Fixing Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation
“Don't publishers fix grammar and spelling mistakes?” an unpublished writer asks. Of course they do. But sloppy errors in your manuscript certainly won't impress agents or editors.
You're inviting that person who could help you to conclude that you can't write your way out of a paper bag. Your goal should be a manuscript that's grammatically perfect and free of errors in punctuation and spelling before you send it out into the world.
Here are some tasks to get you there:
Run the spell checker: Your word processing software has a sturdy spell checker and will find and suggest fixes to misspelled words. Of course it will try to correct any dialect you've included, and it may not recognize technical terms, product names, or slang expressions, but all you have to do is reject the changes you don't want.
Run the grammar checker: Grammar checkers that come with word processing software can be a pain in the behind, flagging all kinds of “problems” that you'll want to leave as is. For instance, it'll want to fix all your sentence fragments. Dialogue is full of them, as it should be. Run the grammar checker anyway, and skip over those non-problem problems. Along the way, it'll find problems you might otherwise miss — like subject-noun agreement, missing question marks, double spaces between words, or missing punctuation.
Read and edit: Read through your manuscript yet again, after you check for grammar and spelling, and find all the errors your word processing software missed. For instance, it may not have caught your use of “there” instead of “their,” or “its” instead of “it's.” Misspelled proper nouns will have slipped by as well.
Have someone line edit for you: If you're not great at catching spelling and grammatical errors, give the manuscript to someone who is, but don't give them carte blanche to make changes in the file; you should be the one to decide which changes to make.