K. D. Dowdall, Masterful Writing, Words That Matter

Tips For Proof Reading and Editing!

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Use ‘was’ only twice per page. This includes ‘were’ and ‘is’.

Limit adverbs. Search for ‘ly’ endings and get rid of as many as possible.

Watch out for bouncing eyes–He dropped his eyes to the floor. His eyes roved the room

Use gerunds sparingly. Search for -ing endings and eliminate as many as possible.

Eliminate ‘very’.

Eliminate ‘not’ and ‘n’t’–switch them to a positive. Rather than ‘he couldn’t run, he was so tired ‘. Instead say, ‘he stumbled forward, his legs so tired they refused to obey’.

Eliminate dialogue tags as often as possible. Indicate a speaker by actions. Those you keep should be simple, like said.

Be specific. Not ‘the car’, but the red Oldsmobile convertible’.

Eliminate but, the fact that, just, began to, started to. Rarely do these move the action forward.

Use qualifiers sparingly. This includes a bit, little, fairly, highly, kind of, mostly, rather, really, slightly, sort of, appeared to, seemed to–you get the idea. These make you sound unsure.

Run your manuscript through an auto-editor like Autocrit. It’ll find problems like sentence length variations and repetition of words so you can fix them.

Run your manuscript through a grammar checker like Grammarly or Hemingway.

Don’t have too many prepositional phrases in a sentence. There’s no set rule, but if you get lost before the sentence ends, you have too many.

Secure each chapter in place and time. A quick reminder of where characters are and whether it’s in the present or past is good enough.

Don’t repeat yourself. It’s tempting to retell events when a character is talking to someone who didn’t live through the last few chapters, but summarize instead–briefly. Your audience already knows this material.

Verify that time tracks correctly in your novel. Make sure the day is correct and that characters have enough time to get from here to there in the timeline.

Verify that your characters are wearing the correct clothing and have the right reactions for their position in the timeline. For example, if they were in a car accident, when they appear again in the novel, make sure they act accordingly.

Describe with all senses. Add what your character smelled or heard along with what s/he saw.

Don’t tell what you’re showing. Use one or the other, preferably showing.

A great way to find these miss-writings is with Ctrl+F, the universal Find short key. It will highlight all instances of whatever you’re searching on the page.

What these don’t address is character development, plotting, or living scenes so you’ll still have to deal with those prior to sending it to your editor.

What are your secrets to self-editing? I’d love to add it to this list.

Source:  I don’t remember exactly where I found these tips, but probably Writer’s Digest.com & Writing Forward.com

 

14 thoughts on “Tips For Proof Reading and Editing!”

  1. All excellent advice, especially describing with all senses. Some of this reminded me of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style or Stephen King’s On Writing, which pair well, I think, when introducing writing. I like rule seventeen from The Elements of Style: “Omit needless words.”

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      1. The amount of ‘critical’ errors it found over 2000. Some I could ignore, because I wrote in Australian English instead of American. Some were genuine and would have been embarrassing mistakes.

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