Editing is tricky work! The whole writing game is tricky work, in general. And worse –– if the writing has not been edited, at least to some level of quality – i.e. cognizant grammar and cohesive digestibility – it will not be read.
We writers/authors cannot risk being dumped into the spiraling death holes of:
“Unread”, “Unpublished” or “Unsold”
Pouring our heart and soul into our writing is what we do. We give life to new ideas, worlds, characters and experiences. Writers love to write! And there are a slew of reasons why we do it. Some writers are content to create for personal reasons, without a care in the world if anyone reads their works. Many more enjoy sharing with a readership of one kind or another.
But how do we get someone to read, publish, or buy?!
I have FIVE tips to help!
“No Edit / No Read” is a series of five separate posts aimed at helping anyone who struggles in any of these five editing problem areas:
Punctuation and Grammar
Lots of Dialogue vs. Meaningful Dialogue
Telling vs. Showing
Let’s jump right to the chase with my Number One, #1, Superstar, First Prize, and All Star editing recommendation:
#1 – Punctuation and Grammar!
I know! This is a plunge into the bottomless pit of disillusionment and despair! Take heart, fair writer, patience and gathering nuts, I mean tips, along the way will keep you sane.
I will admit, there is far too much to cover on the subject of Punctuation and Grammar than I can cover for you here. It’s exhausting just thinking about it! Never fear, there are books out there on this subject. So, with that being said, I am only covering a few simple things that you can implement in your editing process.
In today’s world, it is increasingly apparent that texting & social media have reduced the ability of a new generation of writers to understand (or care about?) the importance of grammar and punctuation. But readers do care! At least those who are trying to read your blog/stories/novels –or your texts.
From my own experience, it is hard enough to get into a story sometimes without the added problem of getting tangled up in a disorientating web of unpunctuated sentences and bad language.
Recently, I have found myself clicking out of blogs due to my horror of their lack of punctuation (aside from an occasional period) and poor grammar.
Grammar and Punctuation are the evil twins!
I get it. There are extensive rules to both and I am no English teacher. In fact, I’m sure taking an English class would be quite beneficial to me. If you are an English teacher…..I promise to sign up next week! J
Our first step in the journey to self-editing is to take off the writer’s hat (you know, the one with the long, flowy feather) when we’ve finished writing and put on the editor’s cap (or helmet). Now, look at your work as objectively as you can. Reread what you wrote. Scan for problems. Mark them up with a red pen. Repeat these steps at least a few times, until you are satisfied. Then, set the piece aside for a day, a week, or a month. Return to it with fresh eyes. I guarantee you will add more red marks.
Do it out loud.
Reading your work out loud is one of the best ways to quickly identify (and quarantine!) problems within your written work. Even if you think it sounds perfect to your ears, I recommend that you have a friend read through it – if you feel comfortable with that idea.
Alternate long and short sentences.
Does your writing flow smoothly, with the necessary pauses (,) and stops (.)? Are you writing the way you speak? Or, is it one long, buzzing ramble? Too many long sentences exhaust your readers, while too many short ones give them a jerky ride.
Write in a narrative voice that is easy to understand.
Telling a story obligates you to engage your reader in a relatable and readable way. The narrative of your story should not be written in slang, lingo, or regional accents. Just use Standard English (unless writing in German etc., then use that).
Use slang, lingo, and regional accents for dialogue, if it’s necessary and an effective way to convey your character’s identity when they’re speaking. But, not toomuch, to the point where it is difficult for the reader to decipher. Ask yourself, “Does the reader need a Secret Spy Decoder Book to read this?”.
Avoid the use of adverbs.
What are adverbs? Adverbs modify the verb or action word you are using. One easy way to “quickly” identify an adverb is they are often descriptive words ending in “–ly”. Here is a short list of adverb examples:
Beautifully – “The house was decorated beautifully.”
Try: “The house décor was beautiful.”
Quietly – “I snuck quietly out of the room.”
Try: “I snuck out of the room.”
Loudly – “He yelled loudly at the kids.”
Try: “He yelled at the kids.”
Amazingly – “She sang amazingly.”
Try: “She sang with amazing talent.”
Get savvy on commonly misused words and learn their correct usage:
- there, their, they’re
- your, you’re, yore, ur
- to, too, two, tow
- know, no, now
- who, whom
There is a ton more of these confusing words. This link to Scribblrs may help:
Last, remember to use ‘who’ when referring to a person, instead of ‘that’.
“It was the old man who smiled first.” (RIGHT)
“It was the old man that smiled first.” (WRONG)
The most important thing to remember is to slow down when in the editing process. It’s better to release your work after a serious scrubbing, than to risk losing your reader.
These are just a few quick tips to help you with editing. I hope it was helpful to you in some way.
What are your punctuation or grammar pet peeves?
(Hopefully, not one that I made somewhere above!)
Let us know with a comment below.
Thanks for stopping by!
Until next time – Write On! 🙂