Jennifer asks if you know when to use a comma
One of the most important things to search your manuscript for during the editing process, after you’d done the big stuff (like making sure you have a plot!) is checking punctuation.
There are lots of random punctuation marks that you want to make sure you use correctly, but the most common source of error is going to be the comma.
I am really good at proofing other people’s work; less so with my own, but that’s normal for everyone, and that’s why we need other people to check our work. When I was in high school, my best friend used to ask me to proof her essays. She used commas, every, time, she, breathed. It got to be a joke between us. She’d hand me her paper and ask me to look it over, but “get rid of the commas.” I’d tell her she either needed to stop putting in a comma every time she took a breath, or she needed to work on her lung capacity.
Today, I have a friend with the opposite problem. He contributes monthly articles to a newsletter that I edit. He writes many things, but they’re usually speeches—if no one is reading what you write, you can be a bit less concerned about punctuation. So when he gives me his articles, I’m constantly adding commas and semi-colons. To him, I say, “add a comma when you take a breath!”
If you’re going to write, make sure you have a copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style with you. It’s essential. I’m not going to go through all the rules here, but know when to use a comma and when not to use a comma. Learn it well enough to be able to put most of them in (or not) during your writing process, so that when it comes time to edit, you’ll have less work to do.