Making It Pretty

August 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

You write and write and write a beautiful collection of words. You pour your heart and soul into your work, and then you give it over to someone like me, someone who is passionate about editing that beautiful piece of work (I’m an editorial intern!). I came across an article called “Line Editing in 10 Easy Steps” that I thought would be perfect for my own professional enhancement. Here are the 10 steps listed by David Edalmen in the article, along with some key excerpts from his descriptions:

1. Eliminate unnecessary modifiers.  Words like possibly, simply, really, totally, very, supposedly, seriously, terribly, allegedly, utterly, sort of, kind of, usually, extremely, almost, mostly, practically, probably, and quite. Why write “It was quite hot out that day” or “It was extremely hot that day” when the sentence “It was hot that day” accomplishes the same thing?

2. Eliminate clichés.When someone’s monkeying around or driving like a maniac, do you actually think of monkeys or drooling lunatics? Better to have plain, unadorned prose than prose filled with clichés.

3. Eliminate repeated words and phrases. In going through my book, I discovered my characters were rasping things every two pages. My rule of thumb is that really striking words shouldn’t be repeated at all within the same chapter, and only repeated a few times in the same book.

4. Search for extraneous thats and hads.That often sneaks in between clauses in a sentence when it’s not really needed. “I knew that I was robbed” can be tweaked down to “I knew I was robbed.” (Often this is a function of choosing a better tense; see #9 below.)

5. Straighten out your mixed metaphors. Make sure you’re conscious of every metaphor in your prose; they shouldn’t slip in there unbidden.

6. Look up any word you’re not positive you know.

7. Use that thesaurus. If you’re writing about a baseball game, your players can’t always throw the ball every time. They need to toss, hurl, lob, pitch, fling, and even fire off that ball too.

8. When in doubt, try the Delete key.

9. Try changing tenses.Consult this handy Verb Tense Chart from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Perfect example: the original version of the first sentence on this page.

10. Rewrite, rephrase, reconfigure.

I think this is all really great advice, both for editors and writers looking to edit their own work. Everyone could benefit from one of these pieces of advice eliminating wordiness and redundancies. I think One of my biggest weaknesses is unnecessary modifiers – I really tend to overuse those almost every day. I hope this was helpful! It sure helped me out.

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