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Old 03-11-2005, 06:11 PM   #1
neonlyte
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Do It Yourself Editing

When you are editing, hopefully before you send it on to someone else, do you have a list of common misused words that seek and replace or correct. I use 'Word's' Find function and search the there, their, they're, it's, its etc... My most common error is that, it seems to creep in all over the place when I'm typing and can generally be removed without need to modify the sentence.

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I thought it might be useful to summarise the posts here and the common errors writers make. This should save readers searching the entire thread. I'll update this post as more 'common errors' are added through replies.

Common mis-applied errors
there, their, they're, there's, past, passed, which/that, laid/layed/lay/lie

its, it's, tries/try's

that, so, just, and, really, nearly, almost, but - often redundant

he said, she said - overuse in dialogue. Don't tag to each dialogue line, breaks the flow and should be often redundant, if the dialogue is working. Use variations descriminately to show mood, eg. 'she snapped angrily', 'he answered quietly'.

he, she - ambiguous use

as, while, but, or - over-writing (applied erroneously suggest simultaneous action)

then, and, or- suggests linkage a followed by b followed by c...

was, told - showing not telling. If narrative contains told it may suggest the sentence ought be replaced with dialogue.

began to, started to, sort of, somewhat, nearly, really, with, almost, but, all-of-a-sudden - scrutinise their use in narrative text

Eventually, Then, Upon which, Which, And, All-of-a-sudden - possibly dubious 'sentence openers' in narrative text, though And has both place and effect.

Narrative and Dialogue require seperate treatment. Applying struture and rules of narrative to dialogue will result in stilted, flat, unrealistic dialogue.

Editing Easy on the Eyes
  • change font and type size eg. change view - see more
  • edit from the end of the story para by para, stops story flow and allows concentration on edit
  • don't rely exclusively on Word to correct spelling and / or grammar. Particular in dialogue where different rules can and ought apply.
This post supplied by Rumple is worth the read and contains a useful link.

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Originally Posted by Rumple Foreskin


While looking for something else I came across a free, writing site called TAMERI http://www.tameri.com/index.html There’s nothing new, but the information was well-organized and I like their lists, so I’m passing along the link and posting one section.

Rumple Foreskin

Words and Phrases to Kill

When editing a manuscript, some words deserve to die — not always, but usually. (If you miss the humor of the last sentence, you won’t after reading this document.) The words and phrases below are among those most often abused.
· any infinitive (to walk)
· about
· all
· almost
· always
· anxiously
· eagerly
· every
· finally
· frequently
· just
· merely
· nearly
· need
· never
· not
· often
· only
· so
· that
· “the public”
· then
· very

Adverbs
When used as modifiers of verbs, adverbs are ambiguous. If “he quickly ran,” then just how fast did he run? Adverbs do not answer to what degree or extent, despite what grammarians might say.

Adverbs of time are overused. Writers litter manuscripts with words such as “finally” and “then” because people do so in speech.

“Not” and other adverbs of manner are easy for writers; better words or phrases can be found in most cases.

very - While “very” is intended to magnify a verb, adverb, or noun, it lacks precision. “Very” is seldom essential.

not - “Not” is an adverb meaning “in no manner” or “to no degree.” We discourage writers from using “not” and negative words formed using the prefixes “ir-” and “un-” when possible.

never / always - Absolutes either lock a writer into a position or give the appearance of conceit.

often / frequently - Individuals have unique opinions of what constitutes frequently or often. Such measures of time are matters of perspective.

almost / nearly - Approximations should be used sparingly. Use “almost” or “nearly” when a precise measurement is unrealistic in fiction or impossible.

anxiously / eagerly - “Anxiously” implies with anxiety and “eagerly” implies with anticipation. Both are weak adverbs that can be replaced by better describing a situation.

She waited anxiously.

She sat waiting, biting her lip and looking around the room.

only / merely - Condescending when used to describe a noun.

Weak Links
finally - When describing a series of events, the word “finally” indicates laziness on the part of the writer. “Finally” implies an exhaustion or distaste for the series.

then / next - When recounting events, “then” and “next” are weak transitions. Try eliminating “then” with specific references to time, location, or list characteristics.

As we drove down Main Street, we first saw Smallville Hardware. Then, across the street was Ma’s Kettle, a popular restaurant. Next, we saw a bar, the post office, and a barbershop. Finally we reached City Hall.

As we drove down Main Street, we first saw Smallville Hardware. Across the street was Ma's Kettle, a popular restaurant. Passing the next block, we saw a bar, the post office, and a barbershop. City Hall greeted us at the end of the street.

Adjectives
Writers must remember that adjectives are relative to a reader’s experiences. Describing a character as tall without specifying a height allows every reader to imagine a different measurement. Some writers prefer to allow audiences a lot of freedom, but doing so can be dangerous.

amazing / wonderful / etc - Avoid overstating how special a person, thing, or event is. Romance novels, in particular, overuse these words.

big / small, short / tall - Remember each reader has a unique perspective from which he or she views other people. Give precise descriptions of characters when possible.

all / every - “All” and “every” imply absolute quantities.

perfect - Nothing real is perfect.

Nouns
the public - The public seldom thinks or acts as a single unit.
need - There are few needs, but wants and desires are plentiful.

Prepositions
about - (adv) Use the phrase “went around” or a similar phrase that more clearly indicates a sense of direction. (prep) When used colloquially in the phrases “how about,” “what about,” and “not about to,” kill the phrase.

Last edited by neonlyte : 03-17-2005 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:16 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neonlyte
When you are editing, hopefully before you send it on to someone else, do you have a list of common misused words that seek and replace or correct. I use 'Word's' Find function and search the there, their, they're, it's, its etc... My most common error is that, it seems to creep in all over the place when I'm typing and can generally be removed without need to modify the sentence.

Anyone any other tips?
I don't have a tendency to misuse homonyms in that way, but I do overuse that. (I can still hear my high school English teacher's daily refrain: "When in doubt, leave it out.")

I also have to pay close attention to sentence structure. I've a tendency to sink into a rut. It's one of the things I notice first when reading someone else's work.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:18 PM   #3
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*Bookmarks thread for archiving*

That is a redundancy which used to creep into my writing a lot, until I noticed it in another person's writing one day. After that, I kicked that habit. But, there are others. So is another common redundancy, as is just. It's a learning process, but one which I'm gradually getting the hang of and noticing about my writing the more I write and the more I edit. It's teaching our brains not to type as we speak, but being efficient with our words and only including those which are absolutely necessary.

Cheers, Neon!

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Old 03-11-2005, 06:20 PM   #4
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Too many pronouns. I hate to see over use of he and she.

SJ
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sophia jane
Too many pronouns. I hate to see over use of he and she.

SJ
Unambiguous use of he/she when writing group sex scenes is also an issue.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by impressive
I also have to pay close attention to sentence structure. I've a tendency to sink into a rut. It's one of the things I notice first when reading someone else's work.
The sentence structure thing is interesting. The certain writers here who have (for me) a very distinctive sentence, and indeed paragraph structure. I won't go into names while the voice thing is running but there are two writers with a defined rhythm in their writing, curiously both very similar in rhythm, para's nearly always finish with a short five or six word sentence, but quite different in their language. I'm really curious to see if I picked them right.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:27 PM   #7
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I find the process of micro-editing to be quite quick and straightforward, it's the macro-editing that I sweat over sometimes.

I find I write pretty efficiently, with not too many pronouns, etc and I don't have a problem with homonyms, and sometimes I'm pretty damn happy with my first draft. But, there are times where something doesn't quite work right and I find myself re-writing sections, or adding bits here and there (I'm talking longer works here, btw, not usually shorts). I believe in keeping that flow going well and building pace, but sometimes it just doesn't work on the first draft.

However, there is such a thing as too much tinkering, and it's deciding where to stop that's the tough part.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tatelou

That is a redundancy which used to creep into my writing a lot, until I noticed it in another person's writing one day. After that, I kicked that habit. But, there are others. So is another common redundancy, as is just. It's a learning process, but one which I'm gradually getting the hang of and noticing about my writing the more I write and the more I edit. It's teaching our brains not to type as we speak, but being efficient with our words and only including those which are absolutely necessary.
But that then raises the question whether or not to keep them for dialogue. I think dialogue 'sounds' stilted on the page if the flaws of common speech are entirely removed.

I do agree with you on So and Just - I've just been removing a few of those so and so's.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:28 PM   #9
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Taking the dicta of those above me as a starting point:

My problem is over-writing. Or used to be. I skim through for constructions in as and while, particularly during sex scenes, because it is a sign that I'm trying to describe someone's action as being simultaneous with someone else's. I likewise look for then in sex scenes, and otherwise. If I'm belaboring the concatenation of actions, I'm over-writing.

This doesn't leave me able to do a quick excision, as with that. It just points me to the spots where I might have been over-describing. I have to consider and judiciously strike the inessential, after locating the trouble spots.

I work the first five paras extensively. Those are the leading edge with which one either captures the reader or does not. Background does NOT belong there.

One always looks for places where the information is already being provided elsewhere in the piece. Redundancies in short fiction are blunders. But there is no easy way to locate those, I'm afraid.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:29 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neonlyte
But that then raises the question whether or not to keep them for dialogue. I think dialogue 'sounds' stilted on the page if the flaws of common speech are entirely removed.
Yes, most definitely. Dialogue has to "sound" real. I was talking mainly about the writing within the narrative.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cantdog

I work the first five paras extensively. Those are the leading edge with which one either captures the reader or does not. Background does NOT belong there.
Exactly. Couldn't agree more.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:31 PM   #12
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You have to clean up "natural" dialogue a little, but most of the rules of sentence construction don't apply. Dialogue in a story isn't really as you would speak, but it is a damn sight closer than narrative is.
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Old 03-11-2005, 06:37 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cantdog
You have to clean up "natural" dialogue a little, but most of the rules of sentence construction don't apply. Dialogue in a story isn't really as you would speak, but it is a damn sight closer than narrative is.
It's probably why I enjoy writing dialogue so much. I don't feel so pressurised by the structure and rules of narrative.
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Old 03-11-2005, 07:01 PM   #14
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Taped to the bottom of my monitor is a 5x3 index card on which is written:

'Watch out for -

'was' - telling not showing
-~ly' - there's usually a better way to word
'and', 'as', 'really', 'very', (and I've added 'so'!)
'began to', 'started to', 'seem[ed] to', 'just'
'sort of', 'almost', 'somewhat', 'nearly'
'then', 'that', 'of', 'with'


Most of the advice came from the much-missed Whispersecret.

Now if someone can tell me how to remember to look at it!

Neonlyte makes a very good point about writing dialog(ue)!

Alex
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Old 03-11-2005, 07:19 PM   #15
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I often find myself cutting off the first word of sentences. (Specially when editing others work) Usually they are words such as Eventually, then, Upon which. (upon which? when did I ever use that?) suddenly, when.
Funnily enough I never strike out and from beginnings of sentences. I like starting sentences with and.
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Old 03-11-2005, 07:31 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gauchecritic
I often find myself cutting off the first word of sentences. (Specially when editing others work) Usually they are words such as Eventually, then, Upon which. (upon which? when did I ever use that?) suddenly, when.
Funnily enough I never strike out and from beginnings of sentences. I like starting sentences with and.
And I don't dare to disagree
Tell me Gauche when you take out the "eventually","then","suddenly","when" from the beginning don't you lose all sense of transition between sentences and ideas?

Edited to add: I am assuming you're getting rid of them and not just relocating them further down the sentence.
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Old 03-11-2005, 07:39 PM   #17
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My bęte-noires are 'but' and 'then'.

I have tried to eliminate 'then' but 'but' recurs too often, especially in my posts.

My other problem is changing the characters names. When I start a story I usually set the characters names. As the story develops the name might no longer seem right for the character. I slide into renaming and despite search and replace I don't always get the names consistent throughout.

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Old 03-11-2005, 07:52 PM   #18
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Geez! Usually I'm happy if I spell my own name right. Thanks for the tips everyone.
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Old 03-11-2005, 08:16 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFreud
And I don't dare to disagree
Tell me Gauche when you take out the "eventually","then","suddenly","when" from the beginning don't you lose all sense of transition between sentences and ideas?

Edited to add: I am assuming you're getting rid of them and not just relocating them further down the sentence.
I think that's probably why some readers find it difficult to follow the sense of my work.

Consider:

Eventually we woke much later in the day.

Then all hell broke loose.

Suddenly I sat up.

When I came to again I was naked... again.
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Old 03-11-2005, 08:16 PM   #20
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"All of the sudden" or "all the sudden"... I've been told it's not a real term, that I have made it up. I fight it but it creeps in. Suddenly is a little better but I still probably use it too much.
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Old 03-11-2005, 08:19 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carsonshepherd
"All of the sudden" or "all the sudden"... I've been told it's not a real term, that I have made it up. I fight it but it creeps in. Suddenly is a little better but I still probably use it too much.
I never said you made it up, dearie...Just that I had never heard it before.

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Old 03-11-2005, 09:14 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neonlyte
When you are editing, hopefully before you send it on to someone else, do you have a list of common misused words that seek and replace or correct. I use 'Word's' Find function and search the there, their, they're, it's, its etc... My most common error is that, it seems to creep in all over the place when I'm typing and can generally be removed without need to modify the sentence.

Anyone any other tips?
I used to rely heavily on word, and without thought. However, my new computer if fucked. I press the letters, and word reads it as being spelled right, but there is a missing letter. I now have to go through everything a few times to catch those things, which is a pain. The benefit of this is noting common errors. Past/passed, which/that and laid/layed/lay seem to be the common ones for me, so I have recently, and unfortunately noted.
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Old 03-11-2005, 10:59 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neonlyte
When you are editing, hopefully before you send it on to someone else, do you have a list of common misused words that seek and replace or correct. I use 'Word's' Find function and search the there, their, they're, it's, its etc... My most common error is that, it seems to creep in all over the place when I'm typing and can generally be removed without need to modify the sentence.

Anyone any other tips?
I don't have enough of a problem with commonly misused words to make a find search worthwhile as a general practice. Sometimes during editing, I find I've slipped back into too many compoun sentences and will do a search for AND, OR, BUT, and THEN.

The main suggestion I have for self-editing is to change the font, font size and/or font/background colors before editing. Changing the appearance of your text will cause you toactually see wht is there insted of what you already know is there (because you typed it.)
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Old 03-12-2005, 02:00 AM   #24
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I hope this doesn't become a double post. i lost a reply somewhere It disappeared....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Weird Harold
The main suggestion I have for self-editing is to change the font, font size and/or font/background colors before editing. Changing the appearance of your text will cause you toactually see wht is there insted of what you already know is there (because you typed it.)
Thank you.. this solves one of my major problems..... I read for edit and I don't see what is there but what I meant to be there..... I usually have to let it sit for a while and then edit again and then again....

Lay/lie/laid... these give me fits...
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Old 03-12-2005, 03:31 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TxRad
Thank you.. this solves one of my major problems..... I read for edit and I don't see what is there but what I meant to be there..... I usually have to let it sit for a while and then edit again and then again....

Lay/lie/laid... these give me fits...
Another trick is to edit one paragraph at a time from the end back to the beginning. It's difficult to edit that way but it does help concentrate the attention on just that bit of the story without the intended flow of the plot confusing the issue.

Anything that can break you out of writing mode into editing mode helps, but no matter how many times and wys you look at or how mny other people look at it, the day it posts, you'll proudly check it over for the tiniest flaw and something will simply leap off the screen at you like a zit on prom night.
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