Advice From An Editor
As an editor, I give a lot of feedback to both experienced and new writers. As a writer myself, I receive criticism on all my work that I submit. I thought it might be helpful to other writers to see the most common advice I give and receive while editing and writing.
Not Using a Spelling or Grammar Checker
This is my highest pet peeve as an editor. I simply cringe when an initial read-through of a piece shows obvious spelling and grammar errors. First, I think it shows a lack of pride in one’s work when they do not take the time to review their piece prior to submitting it. Second, it takes valuable time for me to fix all the minor mistakes. Frequently, I give less feedback on the work itself (structure, character development, plot, etc.) due to the amount of time it takes. While spelling and grammar checkers can be wrong and are not comprehensive, they do a pretty good job of catching most of the errors. Most document programs come with some type of spelling and/or grammar checker. There are also a couple of free ones on the web. The ones I recommend the most are Grammarly and Slick Write.
Love them or hate them, commas are important. I think misplaced or missing commas are the second thing I see the most of, both as a writer and editor. Sometimes, a comma can be used or not, so do what you think makes the writing flow the best. Most of the time when I get my pieces back from my editor, commas are the star. I do not always agree with her placement or removal of commas, but truly, there are so many different rules on them that I usually don’t argue.
Speaking of commas, they are important when you are using dialogue tags and go inside the quotation marks. If you are writing or editing a piece that has dialogue, do yourself (and your editor) a favor and take a moment to review proper dialogue punctuation. The punctuation is different for dialogue tags and action beats.
Run-on sentences are another thing that make me cringe. Not only are run-on sentences difficult for the majority of the population to read, they’re cumbersome. It takes a few extra seconds to parse the meaning, and then the reader could miss the point entirely. Add a period, and start a new sentence. Your writing will flow better, look better on the page, and be easily understood.
Ellipses… or Dash—
Ellipses and dashes are great when a character gets interrupted or doesn’t finish a thought. But don’t over-use them! Newer writers are more likely to do this than seasoned authors, but keep this in mind. If these punctuation marks are used too much, it can seem like neither the characters nor the author can ever finish a thought. I see new writers using ellipses as a way to increase tension on the storyline, but it simply looks messy and unfinished. Most of the time, a period will work just as well and the suspense will still build.
Join a Writing Club
Other writers who are also honing their craft are great for providing feedback on your work. Club memberships are usually free or have a nominal fee. Plus, you can gain some great friends! Being a part of a writing club also gives you the chance to learn how to read with the intent to provide feedback. You can learn a lot from joining a club!
Get an Editor
Finally, always have a professional editor review your work prior to publication. It is extremely easy to self-publish a book, and while your mother or best friend liked it, it can still have errors that will be noticeable to the readers. Ratings will drop, sales will plummet, and discouragement will ensue. I would rather see a writer spend a little extra time and money with an editor than feel the disappointment when their book does not do as well as they hoped. Yes, editors can be expensive. But not all are. There are also some websites out, there like Scribendi, which might be more affordable. I personally have not used them, so cannot vouch for their quality. But there are options available that will fit your budget.
While this list does not, and could not possibly, include all the advice I’ve ever given other writers, they are the top seven things I recommend the most. I hope other writers find it helpful!