Editing by Yourself — Something You Should Never Do

Written by on April 25, 2017 in blog, ebooks, self-publishing, Uncategorized, writing with 1 Comment

Editing by Yourself — Something You Should Never Do

I don’t know why I’m writing this, except to help out those who are foolish enough to try to edit a manuscript themselves. It’s not something I recommend; in fact, I strongly oppose it. I write blog posts without editors, but I wouldn’t think of releasing a book without using an editor. In short, I do not recommend editing by yourself.

So why did I write this?

I guess because regardless of your decision to use an editor, you could benefit from tightening your writing; in fact, your editor will love your improvement.

In my books on grammar, Misused Words for Business and More Misused Words, which were No Mistakes Grammar, Volumes II and III, I wrote about redundancies, words that were unnecessary, and others like that. In this blog, we’ll go into a little more detail on some of them.

editing by yourself


Tighten It Up

You already knew that you should tighten up your writing. You knew that, right?

If you didn’t, you know it now. I haven’t met a reader yet who said they wished the writer added more fluff to the book. I often get emails from readers, or see it in reviews, about a reader who appreciates my paucity with words. It’s a good feeling, and it reinforces my belief on the subject. On the other hand, I have never received an email saying I didn’t describe a character enough or didn’t ramble on enough.

And that’s odd because one of my pet peeves is character development—I seldom describe the physical characteristics of any of my characters, though I think it’s more than made up for in the personalities. What I recommend is that, on the first pass, when editing by yourself, you take the time to look hard at a pre-made list of all the things to look for. That is the time to fix them, not waiting for your editor to do it.

“Tighten It Up” Doesn’t Always Work

The advice to tighten it up sometimes includes actions that will result in you adding to the word count rather than reducing the word count.

How is that?

Very simple. I usually advise replacing unnecessary adverbs. I don’t mean for you to go on a witch hunt for all words that end in ly, but do look closely and see if you could rewrite the selection and make it more enjoyable, more of a good reading experience.

Consider the following examples.

“Tommy, get back in this house, immediately,” his mother shouted sternly.

“Young man, get back here. Now!” his mother said.

Or this one.

He walked angrily down the street. It was already a shitty day. (The picture below could represent the image a reader might form in their mind.)

man walking in street used for blog on editing by yourself

He walked down the street, his mouth turned down to form a frown. He kicked empty beer cans and discarded food wrappers from his path as he cursed the miserable day. (The picture below could represent the image a reader might form in their mind.)

Garbage-strewn alley used to explain editing by yourself

In one case (the first example with Tommy and his mother) we used fewer words to describe the situation better. In the second example, it took more words to describe the scene, but it painted a better picture. I’m not saying these are the images people would form, but they could.

Let’s put it this way. If you wanted to have readers picture the second scene, the first description would not paint it. When you’re editing by yourself, take the time to search for unnecessary adverbs and see if you can rewrite them.

There is nothing wrong with adverbs. Like any form of speech, they have their place. But know when to use them, and when not to use them. If you can reword a sentence and make it clearer, do so. Anytime you can help the reader understand what message you’re trying to get across, the better off you’ll be.

There is a reason for the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” If you use your words properly, it shouldn’t take you a thousand of them to paint the picture you want.



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About the Author

About the Author: Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammar and publishing. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends. .

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