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The Top Eight Reasons Your Writings Need Editing

Everybody thinks they’re the next Hemingway or Steinbeck. But I guarantee even those famous writers had to have their writings edited over and over before they were finally, finally ready for publication. And if they need it, we ordinary writers definitely need it!

1) Words Aren’t Speled Right
I know, I know. I misspelled a word and you noticed it. I can’t tell you how many books, magazines, and websites I’ve seen with spelling errors. Websites seem worst of all, maybe because they’re created faster and people figure no one will notice the errors. One website owner even whined that he thought a few errors were okay because they showed he was human. He had to be kidding. I’ve known individuals who tossed aside a perfectly good book because they noticed a few errors.
2) Punctuation: Is’nt in the Right Places
Punctuation is all those tricky little marks like commas, colons, periods, apostrophes, dashes and such. They’re a little like traffic signs: they can indicate contractions, lists, emphasis, pauses, full stops. The writing becomes very confusing and jumbled if the punctuation is wrong or perhaps missing entirely. Imagine what would happen if there were no warning or stop lights on our highways. You get the idea.
3) Sentences Awkwardly Are Written
Do you see how even one word in the wrong place can make a sentence klunky and awkward? The order of words in a sentence really matters. If a story or a book doesn’t read smoothly, people often reject it for easier fare. Writers should even consider whether certain phrases should be placed at the beginning or the end of a sentence. If you want to draw attention to a phrase, place it at the beginning of the sentence: “Because he was the scrawniest in a family of eight, Sam always got stuck with the dirtiest and most disgusting chores.” See what I mean, you want to emphasize that Sam is weak and scrawny so you put it first.
4) There Grammar are Atrocious
Grammar includes things like capitalization, using the correct tense, and the correct use of pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Subjects and verbs must agree, pronouns must be used with care, and watch the gross overuse of adjectives and adverbs. Probably the most common grammar problem I see is the misuse of there, their, and they’re (and your, you’re, and yore). Grammar matters.
5) People Sometimes Like to Tell you Their Complete, Unabridged Life Story With all the Trimmings— Know What I Mean?
As a free lance editor, very rarely do I have to tell a writer that they’ve got to add 15- or 20,000 words. Usually people overwrite. And it’s awfully easy to become attached to one’s own words. One descriptor for such stuff in the writing world is “purple prose.” More often than not, when I edit a beginner’s novel, I have to cut large portions of boring, extraneous detail from the text. And the beginners are often so in love with their words that, when I’m done, they reinsert the content right back into the manuscript. Sad, but true.
6) Writers don’t Keep it Lucid and Intelligible (Simple)
Somewhere along the way many writers embraced the idea that the bigger the words, the more complex the language, the more impressive the writing. False! The best writing is simple, written at about a seventh grade level. And, believe it or not, writing at a seventh grade reading level can be profound and eloquent. The point is, you don’t impress anyone searching your thesaurus for a bigger or more confusing word to throw into that sentence. Now, of course, there’s always the rare exception—some famous writer you’ve read who has a massive vocabulary. Well, don’t forget, that writer has probably been writing for so many years that he or she has built up a loyal audience—an audience accustomed to the vocabulary. It doesn’t mean you should do it.
I know what you’re thinking. If you’re just skimming this article, you may be thinking that I’m a die hard English teacher writing a piece for high school students. No way. This article is for anyone of any age or station in life who takes out a pad and pen or sits down at a computer to type. As a professional writer, I’m constantly aware that I can write better. And you should feel the same way. Everyone who writes can use an editor. But, if there’s no editor handy, read your pages through five or six times, looking for any of the weaknesses I’ve mentioned. Then go about your business for a day or two and come back and edit it again. It’ll surprise you how many mistakes you missed. I’m not asking you to become a best-selling author. I’m just challenging you to become a more readable writer.

And, by the way, in case you didn’t realize it, the headings are intentionally written wrong just to catch your attention. Point well taken. If you need an editor for your book project, please get in touch. I’ve prepared hundreds of manuscripts for the publisher. See my website at http://www.editingfactory.org

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