Friday, April 25, 2008

12 Self-Editing Tips for Beginners

"Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination." —Louise

A critique group is not a free editing service. Before you submit a manuscript to members, use this basic self-editing checklist.

1. Proofread your manuscript for rhythm and flow.
2. Spell and grammar check the manuscript. (On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab. Under Spelling or Grammar, select the options you want.)
3. Insert page numbers. (On the Insert menu, click Page Numbers. In the Position box, choose "top of page." In the Alignment box, choose "right.")
4. Delete adverbs. (To find adverbs, on the Edit menu, click Find. In the Find what box, enter "ly." Click Find Next.)
5. Check homonyms, contractions, possessives, and plurals. Homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelled differently: there, their, and they’re. Confused between its and it’s? For “it’s”, I read the sentence and insert, “It is…” If it isn’t, then it’s its. Possessives do not have an apostrophe: his, hers, theirs, our, and yours. Contractions have an apostrophe: don’t, won’t, can’t. Plurals never need an apostrophes.
6. Delete unnecessary words, overused phrases, clichés, jargon, and repeated words. Most writers with repetition problems employ sentences that average between 12 and 18 words. Delete unnecessary words: that, just, then, only, very, really, thing, lifestyle, the real world, stuff, kid(s), guy, good, bad, great, a lot, kind of, sort of, so, truly, completely, positively, and such. Use repeated words sparingly, but deliberately for emphasis, irony, or rhetorical effect. Delete repeated words or replace using a thesaurus (You can highlight each repeated or unnecessary word throughout the document. On the Edit menu, click Find. In the Find and Replace box, enter the word or phrase. Then click on the Replace box. Select Highlight. Then Find All.)
7. Make passive sentences active. Grammar check points out passive sentences.
8. Edit out redundancies (same meaning conveyed by other words): "young baby", "a variety of different", "an added bonus", "to over-exaggerate", "and plus", "and etc.", "end result", "free gift", "future plans", "hot water heater", "unconfirmed rumor", "killed him dead", "past history", "safe haven", "potential hazard", "completely surrounded", "false pretense," "ATM machine", "HIV virus", "PIN number". Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redundancy_(language)
9. Simplify dialogue tags. Instead of "he moaned", "he hissed", "he hollared", use “he said.”
10. Delete and replace weak verbs. “To be”: is, are, was, were, being, it is, it was. “To have”: has, have, had, having, has to. “To do”: do, does, did, doing. “To get”: get, got, getting, gotten. “To use”: use, uses, used, using.
11. Double check punctuation and spacing. Look for missing periods, overused commas, opening and closing quotes, and extra spaces. Delete exclamation points.
12. Vary sentence length and construction. To maintain interest, keep sentences readable. Reader’s Digest length sentences are 5-7 words. 1-20 words are easy to read. 21-25 words are easy to understand. 26-29 are difficult to follow. 30+ words are confusing.

One advantage of being in a critique group is to learn from the expertise of others. After editing rules, common mistakes or misspellings are pointed out several times, apply what you learn to future manuscripts.

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