Once the overall artistic edit of your book is complete, as we have seen in Part 1, then the technical aspects (the science of writing) must be addressed. The first step is to determine which stylebook will be used. We all had English in school and were taught there was only one way to write something, but that is no longer true in contemporary writing. For example, whether or not to use the serial comma in a combination of three adjectives is hotly debated. Is it “red, white and blue” or “red, white, and blue”? Whether you add the comma or not, the way to avoid having to constantly make decisions throughout the piece is to determine in advance your style and stick with it. That can be easily accomplished by utilizing a stylebook such as The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook, or what we use, The Christian Manual of Style that state guidelines on how to address almost every grammar or punctuation question you may have.
Consistency describes the science of good writing. When a publisher receives a manuscript, beyond the initial creative idea behind it, he or she looks for solid, consistent writing. Remember, how you treat a word or punctuation in one chapter must be the way you do it in the next. The publisher may use a different stylebook than you did, but he or she will see that you maintained the same style throughout the manuscript, which is a definite plus for you.
Using the dictionary, which can easily be accomplished on a computer with a dictionary app, is another necessary tool in our arsenal, especially helping with many of today’s compound words. Since English is a living language, compound words seem to evolve over the years. Perhaps some time ago a compound word was hyphenated but not now. Hand in hand with the dictionary, using a spellchecker after you have completed your manuscript can reveal typos that might easily be overlooked.
Both the art and the science of editing are important, but most of us are usually not as strong in the sciences (grammar) as in the arts (creativity) and vice versa. As writers we are hard-wired that way, although we can improve our skills in our weakest areas. However, having another editor who is thoroughly trained in both aspects of editing can greatly improve the readability of your text. Your book is your “baby.” Let our River Birch Press editors “put a smile on its face.”