Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What are The Most Common Problems Editors See in Writing?

Well, gather round one and all and I'll point out just a few that are likely to pop up when an editor is reading the writing of new writers – or otherwise. They're common and they're frequent, so try to get these babies out of your work and you'll be on the way to making some editor somewhere very happy.

Focus on the possessive(s). The boy's glove – the glove belongs to one boy. The boys' glove means the glove is somehow shared among several boys. If you say the glove belongs to those boys over there, then you don't need an apostrophe.

It's” is a contraction lots of people have trouble with. “It's” is the contraction for 'it is' or 'it has.' So it becomes “it's raining today,” or “it's been a very busy week.” If you leave out the apostrophe and you have 'its', then you have the possessive form of it. An example would be, “the car careened around the corner and its doors flew open.”

Avoid repetition. For example, “ISBN number”. Since ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number then you'd be saying 'number' twice. ISBN is sufficient. If you make a statement like “two twins” then you need to be talking about two sets of twins, otherwise it's redundant. Watch for this habit in your writing, a lot of writers do it.

Don't repeat the same word over and over. Glance through your writing. If you see the same word cropping up repeatedly, find places to change it. Vary your words and create interest.

As a general rule try to avoid passiveness. See how quiet and laid back it is? Instead write in the active voice. More forceful and clear.

Avoid cliches unless there is a strong reason for your character to speak one or for you to put it in your narration. Cliches annoy editors like pebbles in a shoe. So no more, “Bob arrived in the nick of time.” Or “Amy's problem was as plain as the nose on her face.” You can even find cliche dictionaries if you're in doubt.

Avoid adding qualifiers to your sentences. No more “very,” “really,” or “suddenly.” Don't weaken your writing with them. Get some real strength into our writing, who needs those wimpy sentences.

Vary your sentence length and paragraph length. That's what good writing is. You vary length for ease of reading. Gigantic blocks of words will definitely put your reader off. Most paragraphs go on forever because the writer just didn't know where to break it. Don't be one of those writers.

Cut, cut, cut. Tighten your writing, eliminate extra words. Don't look blank, you know what I mean. Those flowery sentences you're in love with? Dump them.

Oh, and don't confuse your reader by trying to impress him or her with your wonderful and very broad vocabulary. Most of the time you need to keep it tight and clear. Your reader doesn't want to do something that feels like work when he or she picks up your book. It's supposed to be fun, relaxing, maybe educational. Don't make it complicated and confusing.

And those are just a few of the problems. Ask any editor and that editor will give you a list that's even longer of common problems they see in manuscripts. So read the type of book you write or want to write and develop the habits early regarding your book's structure.


  1. A great list, thanks!

    I use the AutoCrit Editing Wizard to find a lot of these problems. It saves a lot of time and I end up with a way better manuscript.


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