Thursday, 29 July 2010

Editing 101 for Self-editing Fiction: Mechanics Part 2

Last time I discussed the importance of spelling and fact-checking your writing, today I'm looking at grammar and word usage. While spelling and grammar may differ from country to country (I admit US comma usage is way beyond me), you need to know the basics. As a writer, you should have at least one grammar book and one dictionary/thesaurus available to you at all times, either as a book, computer software or you should be able to access the information you need online.
Another two points to look for when editing your book for Mechanics:

As a writer you know what grammar is, but are you fully aware of all grammar rules and exceptions? Reading a grammar book once in a while to refresh your knowledge will help. Generally, make sure
  • subjects and verbs are in agreement with respect to number and person
  • you don't have any displaced or dangling modifiers
  • you've used apostrophes correctly to indicate possession and elision
  • you haven't used 'of' instead of 'have' in 'would/could/should have' - this may sound obvious, but many writers make this mistake
  • you use commas correctly; now this is a tricky one because comma use in the UK varies from that in the US. Just make sure your usage of commas is the right one for your spelling, don't mix 'n match
  • you keep away from hypercorrection and stilted constructions where they don't suit the situation, tone, character etc.
  • make sure you've used 'that' for restrictive clauses and 'which' for non-restrictive ones (unless your spelling is British English)
  • don't confuse verbs, e.g. lie and lay
  • dont' use ambiguous pronouns or pronouns without antecedents
  • begin subordinate clauses with 'that' whenever necessary
  • don't qualify absolutes such as impossible
Should you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask in the comment box below.
Next time: How to format your manuscript

To your publishing success!

1 comment:

  1. I agree with having a dictionary. Good article and tips. I'm from the US and still have a hard time understanding their commas! : )