Whether you’re writing a blog post for your website or getting a manuscript ready to submit to your editor, you want your writing to make a good impression on the reader. In my work as an editor, I often see the same mistakes over and over again. Usually it’s things that a little time and a once-over could solve.
Keep in mind, no one is perfect. I don’t expect manuscripts to be publisher-ready when they come to me (and my writing isn’t either). But doing a self-edit can make a big improvement on your writing. And if your editor charges by the hour like I do, it might even save you some money in the long run.
1: When possible, use active voice instead of passive voice.
Passsive: Caroline and Carter are jumping on the trampoline.
Active: Caroline and Carter jump on the trampoline.
Fewer words = more action. Active voice moves your writing along at a good pace. It’s one of the things I still struggle with as a writer, so I know how important it is to re-read your work to correct it.
2: ALWAYS put commas and periods inside quotation marks when writing dialogue.
Figuring out punctuation with quotation marks is one of the most challenging things for many writers. There are a lot of rules to learn. Often, it just helps to have a handy guide like this one from Grammerly around to keep for reference.
3: Read your work out loud. Maybe not the whole novel, if that’s what you’re working on, but definitely essays and short stories, or parts with dialogue. I find it really helps make dialogue more natural if I actually say it and see how it sounds on my ears.
4: Don’t worry about formatting. Leave that up to your graphic designer. Keep things simple, double spaced, and written in a font that’s easy on the eyes. (I like Times New Roman, but some people prefer Garamond or even a sans-serif font.)
5: Take a break from your writing. A couple hours, a few days, even a month. When you come back to it with fresh eyes you’ll be better able to find places where you can improve dialogue, tighten up sentences, and change passive voice to active voice.