing Services Provider

When your book is ready to be printed, have InstantPublisher take care of it. We offer many additional services such as custom book cover designs, different binding and formatting options, and much more. If you have any questions at all, please give us a call at 1-800-259-2592, fill out our online contact form, or send an email to questions@instantpublisher.com.

How to Prepare Your Book Manuscript Format for Self-Publishing Companies

Proper book manuscript format assures that a book looks professional and is easy to read. Each book printing company will have certain rules about the format they want your manuscript submitted in. The manuscript may need to be submitted as an RTF, DOC file, or printable PDF. The book printing company will have specifications about page size and margins. Digital printing services will have different requirements than softcover book printing services. Such specifics can be provided by your selected book printing company.

The interior book design suggestions below are universal and should be followed regardless of what book printing company you use.

Title Page

Every book should have a distinct title page which should include the title, author name, and publisher, where applicable.

The title page should always appear on the right side of the finished book. This is the side where the odd-numbered pages should be.

An open book to show proper interior book design.

Typically, the copyright page should appear after the title page and include the written ISBN number, the name of the intellectual property holder, and the year. Often, there is also a note about the limitations of use such as a notice that no one may copy any part of it without permission. Additionally, any other notices such as the work being fictional and any similarities to real entities being unintentional and coincidental can also be on this page.

Chapter Breaks

Most books are broken into chapters. Every chapter should start on its own page. The chapter header and any chapter numbers should be capitalized along with the chapter title. These should appear approximately 1/3 of the way down the page. Like the title page, new chapters should appear on the right-side page of an opened book. The title headers should also be in a larger font and/or set in bold to be easily recognizable to readers.

Scene Breaks

In works of fiction, scene breaks should be clearly indicated. These can be one to three centered symbols on a page. Most commonly these are asterisks or hashtags but some people use decorative symbols that are book-specific such as a sword in a fantasy novel. In a printed book, a scene division can also be three entries of the return key to create a three-line gap.

If the goal is eBook publishing, you should use a visible symbol because line breaks can be harder for readers to see on an e-reader than they are in a print book.

Miscellaneous

Paragraphs should be indented in a fiction book. In non-fiction, paragraphs may be indented or line breaks can be used to divide paragraphs. All books should be printed using a standard, easy-to-read font.

Typically, books should be printed in 12-point font. Large print books should have between 16- and 18-point font sizes, and may need to follow different guidelines for spacing, contrast, and images within the book depending on the target community.

InstantPublisher Can Help

InstantPublisher is a book printing company that is easy to work with and eager to help with all your book printing needs.

We offer a wide range of services for self-publishing authors including layout and typesetting services. Our expert staff is available to assist you at 1-800-259-2592. Call today, fill out our online contact form, or send an email to questions@instantpublisher.com.

How to Organize Your Writing Project

The idea of starting a writing project can be daunting. Many people plan to write and print their own book a book but never do it because the task before them seemed too great. Organizing a writing project significantly increases the odds that the project will be finished.

When most people think of organizing a writing project, they think of creating an outline. Outlines are valuable tools but they aren’t the only thing to consider as you organize your project.

Writing in a notebook to plan a writing project for publication

Understand Your End Goal

The first step to organizing a writing project is to understand what the end goal of that project is. Is the project a genealogical history meant to be passed on within the family? Is the project an informational brochure sharing knowledge on an important topic? Is it a fictional story meant to entertain? Is it a parable meant to entice others to change their opinions or actions? Each of these writing projects will have different processes so understanding the end goal is vital.

Once you know your end goal, you can decide what needs to be included in the writing project and how that project will be used. A fictional novel will need different things than a nonfiction brochure. Everything from the writing tone to the binding of the projects will be vastly different depending on your end goal.

Outline Your Manuscript

Whether the writing is fiction or nonfiction, an outline is useful for organizing any writing project.

A fictional outline should consist of characters, setting, and plot. It should indicate important points about the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

A nonfiction outline should include the main topic of the project, important points, research needed, and, where applicable, the expected conclusion that the reader is supposed to reach after their reading is complete.

Plan for Publishing

Once the actual writing is finished, what is the plan to take the written work from a file on the computer to something that can be shared? Planning for publishing should be done while you are still organizing your project because it will influence how the project is written. Your publishing plan may change your word count. Your publishing plan may influence whether you add illustrations or use detailed text to explain a concept instead. Understanding the medium you plan to publish in will help you make decisions about your project. For instance, a project where the word count runs into millions will be difficult to put into a physical book. On the other hand, a nonfiction book where worksheets are included may be easier for readers to use within the physical form. Choices about the publishing medium can change choices about the writing of the project.

Is the goal to sell digital books or to engage an on-demand publishing service for easy self-publishing? The latter is an excellent choice for books that will be sold at events or for projects, such as brochures and pamphlets, that aren’t meant for sale but to be handed out as complimentary copies.

Will pictures or drawings be needed for the book? Will you buy or create the cover? What bookbinding is best for your project? Should you enlist the services of a ghostwriter to present your ideas in the most organized and professional way?

Once you have organized your writing project, you can sit down and put your plan in motion. Write chapter one, hire a ghostwriter, or contact self-publishing book company publisher such as InstantPublisher.

Contact InstantPublisher Today

InstantPublisher offers a wide range of services from low volume book printing to full-color book printing. We can help you get a book made today. Email us today at questions@instantpublisher.com, or call 1-800-259-2592, for more information.

Working Dad’s Tricks to Writing a Novel in Your Free Time

Pondering when to write your novel. You can’t decide when to actually sit, ponder, and let the writing flow. Below are suggestions of when to pocket snips of “bright ideas” that will eventually be in your novel.

Salesman

You’re a salesmen and work with a companion. So if he or she drives you can jot down ideas or thoughts on your notebook, or laptop or smartphone. Later you can write or edit these great ideas in WORD.

Lunch Break

You have a 1 hour lunch break at work. So eat for 30-minutes and then relax. Well relax as you write down ideas, maybe an outline or may an introduction for your book.

The 1 Hour Commute

You commute 1 hour to work everyday. The car has 2 other people. You usually talk and ask about your friends day or what they did the night before…you know small talk. Well you have an opportunity to write some thoughts down – again on your notebook, or laptop or smartphone.

Basketball Game

You are driving to a professional basketball with a group of friends. It will take atleast 30-minutes to get to the stadium. This is another opportunity to create parts of your book. You may think backwords. You may be thinking of 2 different endings for your book. You may ponder how the book should start. Write something down. Take advantage of the time you have. You will be rewarded for writing down these thoughts. You can always go back and edit later.

Shopping

You are shopping for plants and flowers for your yard with your wife. Again, this is a golden opportunity to write down some ideas for your book. Develop each character. Develop the thesis and maybe an outline or title of your book.

More Writing Tips >>

Working Mom’s Tricks to Writing a Novel in Your Free Time

Trick #1: Write Longhand:

Even the most lightweight laptop is a tricky thing to take to the playground or gym. However, a notebook and pen fit easily into the most crowded diaper bag. (Always put an extra working pen in your purse, in case one does not work.)

“Write longhand while you’re sitting on a bench at the playground.”

Write longhand while you’re standing and rocking a stroller with your foot. Write longhand while waiting for your pasta to boil and while waiting outside of your first ballet class, for your 5 year old daughter. When entering your text onto the laptop later, will give you the chance to revaluate your work with a fresh eye, and fix the errors or edit what’s necessary. You’re that much closer now to a polished manuscript!

Trick #2: Get Your Kids Involved:

Experts say that reading to your children is the best thing any parent can do to bond, raise IQ and otherwise earn mommy or brownie points. Sure, toddlers and older children would probably rather hear “Winnie the Pooh” than “Mommy’s New Novel.” But, can an infant really tell the difference?

Nothing gives writers a better idea of whether a scene, especially one featuring lots of dialogue, is working, than reading it out loud. It can be an ego-crushing experience as you realize that the brilliance you heard in your head doesn’t quite match the nonsense you seemed to be articulating… but that which does not kill you, gets you ready for more editorial rejection later on. And that’s a good thing.

So grab that baby and that manuscript and read it out loud until the prose finally shines. Or your infant is old enough to start requesting a different title.

Writing Tips >>

How to Write a Children’s Story

1) Think of a particular child you know. You may choose your child, someone from your neighborhood, or someone from your childhood. (You choose.)

2) Think of that child’s problem behaviors. (You choose.)

3) Consider possible short-term negative outcomes resulting from the problem behavior. In other words, think of something unpleasant that you can imagine happening because of the behavior – but nothing too traumatic. For instance, if the child insists on sleeping in his parents’ bed, maybe you imagine his friends no longer coming over because they feel he acts too babyish.

4) Now work backwards from the imagined outcome. For instance:

  • Your son’s friend stops coming over. Why?
  • Because your son no longer has his own room. Why?
  • Because Dad turned it into an office. Why?
  • Because bedrooms are for sleeping and your son is no longer sleeping in his!

5) Take the story arc you’ve just defined, add a beginning.

Start with a happy child [unconcerned] with the problem behavior, and an ending (in which the child chooses, as a result of the negative outcome, to self-correct the behavior), and you should have a complete story ready for writing! These five (5) brainstorming techniques should help your writing juices to flow.

More Writing Tips >>

How to Edit Writing Like a Professional

You can edit your book, if that was not part of your school training. Follow (carefully) the proceeding guidelines, to edit your book.

Ask who the intended reader. As an editor you will need to know, who is the intended audience. You will determine the readability level, the tone of the writing, the clarity, and the use of jargon for the intended reader.

Read the work thoroughly. When editing, read through a piece several times in order to catch as many errors as possible. The first time through, do not concentrate on catching errors. Instead, focus on getting a sense of what the author is trying to communicate. Then, as you read the piece a second and third time, start marking errors to correct.

Do a “spell check” and readability index. Use the spell and grammar check functions in your word processing program to identify possible errors. (*Note, the word possible. We need humans to actually read and proof books, because Microsoft Word will not catch all spelling errors.) These functions can point out specific types of errors. Most people use Microsoft Word for spell and grammar checks. Once the spell check function finishes, a “Readability Statistics” box is displayed.

Readability Statistics” box in Microsoft Word:
Click the Microsoft Office Button Windows, and then click Word Options.

1) Click Proofing.

2) Make sure Check grammar with spelling is selected.

3) Under When correcting grammar in Word, select the Show readability statistics check box.

While all the statistics in the box can be useful, the two which help the most are the Word Count and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score is intended to reflect school grade reading levels.

Make sure the readability score is appropriate for the intended audience. If the writing is designated for a first grader match the reading level to a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 1.0 to 1.9.

If the book is to be read by a general adult population, the readability score should be between 8.0 and 9.0. This level ensures easy comprehension and retention by the vast majority of adults. Remember this is a safe range for most adults to comprehend your book.

If the writing is intended for an academic audience or a highly trained level of professionals, such as engineers or doctors, then the writing level can be 12 or higher. Jargon is permissible when writing to a specialized audience who will be familiar with this selective vocabulary.

School papers and articles for publication may have word count requirements. In general, other pieces of writing do not. Word count is important though, because readers will stop reading documents they suppose too long. They appreciate writing which conveys its message fully and quickly. You may want to edit to lower the word count.

The following are some guidelines for adjusting word count.

  1. Less than 150 words: books for children under the age of 3.
  2. 400 – 500 words (one page): business letters, executive summaries, resumes, press releases.
  3. 400 – 600 words: books for children ages 4 to 6. The word count levels mentioned here are for books intended to be read by these children without assistance from an adult. Children should be read to from books with higher word counts allowing for the possibility of growth in vocabulary and language skills.
  4. 500 – 1,500 words: Internet articles, newspaper stories, magazine articles.
  5. 100,000 – 125,000 words (200 – 250 pages): most novels.

Calibrate your review to the intended reader. If the reading level is too high, use these techniques to revise the writing.

  1. Simplify sentence structures.
  2. Use vocabulary containing three syllables or less.
  3. Use sentences with “active voice” and in the present tense.
  4. Rewrite sentences which require semi-colons or dashes to make them less complex.
  5. Trim wordy sentences.
  6. Spell out contractions.
  7. Revise a paragraph, when possible, to a list. A list, well derived, shows essentials briefly and clearly.
  8. Keep all writing on target. Eliminate rambling or pointless thoughts.

Read through again and mark possible errors. Check the following:

  1. Spelling – spell check functions can help with this task, however, look for words spelled correctly but used incorrectly.
  2. Punctuation.
  3. Capitalization.
  4. Grammar – pay special attention to skipped words since grammar check functions do not reliably catch these.
  5. Repetitious word use – use your dictionary or a synonym finder for possible alternative words.
  6. Accuracy of statements of fact.
  7. Flow and consistency of the book.
  8. Logic – make sure any argument presented is supported and follows a logical thought pattern.

Once you have marked the possible errors, research them to confirm the error and provide suggested changes. Note, always use a dictionary or online dictionary. Note references as appropriate.

Provide feedback to the author. If you are reviewing in an academic or business situation, you may have guidance on how to provide feedback to the author. If not, here is an example of how to present your feedback. This format allows the author to locate the potential change, gives a solution, and a reason for the suggested change. *If you are in Microsoft Word highlight with yellow (tool beside the text color tool). If you are proofing an actual printed document, you a red pen to mark errors. Write notes clearly, and write specific changes to make for the author.

Page 1, Para 12:
• Line 1: Delete “Not” and replace “too soon” with “later”. Reason: Places the action in the correct time sequence.
• Line 4: Replace “her nose” with “Emma’s nose”. Reason: Clarifies the reference noun for the pronoun. As it stands the “her” would refer back to the immediately preceding noun which is the crab.

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