Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Checklist Before A Writer Hits Send

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

There’s a little voice in our writer minds that likes to nag. Usually it acts as our friend, reminding us to double check our articles for typos. But sometimes this little voice becomes obsessive, causing us to worry that an editor will find something obviously wrong with our submissions even though we have no idea what the problem might be.  

Nag, nag, nag. How do we silence the little editor voice in our heads and have confidence that our articles and manuscripts are ready for submission?

It’s a good idea to have a checklist handy every time you submit something. The checklist will vary according to which publishing house, publication, or agent you are submitting to, so be sure to print those guidelines for each submission. Take a look at the list below and make sure you’ve covered the bases before you attempt to hit a home run. This double check will help keep your little editor voice happy and silent. The first three questions are about the “technical” aspects of a submission, and the rest are focused on the content (for nonfiction). 

8 Questions to Ask Before You Submit 

1. Does it have my “byline”?
Don’t roll your eyes, please. You would be surprised how many writers don’t put their name on their writing. You know that you wrote it, but when an editor (like me) downloads your file, along with everyone else’s, it costs time trying to figure out who wrote what if the byline is missing. Editors may not stop to investigate who wrote your submission, and put it in a slush pile.

2. Does it have the correct formatting according to the submission guidelines?
Don’t let zeal override good sense. Re-read every line of the submission guidelines before hitting “send.” See if your recipient requests a cover letter and specifies what should be in it. Double check that you have used the right font, size, and spacing. Make sure you have a header if requested. Everything we can do to follow someone’s guidelines shows that we are paying attention and we care.  

3. Is my word processor flagging any spelling or grammatical errors?
That red or blue squiggly line may save you from embarrassment if you find an error before you hit the send button. If I have cut and pasted a lot of sentences, I find it helpful to run the spell check one more time. 

4. Would the first three lines appeal to me if I were the editor or agent receiving the submission?
Because they are so busy, editors and agents may look at just the first few lines or paragraphs of your writing to make a decision about it. Don’t give them a reason to stop reading. Use vivid nouns and verbs to craft a story, or find an intriguing quote or alarming statistic to begin your submission. Make sure no “limp” words or sentences are sabotaging your chances of being published.  

5. Does my flow of thought stay on track?
A trick I’ve learned is to read the first line of every paragraph to analyze my own flow of thought. This helps me to evaluate whether each paragraph is an interesting progression of my point and needed in my writing. It also helps me to see whether the first lines of my paragraphs are captivating enough to hold the reader’s attention.  

6. Have I included enough “take away” and supporting evidence to back it up?
Look over your writing one more time and make sure that your take away (what the reader will apply to his or her life) is placed throughout your writing and not saved for just the end of the article or the end of each chapter. What can the reader learn and benefit from? Then see if you have used enough stories, statistics, quotes, and so forth to prove your point. Meaningful take away makes your writing sparkle and catches the eye of editors and agents.

7. Does my writing have a strong finish? 
Some writers end with a summary of what has been said. Others reinforce their point with a brief story or illustration. Make sure your writing engraves a memorable take away on the reader’s mind and heart, and moves an editor or agent to say, “Yes! That’s what I was looking for.”

8. Have I incorporated the feedback from my writers group and writing friends?
Someone else’s objective viewpoint has improved my writing more times than I can count. If my writing buddy has marked a printout of my writing, I double check every edit to make sure it has been included.

Do you have a system in place to check your submissions before you hit the send button? Share your tips in the comments below, and keep the conversation going!


Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, a ministry which seeks to connect people to God through His Word. She has taught the Bible to women and teens, and has published two Bible studies on winning life’s spiritual battles. Her newest release, Breaking the Chains, is a compilation on how to overcome spiritual bondage. Katy is also an editor and a designer of Refresh Bible Study Magazine. She makes her home near Atlanta, Georgia.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Ingmar, and thanks for sharing this on Twitter!

  2. Ms. Katy. Great checklist ma'am. This is yet another "keeper." Thank you so much. If you don't mind, I'll add a #9. #9: Say a prayer for the editors, publishers, and readers so each one receives the message God wants them to get from our writing. God's blessings ma'am...

    1. Prayer is always good. We can pray for just the right agent and/or publisher, too. And we can do our part to make it ready for them! Thanks for your comment, Jim. I'm glad you liked the post.

  3. So timely! Great reminders as we hover over the SUBMIT button.

    1. Thank you, Kass. I am glad it was timely. I wish you well if you're submitting something soon!

  4. Thanks Katy! Timely and informative.

    1. Hello, Marilyn! Thank you, and I am glad you liked it. Take care!

  5. Need this list taped to the side of my file cabinet beside my computer...Donevy

    1. I appreciate that! Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Thank you for this checklist. I needed to know these points.