While working on my blog and book, I am always in edit mode. As I search for the best way to describe something, I look up words for precise definitions and correct spelling. I work on clarity, sentence structure, and transition words. Occasionally, I brush up on punctuation and grammar rules. Basic editing is the key to giving our great ideas coherence.
My grammar and punctuation were a bit rusty when I started, so I make sure I look up anything that I am unsure about. If you are not fresh out of college, or teaching a related subject, it is smart to keep your skills sharp.
I’ve seen some glaring punctuation and grammar mistakes in recent reading, so to avoid the same mistakes myself, I created this reminder list of favorite edits.
Be creative and drop the word “very” from your prose. She was very happy that she dropped “very” from her prose and thus was simply happy. If someone is very happy, could they not be excited, relieved, elated, exhilarated, or joyful instead? You will randomly find this word in my writing, though I have tried to eradicate its use.
Write out small numbers like the number nine, use numerals for larger: 99. Centuries and decades need to be spelled out: the fifteenth century and the seventies for instance. Don’t start a sentence with a numeral, spell it out, as in: Four million people expressed their dismay. Also, spell out rounded or estimated numbers. Thousands attended.
When interrupting dialogue with a tag line such as he said, resume without capitalizing. “Come with me,” he begged, “it’s not safe here.”
Use a comma after a name. “Susan, come with me.”
“Please use a new paragraph when the speaker changes,” he suggested.
“I will,” she said.
I’ve included some editing books in this post if you need some additional help.
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The most confusing verbs I have come across are lie and lay and their conjugates.
This morning I had to refer to my notes on the forms of lie and lay and all the frustrations that come with the use of lain, laid, lying, lie, laying? Guess I need to look again to decide what effect this edit rehash will have on my writing.
I lay (put or place) a book on my desk, then it is lying (reclining, resting) there.
to lay – “to put” or “to place”
Lay, laid, laid, laying: meaning to place, all have the long A sound like the word place.
If I lay it here, we should be able to find it.
Yesterday, I laid it down somewhere
I must have laid it down.
Now, I am laying it down on the table.
I will be laying it down shortly.
“To lay” has an object. We lay (put or place) something.
The confusion comes with the second word lie having the past tense form, lay.
to lie – “to recline” (lie, lay, lain, lying) Recline has a long I sound like Lie.
If I lie down, I should be able to sleep.
But, yesterday I lay down.
I must have lain down and fallen asleep.
Right now I am lying down.
I am going to lie down.
Soon, I will be lying down.
I am almost 54 years old and still confused by this. I might have to read it every day for the rest of my writing life.
Their, they’re, there
“Their” is possessive. They owned the coats, so the coats were their coats. Has an I as in I own it.
They’re is the contraction of “they are” hence the apostrophe to replace the “a.” They’re not going.
Over “there” is a direction or place. Think where? There. The two words have similar spelling. Where/there.
Affect is the action. The tool to remember: both action and affect begin with a. The storm affected (acted on) the following areas.
Effect is the result, the noun. What effect (result) did the storm have locally?
It’s is the contraction for “it is” hence the apostrophe where the letter “i” was.
It’s a great day.
When spelled its, the word it becomes possessive.
While the cat lay on her lap, the happy girl stroked its fur, and their friendship was born.
The confusion comes because possessive nouns like Billy’s coat have an apostrophe followed by s. Possessive its does not have the apostrophe.
Who and Whom
Whom is used when referring to an object in a sentence. Use whom where you would use him. Both end with m. You gave it to whom?
Who is used as the subject where you would use He or She.
Example: Who changed the lightbulb?
A simple way to test whether you’re using the right pronoun is to think about whether a statement would still make sense if you removed the other person.
She (and I) went to the store.
Or: She handed money to (Sally and) me.
I.e. and E.g.
Eg. means For Example – Some family members don’t usually come, e.g. Susan, Cindy, and John.
I.e. is used to give more Information and means That Is – The river (i.e. the Mississippi river at this time of year)
Other traps in writing:
Don’t over use the exclamation point: Is everything exciting? Or an exclamation?! Don’t use double punctuation either.
Spelling: look it up, make sure you are using the word correctly in the first place, then get the spelling right. Use spell check.
Don’t use text language such as LOL in prose or acronyms that not all readers are familiar with.
Do we really experience love with inanimate objects on a daily/hourly basis? Is it necessary to love everything?
Don’t rely on cliché or too many metaphors to sift through. It makes our work confusing and drains the life out of it.
Using complex language bores people. Be yourself and don’t get caught up in your own heady cerebral style and lose the story.
When in doubt leave it out.
Falling in love with words, paragraphs, chapters, or ideas that don’t fit with the theme, direction, style, or format without a specific purpose creates confusion and interrupts the flow of your story. Edit. Let them go.
So as I pre-edit my work in my rewrite, I will be mindful of these writing faux pas.
Maybe you have some traps you would like to add! The list of edits for clarity is endless.