As many readers of this blog know, I’ve built my business on providing services in the areas of copywriting, book editing and personal coaching. Each area requires insight into human motivation and behaviour, and I love what I do, no matter which hat I am wearing.
Since a lot of people I meet are either dreaming of, or working on, their own book manuscript, I thought I would take a few minutes today to look at some of the issues that commonly crop up in my work. So far this year I’ve completed preliminary edits for a crime thriller, a memoir and a marketing book. And although the conventions for each are dramatically different, I find the same language issues tend to come up repeatedly.
If you are writing a book right now, or know someone who is, you might want to take a look at the list below and see if the manuscript can be tightened up in any way before handing it off to an editor. Editors generally charge by the hour and the more mistakes there are in the MS, the more time the editor has to spend on corrections.
So here’s the top two most common issues in editing:
- Structure – although the effort to complete a book manuscript in and of itself implies a sense of process and order, this is something that does not come naturally to all of us. For example, people who are highly creative and unconventional seem to have a tougher time following a thread of written explanation through the alphabet of A to Z. When I get the manuscript of this type of individual, I often have to move chunks of text around to eliminate repetition and ensure logical progression. Readers don’t like to work too hard to get to the point and it is the author’s (and editor’s) job to make it easy for them to consume the material.
- Grammar – boring as the word may strike you, it is impossible to write well without proper grammar. Adherence to its picky little requirements implies a solid understanding of the “rules of the road” of language and results in an audience that knows exactly what you’re saying. Clarity invites engagement and engagement invites support.
Some of the grammar issues I commonly see as an editor include:
- Noun verb disconnects – e.g. “The dog and the cat is [should be ‘are’] friends.”
- Tense problems – e.g. “If we went to the auction last year we see [should be ‘would see’ or ‘always saw’] friends.”
- Run-on sentences – e.g. “I went to Belize last year thinking it would be a great place to invest and when I met all the investment officers they told me there were a lot of rules I had to follow and I found it was very difficult to keep everything straight because there were many different ways to interpret the regulations and we never found out how to find a lawyer who could give us the best advice but yesterday we did.” (You get the picture!).
Look for more comments about editing in my next blog and I invite you to leave a comment below about language issues that matter to you!