READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD – NO CHEATING
That's my best advice.
Then there are these self-checks:
· One space after the period/end of sentence
· Be aware of what you habitually do in your own work, like I miss little words all the time, and overuse words and phrases, especially words used close together in the same paragraph or on the same page. Do a global search to identify these usages.
· Create your own cheat sheet
· Use a guide – even the Chicago Manual of Style refers to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary; Kathy Ide’s Polish the Pugs, which leaves room for you to add your own material
Commas are fairly subjective, but they are still used in a series and introductory phrases (though not a hard & fast rule), preceding a dependent clause (a piece of information, not a phrase that stands alone), and usually with independent clauses (where a phrase can stand alone). If the sentence is understandable without, leave it off. Rarely use commas in appositives anymore.
Periods and commas go inside quotation marks; usually question marks and exclamation marks will too, except when the question is not part of the dialogue
Semicolons and Colons go outside of quotation marks
Titles of complete works are italicized; segments, short stories, chapters, are quoted
Apostrophes – pain and horror and supreme annoyance: IT IS=IT’S; 1850s; Jesus’s love for us.
o Noun/adjective – no hyphen (generally, no hyphen when descriptive term is after the noun being modified); i.e., ear splitting
o Adjective/noun – use a hyphen; i.e., jet-black; over-the-counter drugs are available on that shelf; vs. I’m buying drugs over the counter
o Adverb/noun; Noun/adverb – no hyphen
Plural pronouns/plural usage: Someone didn’t get his nap today. We all need our naps. Examine an author’s work carefully to see if she had any typos. “They/Their/Them” cannot be used as singular gender neutral pronouns. Just don’t do it.
Tense: past/present – make sure the usage is consistent throughout.
Point of View – make sure you are experiencing a scene through one character’s head at a time.
Strong voice – few usages of the “was…ing” construction
Formatting your page: (standard manuscript) one-inch margins, font with a seraph, 12-point, indented paragraphs, no space between them, double-spaced, no funky symbols, no section breaks; headers/footers – check the guidelines on the agent/publisher site – always check anyway
Elements of story: Every story must have a recognizable beginning, middle, end
Know the genre
Identify your inciting incident (this will help determine where your story actually starts)
Make every sentence/scene/chapter/character count for something or else you end up with a bunch of independent little cute incidents stuck together
Write a killer hook sentence that will sell the work