I finished editing a memoir this past week and celebrated. Celebrated my job being done, but also celebrated the writer, a woman whose native language is not English. Astonishing to me, her spelling was near perfect, better than Spellcheck, which, as you should know, doesn’t account for usage in its basic version. (Spellcheck thinks blue is fine when the word should be blew.)
I was very impressed by this woman who wanted to write about her life lessons, mainly for her children, but I know her friends will enjoy them, too. Even I did, and I am a stranger. She had the guts to set aside any fears of inadequacy and write. And she had the smarts to hire an editor. I told her not to worry about all the redlines, and that even the best writers need editors. Even editors need editors!
Before hiring an editor, it is wise and cost-effective to do as much editing as you can on your own. I advise you to turn on more options for Spellcheck. For the newer versions of Word, you can click on the File tab at the top left of your page, then click on Options, which might be under Help. Under the Proofing tab you can click on all sorts of options: check contextual spelling, mark grammar errors, check readability. You can also have it flag repeated words, which is a good idea, especially for people with habit words they like to use all the time.
You may also choose Auto Format options under the Proofing tab. Particularly useful are to replace straight quotes (“) with smart quotes (“) and replace double hyphens (hyphen hyphen) with what’s called an em dash, which is proper in books and looks like this: He bolted—did he know it was me? (Note no blank spaces around the dash.) If you don’t like the looks of an em dash, you can type space-hyphen-space followed by a word to create a shorter dash (the n dash), which looks like this: He bolted – did he know it was me? Keep in mind all the professionally done books use the em dash.
Whatever you do to make the editor’s job easier should reflect on the cost of the job, so it’s in your best interest to at least try to tidy things up before emailing to an editor. It is also advisable to get beta readers, which are test readers who enjoy reading your genre and who won’t be afraid to tell you what they think—nicely, of course! And if they can help you with spelling, grammar, and punctuation, all the better.
For tips on formatting your MS Word document for Amazon’s CreateSpace or subsidy publishers like Lulu.com, see my Resources page on this website to find the Design & Layout article. To format professionally, you’ll need to find someone who uses a publishing software program such as Adobe InDesign.