Do You Write What You Mean?

Travel Writing copy editing
28 December 2009 Post Author:
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Editing is a must when you write.

Even the best writers and editors need someone else to edit their work. It is very easy when you are typing quickly to misspell or use the wrong spelling of a word.

I did it a few weeks ago with an important e-mail—using their instead of there—and I know better.

Even though it is best to have someone else proofread your material, when that is not possible, be sure to proof it yourself. The best way is to read it out loud. That goes for e-mail too.

One column cannot begin to cover editing. I think many of us are guilty of using spell check and grammar check on the computer and thus fail to read our article or e-mail through, let alone out loud.

These two useful tools find some obvious mistakes but certainly not all. You need to re-read and check yourself. It is very easy to misuse words such as some of those shown below. They are frequently interchanged, resulting in the wrong meaning and you can’t count on spell check to alert you to your error.

Examples of words that spell check will miss, even if they are not correctly used:

aye  eye I   hear here     passed past  
bare bear     knight night     right rite write
be bee     knew new     scene seen  
been bean     know no     scent sent  
but butt     knows nose     sew so  
dear deer     lead led     sight site  
do dew due   load lode     there their  
fair fare     made maid     threw through  
for four fore   missed mist     to too two
gait gate     one won     vary very  
grate great     oar or ore   wear where  
hair hare     pair pear     wine whine  

I’m going to include an excerpt from the book I co-authored with Brenda C. Hill, “Success: Your Path to a Successful Book”.

It is difficult for all of us to keep up with the latest trends and rules of grammar. Rules change with the times.

Although we have both worked as editors, we realize that we need an objective editor for the final copy before the manuscript goes to press. We are fortunate in having Norman Hill, who makes up the third part of the Hill team.

Some of the best rules of editing we learned from our good friend and teacher at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, Cork Millner (yes, he writes books on wine):

  • Do not edit while writing. You can go back and fine tune after it is all on the computer.
  • Do not do the final edit yourself. You may make the same mistake you made in the first place.

Plus, it is best to have a trained professional and objective eye give a critique.

We’re also going to paraphrase Cork’s editing tip that we mentioned earlier:

Take a pen to almost every… “and”, “but”, “yet”, “so”, “however”, and “too” that do not add meaning to your story. Circle those little words. Now look at your page. It will resemble a bunch of Cheerios. We call them lifesavers. Remove these lifesavers and your shorter story will sing.

We touched on the importance of editing. Use the lifesaver technique. But you’re not done. No matter how good you are, when you read it out loud, you will find things you’ve missed. We are repeating a tip mentioned in Chapter 1. It is important:

One of the most valuable tools we have learned is to read aloud to a friend, or… at least, yourself, before you finish your last draft. Do this before your read aloud to a writing group.

Lou Willet Stanek, Ph.D., author of “So You Want to Write a Novel”, taught us this valuable editing truth a decade ago… “THE EAR CAN HEAR WHAT THE EYE CANNOT SEE.

This read aloud exercise and the lifesaver trick will help you follow George Orwell’s advice, “When you can cut a word, cut it.

Reading aloud also helps to hear sound, rhythm, tone and your authentic voice.

We learned to write tighter by rewriting and reading aloud as many times as it takes.

You may have a friend or a family member that is an English teacher who offers to read your manuscript. That is ok, but don’t have that person be your final editor. Money spent on a professional editor is money well spent. Be sure you have someone edit your book who is used to editing for style, dates, grammar, spelling, and consistency.

When you are editing, it is a good time to look for words or phrases that can be replaced by more effective ones.


What is your experience with editing? Share your advice!

15 Responses to “Do You Write What You Mean?”

  1. Rebecca

    Great advice!

    My screenwriting coach advises us to read our screenplays out loud. When you hear the dialogue, you will either cringe or jump for joy.

    I will read my blog posts and articles aloud if the words do not flow. Having another pair of eyes read and edit your work helps you become a stronger writer.

    • Maralyn D Hill

      Hi Rebecca,
      Your screen writing coach is wise to have you read your screenplays out loud.

      With blog posts and articles, you need to do the same thing, even if the words seem to flow. Sometimes, it is easy to type so fast that you make a ridiculous typo or easily insert the wrong word. Usually, when I don’t re-read, I’m sorry after I push “post” or “send.”

      It isn’t that everyone will pick up the error, it is as a writer, you are displaying your skill and craft and you only have one time to make a first impression.

      Another hint, when you see the red line under a word, be sure to check it. I don’t rely on spell check, but it does help me double check words.
      .-= Maralyn D Hill´s last blog post: Success Tip- Measuring Success =-.

      • I think that is the most important point – and reason for taking extra time to be sure that whatever you write is 100% correct, both grammatically and spelling-wise.

        Anyone who wants to make a living as a writer must realize that they are “advertising” themselves with everything they write. And that potential Editors, Publishers, Clients, or Employers will certainly be looking closely at it.

  2. Maralyn D Hill

    You are right Trisha.

    I received “The Associated Press Stylebook – 2009” and “The Original University of Chicago Press Manual of Style,” 1st Edition. Oh, how times change and grammar rules.
    .-= Maralyn D Hill´s last blog post: Success Tip- Measuring Success =-.

  3. Maralyn, thanks for that great post. While I’m meticulous about my articles when it comes to editing, I don’t always apply the same scrutiny to e-mails and social networking posts. Good reminder! Also want to add a word or two, literally: palette versus palate. And even pallet.

  4. Dave and Deb

    I need to work on my editing. Traveling and writing in Internet cafes has taken its toll on my writing and even though I write ahead of time, I seem to being doing a poor job with my spelling. Thanks for the reminder. I am going to proofread a lot more now.
    .-= Dave and Deb´s last blog post: Lakshmi the Elephant Takes a Bath in Hampi =-.

  5. Edhi says:

    nice tips.
    Thank you for sharing.
    I often maka an article without editing first. And the result some of my friends told me that my article awful. so many wrong word.
    Now I want to try more detail and of course I will edit it first.
    .-= Edhi´s last blog post: Travel To Grand Canyon | Adventure Travel To Grand Canyon =-.

  6. Great Tips!! I always have a problem with their, the’re, and there

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