10 consistency checks to help smooth your copy
If you want your copy to stand up to scrutiny, it's more than the spelling, punctuation and grammar that need your attention. As vital as these aspects are, there's another area that must be picked through with all the precision of a five-star pedant: consistency.
If your work is for traditional-route publication, it will be tinkered with to suit publisher house style, but it's important that your typescript is consistent in the first place. Here are 10 consistency checks to make as part of your overall self-editing/self-proofreading strategy.
1 Is your use of initial capitals consistent throughout? For example, if you refer to your 'Blog' on one page, is it still your 'Blog' on the next – or has it become your 'blog'?
2 Have you expressed an event such as 'World War I' in the same way all the way through? If 'World War I' is your phraseology of choice at first mention, don't let it morph into 'World War 1', 'World War One', or even 'WWI'.
3 Is each statement of time in the same format? 3:00 am, 0300 hours, 3.00 am, 3 am – three o'clock in the morning. There are a few possibilities. Choose one you like and stick with it.
4 Are there italics where there should be? If, for example, you use italics to express thought – ie If I carry on like this, she thought, I'm going to get caught … – be sure to italicise every thought.
5 Have you expressed headings consistently? Are you using initial capital letters on all words in a heading, or just for the first, or for significant words only?
6 Is your spacing consistent? In Word, use the show/hide spaces button on your toolbar to pick up extra spaces between words and sentences. And keep to a layout plan: are paragraphs indented or spaced with no indent? Are headings followed by a line space? Make sure that whatever you decide is implemented throughout.
7 Are names spelt the same? For example, is 'Susannah' always 'Susannah', or has she occasionally become 'Susanna'? And, while we're on names, if you've decided to change a character's name at some point during the writing process, have you changed it all the way through, or is there still the odd original name tag lurking to confuse your reader?
8 How do you express numbers – as figures or words? Or perhaps numbers 1 to 10 in words and those above 10 in figures? Have you followed your own rule?
9 How's your timeline looking? Does it make sense? If dates are mentioned, are they in the right order and do they properly correlate with events in the text? It's surprising what can get muddled during any rewriting.
10 Are your speech marks singles or doubles? If you've chosen doubles, have any singles sneaked in, or vice versa?
Checking for consistency takes times but, with care and concentration, it's a straightforward process and the results will speak for themselves – one more tick in the professional presentation box.