Far too many writers rely on their generation-ago education for their sense of written English, forgetting that bad habits can creep in over the years. Worse, they abrogate responsibility in their own work: but the publisher’s editor will sort that. Only to a certain degree. If it’s too much of a dog’s breakfast, the work will gain a rejection slip. Editing is time consuming, and therefore expensive. The better self-edited a final copy the more likely an acceptance.
Reading aloud is the No 1 editing tool. Speak your own punctuation. If you are fighting for breath add in commas where needed. Could a long sentence be spoken more easily if split into two? Can’t get your tongue round the words, or the context sounds confusing? Check the sentence structure and rewrite to enhance fluidity.
Really look at what you’ve written and don’t read what you think you’ve written.
How many exclamation marks are used? When I was a reader for a literary consultancy I received a script littered with them. Picking a single page, I ringed each in red ink. There were 33. The writer emailed back full of apologies and thanks – the epidemic had not been noticed.
Software such as Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid will pick up such blindness, but so will Word via a global search.
This blogpost came about because I was handed a paperback novel. As many do, in the Acknowledgements the author had showered praise on the book’s editor. Was it justified?
Second page in (narrative only) – 5 adverbs: highly, cruelly, bravely, remorselessly, inexorably.
Two-thirds in (dialogue exchange) – 10 adverbs: curiously, anxiously, reassuringly, awkwardly, thoughtfully, embarrassedly, softly, numbly, eagerly, lovingly
Each list is from a single page, and all the pages I flicked through were the same.
Had it been me, I wouldn’t have showered praise; I would have complained – bitterly. There again, it’s the author’s own fault. If the author had undertaken a global search for ly[space] and highlighted in yellow each instance, the problem would have been more than obvious.
Study a couple of pages of your work, identify possible oversights, and undertake a global search to see how many times each is repeated. It could save blushes later.