Tag Archives: copyediting

Nine Must-Follow Manuscript Rules

by Anica Mrose Rissi
1. Revise, revise, revise! I don’t want to read your first draft, ever. (Tip: Your novel isn’t ready to send to me until you can describe it in one sentence.)

2. Start with conflict and tension to raise questions, arouse curiosity and (like musical dissonance) create the need for resolution.

3. Start with the story you’re telling, not with the backstory. Throw the reader directly into a conflict and let her get to know your characters through their actions. (Yes, this is another way of saying, “Show, don’t tell.”)

4. Give the reader something to wonder about and a sense of where the story is going—of what’s at stake.

5. Avoid explaining too much too soon. And, don’t be obvious. Trust your readers. Trust your characters. Trust your writing. If you find that chunks of your story need to include long explanations, go back in and write those chunks better, until the story explains itself.

6. Make sure your story has both a plot arc and an emotional arc. Cross internal conflict with external conflict. Give your characters moral dilemmas, and force them to deal with the consequences of their choices.

7. Read your dialogue out loud. When revising, ask yourself, “What is the point of this dialogue?” (Just as you should be asking, “What is the point of this sentence? What is the point of this scene?”)

8. Use adjectives, adverbs and dialogue tags only sparingly. (See “trust your readers,” above.)

9. Make sure your details matter.

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Twelve Useful Websites to Improve your Writing

1. http://www.Words-to-Use.com – A different kind of thesaurus.
2. http://www.OneLook.com – One quick dictionary search tool.
3. http://www.Vocabulary.com – The quickest, most intelligent way to improve your vocabulary.
4. http://www.ZenPen.io – A minimalist writing zone where you can block out all distractions.
5. http://www.750words.com – Write three new pages every day.
6. http://www.Readability-Score.com – Get scored on your writing’s readability.
7. http://www.YouShouldWrite.com – Get a new writing prompt every time you visit.
8. http://www.WriterKata.com – Improve your writing with repetitive exercises.
9. http://www.IWL.me – (I Write Like) A tool that analyzes your writing and tells you which famous authors you most write like.
10. http://www.HemingwayApp.com – Simplify your writing.
11. http://www.FakeNameGenerator.com – Generate fake names for your characters.
12. http://www.Storyline.io – Collaborate on a story with others by submitting a paragraph.

Johnny Webber – Daily Zen List

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Beyond Grammar & Punctuation: Why You Need a Copyeditor

Beyond Grammar & Punctuation: Why You Need a Copyeditor
by Erin Doherty

I recently edited a novel. The author was clearly educated and had a good grasp of standard English grammar. She wrote in complete sentences, didn’t seem to have many misspellings, and generally used punctuation correctly. At first glance, it may have seemed like a copyeditor wouldn’t have much work to do.
But grammar and punctuation are not all that copyeditors pay attention to: we also look for consistency, awkward or convoluted phrasing, redundancies and repetition, factual errors, legal issues, and formatting.
Consistency is a big part of whether people perceive your writing as professional or high-quality; they may not realize that it impacts their perception, but it does.
• Does the author favor toward or towards? Both are correct, but you should pick one and stick to it.
• Serial comma or no?
• High-tech is always hyphenated
• Journal entries are always block-quoted and italicized.
Awkward or convoluted phrasing:
You want your readers to pause to savor your eloquent turns of phrase or to chew on your thought-provoking idea. You don’t want them to pause because they’re confused about what the heck you’re trying to say. When this happens, I’ll read it out loud to myself, try to figure out what the author is actually trying to say, and offer a possible revision. If I’m really lost, I may even call up the author and talk it out.
Redundancies and repetition:
• Thesauruses are your friend. If you only ever use tapping to describe someone’s typing, you will probably want to mix it up a little with typing or clicking throughout the book.
• Five sentences on a single page started with “According to.” Let’s revise a little to avoid that.
• Seven a.m. in the morning—no. Choose one or the other (seven a.m. or seven in the morning).
• Completely destroyed or end result. Destroy already means “to cause something to no longer exist,” so you can just say destroy—the completeness is part of the definition. Result already means “to proceed or arise as a consequence, effect, or conclusion,” so adding on end is redundant. Sometimes an author may feel that the adjective adds emphasis, but generally cutting such adjectives will result in clearer, stronger writing.
Factual errors:
• Oops, you misspelled the name of that Spanish architect.
• Actually, you can’t see that park from that café because it’s two miles away (for a work set in a present-day, real city).
• This character is dead, so you should use a past-tense verb to describe his actions (unless we’re talking ghosts: ghosts scoff at verb tenses).
Legal issues:
Dumpster, Realtor, Teflon, Kleenex, Walkman, Google: while these words have come to define the type of object they are (trash receptacle, real estate agent, non-stick material, facial tissue, portable cassette player, search engine), they’re still registered trademarks and as such, need to be capitalized.
And that lovely quote you used from The God of Small Things? Yeah, that’s copyrighted material, and you may need permission to use it. A copyeditor will alert you to this, and if they’re knowledgeable in this area, they may also help you figure out if you need permission and help you get it.
This is probably the least glamorous part of copyediting, but it’s necessary. Are there two or sometimes even three spaces between sentences? Buh-bye, spaces, we only need one of you. Did you use tabs (or, heaven forfend, the space bar) to indent paragraphs? I need to eliminate those and use the margins instead. Are all your chapter headings the same size and font? What about your section breaks? Did you accidentally change font type or size in the middle of a paragraph? Are all your quotation marks curly or straight?
As venerable editor and writer Arthur Plotnick said, “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” Confusion, inconsistencies, and errors distract readers and can make them think less of you.
Copyediting lets the reader focus on what you’re saying.

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Who is Responsible?

Robert Medak

Published Freelance Writer, Editor, and Reviewer


Who is ultimately responsible for the quality of writing that reaches the eyes of the reader?

First, traditional publishers don’t have the time or resources to copyedit or proofread books because of today’s publishing environment.

Second, many authors choose to self-publish or create digital books on various platforms.

Third, authors choose POD or companies like Lulu, Create space, Xlibris, Booklocker, and more publishing companies showing up daily.

Fourth, do publishers offer copyediting as part of a publishing package?

Fifth, but not final is the author.

As a reviewer who has reviewed over 100 books within a period of six years, I’ve seen what appears to be what I call quality writing becoming passé.

I have written blog articles about the trend of quality writing becoming obsolete; or has editing become outdated?

I have no explanation; I’ve noticed a trend in published books that makes me wonder if teachers still teach English in schools as it was when I was in school. In many books, I read for review, there are errors in grammar, punctuation, typos, and wrong word choices. I’ve also notice errors in punctuation consistency, and word usage.

Example: If the author uses the word, truck in a story, than car is used. It might be nice if the author would explain where the car came from. Am I the only one that finds this weird if the character arrived in one or the other in the story then they get in to a vehicle in the next paragraph that uses the other word? I’ve seen it.

I have noticed the use of old clichés, so old that they were old when I was young. What about taking a cliché situation and turning it around to make it new again. Authors are supposed to be creative.

What this all boils down to is, the author has the ultimate responsibility of the quality of the book that the reader purchases to read. If authors choose to publish a book, they need to obtain a copy and proofread it for any errors in the production and correct them before readers get to read the book.


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