This month, we’re looking at the Edit step of the writing process. After you’ve got your draft in good shape, you need to make it easy to read. Editing is fixing what I call the “picky little English teacher stuff.” This is when you correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and such. Some of us don’t automatically use the proper forms and need to fix things later. And we all make typos or miss little things now and then. The goal is to give a smooth reading experience to your audience so they can focus on the story, not the mistakes.
While you may have fixed some things in the revise and response steps, now is the time to make sure the whole draft is neat and tidy and ready for publication. As in many of the other steps, it’s good to have a fresh set of eyes, so take a break if you need to before you look for these things. It’s also a nice time to use critique partners or beta readers to catch the things you might miss. Got that friend who is great with spelling or grammar? See if you can swap her services for fresh baked cookies or whatever treat she might enjoy!
As in many of the other steps, it might take more than one round to catch every typo or mistake. Take your time and do it right so you won’t pick up the book later and be mortified at all the problems you see. (For the Type-A writers, remember you don’t have to work too hard, either. One typo is not going to make a reader throw the book across the room.)
Here are a few common mistakes to look for:
We start a new paragraph every time a new person is speaking or there’s a change in topic. For example:
Dorothy fidgeted with her flute case. Could be she was a bit nervous at meeting a new boy. “Hi.”
“Glad to meet you,” Chip replied, a slight twinkle in his eye. Surely, he got attention from girls all the time.
We use quote marks before and after direct speech, and separate from dialogue tags (who is speaking) with commas if they are part of the sentence. For example:
“Good morning,” the lady said.
Many readers have pet peeves, like common words that are mistaken for others that may not be caught with autocorrect (there/they’re/their, your/you’re, its/it’s). The last one is one of my pet peeves. We use “its” for the possessive form of it, and “it’s” for the contraction of it and is. For example:
A pot of marigolds lay on its side on the sidewalk.
It’s nighttime in the city.
If you’d like more help with editing, you can find blogs like Grammar Girl or services like Grammarly. (I don’t know enough to give advice on these, but there are several out there.) And, of course, your local librarian or English teacher will have resources to recommend as well. Use what you have around you, and you’ll polish your draft to a perfect shine.
Please comment if you have any questions. Take care. See you next month.