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Do You Write What You Mean?

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 [1]”.

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):

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 [2]”, 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!