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Editing: How-to

One of the biggest challenges every writer faces is editing. No writer really likes doing it. It’s essentially finding everything that’s wrong with the masterpiece you just laboured over. I’ve blogged before on some of the best ways to edit and you can find that blog here. What I’d like to talk about today is some common things that need to be looked for when editing.

One of my most common mistakes and one I hear other authors talking about is the over use of the word ‘that’. It’s used a lot in speaking but in the written word it’s often not needed. For example the sentence, ‘He told her all of the things that he needed’ works just as well if said, ‘He told her all of the things he needed’ so often doing a find all on the word ‘that’ and removing most of them is a good way to start. Do be aware some uses of the word are necessary, so don’t just do a find and replace.

Another common mistake is the overuse of the character’s names. Often he, she, him and her are enough when there is only two or less characters present. The name can be used again here and there but it doesn’t have to be every paragraph.

Then there is the spelling ones that don’t get picked up by spell checker, for example using the wrong one of their, there, and they’re. As long as you’ve spelt them right then it’s not going to get flagged up as wrong.

The one I always do wrong is it’s and its, they are the opposite way round to my expectations and I can never remember which one I should be using. It’s is the shortened form of it is and its is when there is a posession and the owner is refered to as it. For example if you were refering to a ship’s sails you might say ‘its sails’, not ‘it’s sails’.

The words ‘begin’ and ‘start’ are used a lot in writing as well. They’re not so useful and in almost all cases can be cut out of work. The only time I’d use them is when there is a list of things the person has got to do and they ‘get started on their chores’ for example. It’s the same with ‘then’. It should really only be used in a list of things the person is doing, not as the start to a new sentence or paragraph.

There are a few others but they are the ones I find most often in my own work. I’m getting into the habit of not using them in the first place or using them correctly to begin with but occasionally they still creep into my work where they are not wanted.