BellaOnline Literary Review

Proofreading Your Submission

One of the most common reasons we have to reject a written submission to Mused is that it has errors in its formatting, spelling, or both. Here are the top things to check for in your submission to ensure it gets accepted!

Blank Lines
There should be a full blank line between paragraphs. Please do not use tabs to indicate a new paragraph. Tabs are not understood by browsers and easily get lost. This causes the text to all "squish together" into a giant blob and become unreadable to the visitors. Please make sure there is a full blank line between every paragraph in your entry.

Any time the person speaking changes in a story, there should be a new blank line. So if you have Jack and Jill talking with each other, it should look like this:

Jack turned and looked at Jill. "Are you having any trouble with that water bucket?"

Jill smiled. "No, thank you. I'm doing just fine."

"That's good," responded Jack, turning to continue up the hill.

With the advent of modern spell checkers, there should be little reason for any submission to have obvious typos in it. Most modern web browsers will auto spell check any form area for you - highlighting misspelled words in red. While you absolutely should run an automatic spellchecker on your work, you should also manually re-read it several times as well. Spell checkers wouldn't know that the sentence "The hair ran across the garden path" was a problem - but the word there should be "hare".

Parenthesis use can greatly confuse and drag down a story. A parenthesis is the ( or ) symbol which causes one part of a sentence to stand apart from the rest of it. What it means to the reader, though, is that this is a tangental thought which distracts them from the main flow. Now they have to juggle two different threads in their head and then try to figure out how they combine together again. The more this happens, the more distracted the reader gets. Try to avoid parenthesis use whenever possible. Instead, keep the flow of your story forward and easy to follow. This gives the reader the best possible chance of understanding and enjoying your message.

Spell Out Numbers
When a reader is reading along and then runs into a number in numeric form, like 8, the reader has to mentally translate that in their head into the word "eight" which takes time and interrupts their flow of reading. Certainly if it's a large number like 2011 it is better to write the 2011 than to write out two thousand eleven. However, for most short numbers, use the word so that the flow stays smooth. "She turned sixteen and suddenly her life changed" is smooth and flowing. "He had to choose between the three types of candy which lay tantalizingly on the counter." Aim to have your numbers a smooth part of your sentence!

Avoid Lots of Exclamation Points!!!!
It's common in our exciting IM world of computers to hammer on the exclamation point to add emphasis, but in a non-fiction story format the overuse of exclamation points feels forced and intrusive. Instead, find ways to emphasize your emotions with words, rather than numerous punctuation marks. Use verbs that pop; use nouns which get the point across. Certainly if your story involves a thirteen year old girl shouting angrily at her mother, "I wish you were dead!" an exclamation point is an important part of that line. In other situations, though, seek ways to convey the strength of the emotions through powerful words.

Its vs It's
One of the most common word errors we see involves the use of "its" rather than "it's" and vice versa. There is only one place that "it's" is ever used. That is if you could substitute the phrase "it is" in the same place. If you cannot say "it is" in the same spot, then you should not be using "it's". That's an easy rule to remember!

It's misty and tranquil this spring morning; let's go for a stroll along the beach.
Its hue a sickly yellow, the moon faded in and out of view behind a billowing raincloud.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

To Learn More  .   .   .

Main Submission Guidelines
Visual Art Submission Guidelines & Form
Fiction Submission Guidelines & Form
Non-Fiction Submission Guidelines & Form
Play Submission Guidelines & Form
Poetry Submission Guidelines & Form