Short Story Editing Checklist

An Editing Checklist for Shipshape Stories

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Fiction writing is the composition of non-factual prose text. Fiction writing is often produced as a story meant to entertain or convey an author's point of view. The result of this may be a short story, novel, novella, screenplay, or drama, among other forms of writing. As a non-fiction writer, you might specialize in one of the many different fiction genres such as science fiction, pop culture romance, or literary fiction in the vein of the much revered Herman Melville. Although your skill set, as a fiction writer, is making use of your creative side, you still need to be aware of proper grammar. With this editing checklist, you will avoid the basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that will otherwise mark you as an amateur. As a writer, you need to take your editing skills as seriously as you take your job. 

Before considering your work complete, make sure you have done the following.


__ Spell check has been run.

__ "It's" and "its" have been used correctly ("it's" is a contraction for "it is" while "its" is possessive).

__ All other homonyms (which spell check won't catch) have been checked. For example, you would not want to write, "She peaked through the blinds and saw the peek of Mt. Ampersand."


__ Dialogue is punctuated correctly.

__ Any run-ons or fragments are intentional, despite the fact that those are rare.

__ Subjects and verbs agree in number, and verb tenses are consistent throughout.

__ Commas have been used correctly.

__ "That" and "which" have been used correctly.

__ There are no unclear or confusing pronoun references.

__ Sentence structure varies in descriptive or expository passages, which is helpful in keeping the reader interested.

__ The sentences are concise.

__ Consideration has been given to word choice, which might necessitate consulting a thesaurus.

__ Basic facts have been checked, especially those that would be embarrassing if you got the facts wrong.

In order to ramp up your writing technique, try reading Developing Your Writing Style, one of many useful books to choose on the topic. Also advantageous, especially for those in the early stages of their careers, is English Made Simple and Diana Hacker's Rules for Writers, which has online exercises. If you're a student, or simply like to go old-school, you can also check out your local library, brick and mortar bookstore, or college bookstore. Whichever book you purchase, be sure to find one with exercises and a key at the back.

Many writers feel that grammar isn't important, that it even in some way inhibits their creativity. Even the famous Joan Didion said, "I never actually learned the rules of grammar, relying instead only on what sounded right." But Didion is the exception to the rule. You'd never hear a baseball player say that they didn't understand the rules of the game. And in writing (unlike in the world of baseball) you will have plenty of opportunities in both your personal and your professional life to make use of finely-tuned editing skills.