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Self Editing Tips – 3# – Write to be Right

September 29, 2010
ٍEditing strike01

I’ll get it out there and in the open.  My punctuation is poor. My spelling, appalling. I loathe grammar. I fall in love with adjectives. Anyone who has read my first drafts or been on the end of a skype chat with me furiously typing away can attest to those things.  In short, a career coach would do all they could to steer me away from my dream of being a writer because I lack the basics.

However, it begs the question. Is writing about the mechanics – or is there something deeper which separates those who can and those who can’t write? ( and perhaps those who shouldn’t.. but then – who is to judge that?)

Perhaps one of the most important lessons an emerging writer can take on, is to make the decision that “when they write, they are right.” To do this, one must be conscious; no matter what they commit to the screen or to paper; that it is correct. It is a journey which I endeavour to take every time I write, battling against my ‘failings’; determined to ‘make it.’

Heather Harris , a freelance editor and editor over at Pop Bunker has recently aired her thoughts about the shabby attitude of apparently professional writers; particularly with regards to their lack of attention to the basics. Her thoughts triggered this post and in my ownership of my own lack of expertise in the area.

In my series of self editing tips, I’d like to focus on some of the basics she so eloquently points out as failures in most ‘professional’ writers works.

As important as correct spelling and grammar are, errors can slip through past even a thorough check. Running your wordprocessings spell check doesn’t constitute “reasonable” by the way. Try running your finger or a pen through the sentences backwards – so that you aren’t caught up with the text and you are actually checking the words.

Check words your spell check may have missed. An example of this might be typing ‘her’ instead of ‘here.’ Your spell check won’t get this because ‘her’ is spelled correctly, even though it’s not the right word.

Before pressing ‘send’ or ‘post’, give the document a careful reading – out loud is best. I am often horrified at how clumsy my structure is with a read through.

Particularly for public documents; such as competition pieces (one would hope that you undertake a series of beta readers and editors though) and work which will remain in the public domain, it may mean that you ask another person to read over it. Given the text sprang from our fingers, we as the author intimately know what we ‘meant’ by a series of words.  It doesn’t mean that our carefully constructed sentences will hold meaning for others; or that that our readers will pick up on our clever nuances.

Make no bones about it.  The competition stakes are high for writers. Choose to produce well rounded documents with few glaring holes, and your work will automatically rise to the top percentage. Choose to write, right. I am on my journey in doing so and am always happy to be picked up and assisted in ‘the things I need more work on’.  Particularly with public domain documents – you never know who is reading it.. and when they do.. take care of your “image’ as a professional  writer.

I will echo Heathers words  “I want my industry to be represented by the competent and talented folks who deserve the credit. It’s that simple, or at least, I think it should be.”

Bravo Heather… ditto.

Image via Wikipedia

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Annie Evett expects the red pen of pain to rip through this article… please do..my ego is not so large that I cannot accept help. Follow Annie’s shameless self promotions here on Twitter  or here onAudio Boo and start your escape into her world here
4 Comments
  1. September 29, 2010 7:25 am

    Bravo, of should I say, “Brava!”. It takes a really honest, and brave person to admit when he or she has failings, and to do so in the public domain. I have noted from my earlier readings of your posts, Annie, that your punctuation can be poor. Your content on the other hand is frequently lovely, and it would take a really boorish person not to admit this.

    I love correct punctuation and spelling; mainly because I have made mistakes of my own in the past (of course I have)… glaring mistakes, to my mind; unimportant mistakes to the minds of others. Then again, I was a teacher and majored in English when at college, so I should be proficient in the uses of punctuation and grammar.

    Don’t worry, Annie; I have taught with people who maintain that neither of these disciplines is at all important, “as they interfere with the flow” of written language. Bollocks! Only spoken language needs flow… written language needs care.

    If you have a sense of humour; if you want to enjoy yourself while you learn; if you have not read her yet, read the amazingly funny, yet useful book by Lynne Truss: ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eats,_Shoots_%26_Leaves
    and while you are waiting for amazon.com to deliver your copy, run your SpellChecker over the following passage, a teacher friend sent me this week.

    Eye have a spelling chequer,
    It came with my Pea Sea.
    It plane lee marks, for my review,
    Miss Steaks I can knot sea.
    Eye strike the quays and type a word
    And weight four it two say
    Weather eye am write oar wrong.
    It tells me straight a weigh.

    Ah! The vagaries of the English language.

  2. September 29, 2010 12:50 pm

    It’s a continuous learning process. Just when you think you know it all, you learn something new.

  3. September 30, 2010 2:34 am

    I love spelling and the basics of grammar are fine but I am aware that there are less well-known grammatical “crimes” that I commit frequently. I’m doing an editing course (well supposed to be doing one!) and hoping I can absorb it all!

  4. October 2, 2010 4:56 pm

    I find so many errors in published literature, I wonder if the rules changed and no one told me. The one most annoying to me–maybe because I worked so hard to fix it–can you now jump around in POVs? One sentence you’re in HER head, next sentence in HIS? I’m not talking omniscient either.

    Because I’m not an LPA (long-published author), I’ll assume agents and publishers still require rigor from me.

    Nice article, Annie.

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