Eight Things I Edited For. So far.

Over the last few weeks, I have been going back and forth over my manuscript, tightening up the language. Here are the things that I can recall looking for in particular:

  • Adverbs. This is always the first step, accomplished by looking for “ly “, “ly.” and “ly,” It has the added benefit of letting you see other word use problems, of which I seemed to have an abundance for this book.
  • “Going to”. Man, did I ever overuse this phrase. I noticed it when I did my adverb hunt.
  • “Well” to start a sentence. It took three nights to sweep the manuscript for this word. This was a problem in Magic Mirror, as well.
  • “As well.” Yeah, I overuse this one, too. See above sentence. I saw it so often that I paused my “well” search to look for this in particular.
  • Contractions in speech. I don’t tend to use contractions as frequently as I should when writing dialog. Everyone sounds terribly proper as they enunciate their words perfectly. So I have to go back and add a few. I also added contractions in stream-of-consciousness episodes, when you’re basically reading my character’s thoughts.
  • Colloquialisms. I also don’t use these enough. I believe this comes from avoiding colloquialisms with every other book I have written, which have all taken place in a medieval setting, where colloquialisms are inappropriate. They are appropriate in this story, where the main characters are from the present day, and are in their 20s. So I salted in some gonnas, gottas, ain’ts and similar words.
  • “Basically”, “Actually”, “Quite”, “Rather”. Depending on the decade or century of my characters’ origins, they tended to overuse these words. I purged them.
  • Grammar and Style Check. As Microsoft Word has matured, the grammar and style tool has improved. Even though I still often disagree with the problem or the suggested fix, it usually succeeds in highlighting sentences that need some kind of attention.

When I finished with all these sweeps, I found that I purged 1000 words from the manuscript. I now stand at 114,533 words.

My overall impression is that I have gotten sloppy. The grammar and style check uncovered more passive voice than I can recall ever having let slip through before. Once, I had the habit of questioning every use of a “to-be” verb, not just passive voice. It made my voice so much richer. I need to get back into that habit.

10 Thoughts to “Eight Things I Edited For. So far.”

  1. Sounds like the editing is coming along nicely. At least I’d say so. {Smile}

    One thing… sometimes contractions or their lack is a difference of education. My Latin teacher back in college pointed out that in much of the English speaking world, using contractions was a sign of less education. An elementary school dropout would use “can’t” and such almost exclusively, while a university graduate would often use “cannot.” He mentioned it because Hawai’i is an exception. For some reason, the teachers of the lower grades got really strong about pushing “cannot not can’t.” Only the folks who kept going to school reached the point where teachers would let them use contractions without penalty, so contractions are a sign of more education here, not less, especially “cannot” — spelled “canna” if you want to make it clear it’s dialect when you’re writing it out. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    1. That is a really interesting distinction, that the educated would be more comfortable using colloquialisms. “Canna” is how Stevenson spelled Alan Breck saying can’t in Kidnapped'. (I think. I'm too lazy to walk all the way upstairs to my bookshelf. That, at least, is how I always pronounced it when readingKidnapped’ out loud.)

      As for editing things out, I always need to check for comma overload. I have an nasty habit of putting a comma when I pause to think of the right word, so they don’t always have much to do with grammar. It sounds like you don’t have that problem, at least, Tia. 🙂

      1. I did do a lot of comma edits, which I failed to mention. I use commas for beats in the conversation, and the grammar checker often thought that I needed semicolons, instead. So I had to think about each one.

        I guess Anne’s higher education may have had the same impact as my military experience?

        1. Somewhat. In my case, college – and to a lesser extent high school – got me past the teachers who’d enforce every rule of formal as if you could never write informally. So I could split my infinitives if it felt less clumsy that way, and use more contractions, and so on. {Smile}

          Semicolons vs. commas are tricky. Just remember that grammar checkers aren’t quite always correct on those. I remember a few in-text lists that needed semicolons, never mind what the grammar books say. Those said items in such lists should be separated by commas. True… unless it’s confusing. If there are commas within list items, switching to semicolons can reduce confusion. Grammar books never quite understand… but even the fussiest grammar teacher does. {wink, Smile}

          Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

          1. It would flag some of the commas between independent and dependent clauses. Those sentences usually had some sort of non-standard construction, which is probably why it got confused. I would either ignore it or move on, or restructure the sentence. However, I did not let it tell me to put in a semicolon where I didn’t think one belonged. 🙂

            The tech writers were I work have a style guide that permits split infinitives, so as to not make the helpfiles sound stuffy and formal. I consider each one on a case-by-case basis.

      2. Yeah. There are many places where the uneducated are more comfortable with contractions and other colloquialisms, but every once in a while, you’ll find an exception. Hawai’i is one of those. {pause}

        I wonder… I want to try an idea out to see if it works. Don’t be afraid to tell me it’s utter nonsense; the whole point is to find out if makes as much sense on paper when you’re reading it as it does when I’m running it thru my head. {Smile, wink}

        I’m starting with some facts: Hawai’i was a U.S. incorporated territory from 1898 to 1960, when we became a state. Thru all but the very beginning of that, we had universal schooling up to the 8th grade. Now I don’t mean that kids went to school until they were 13 – the year you’d be in 8th grade if you kept up – then quit whether you were in 8th grade, or still stuck in 3rd grade. Between the parents and the teachers, very few students were permitted to fall behind their age level. So most graduated eighth grade. In the early part of the 20th century, going further wasn’t guaranteed by any means, but you’d get that far. So you had some education, but not a whole lot. Unless you went on to high school, trade school, or college, you didn’t really get beyond the teachers who were real sticklers for the basic rules because those were what they were teaching you. You only got tot he teachers who’d let the basics slide at times because they were teaching you more advanced stuff. So… we weren’t really looking at the uneducated, but the half-educated vs. the more fully educated.

        Okay, on the screen, that still makes sense to me. Now to see if it makes sense to anyone else. {wink, Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

        1. I think this sort of ties in with my earlier comment below, the point of which people seemed to be better-educated at a younger age back then. 🙂

    2. Good point. My Catholic education eradicated ain’t and can’t, for the most part, but my military experience seems to have reversed that, somewhat. I find that people seem to revert to colloquialisms under certain circumstances. Such as when someone–around here–is absolutely against doing something, they are much more likely to say, “I ain’t gonna” than under other circumstances. So I tried to adapt for the situation. I didn’t do a blanket search-and-replace for any of these conditions.

      Only one of my characters has a bachelors degree, but most of the others come from previous times when it degrees were not so prevalent. So they may have had other forms of education. I also consider how well-read they are. My muscle-bound boxer from modern times is as not as well-read as–and does not speak as well as–a bookish black woman from the 20s.

      My own grandmother was a teacher in the 1910s, and she only had a tenth grade education. However, she was very well-read, and spoke well.

      1. Well, in informal and even semi-formal speech in some areas, “ain’t” is acceptable as an intensive. So saving it for the times they feel most strongly fits that pretty perfectly. {Smile}

        As for the blanket search-and-replace, the closest you could come in a blanket search, with careful reading at each stop to see if the emotions are high enough to warrant it in this case. That seems a bit much for an intensive, but it would be possible. {Smile}

        When I read a book of reminiscences of old women who’d grown up in the early part of the 20th century in Hawai’i, I was struck with how they all got by on less schooling. 8th grade was like 12th grade: only the really stupid and the slackers didn’t graduate from 8th grade… but going on from there was not guaranteed. The basic jobs didn’t require more education. If you did, you could go to high school, and maybe on to college and even graduate school, but you could also go to business school, or sewing school, or get an apprenticeship with a tailor, or something else if it suited your plans. So, yes 10th grade is enough to be a teacher, as long as you aren’t trying to teach high school or something. 10th grade was a pretty good education: she had two more years than most of her students would get if she taught out here. {Smile}

        Even when my parents were growing up in the 1930’s and 1940’s, you still graduated from intermediate school, which ended at 9th grade then, even tho everyone went on to high school after that (tho not all graduated… then, when I was in school, or now, for that matter). {lop-sided smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

        1. My grandmother’s sister went to one of those business schools. She ended up as a typing instructor at a business college at a time when fast typists were still a rarity. We have an old news photo of her instructing a student.

          Do you know about the McGuffy Readers? In the 50s, they reprinted them, and my grandmother ordered a set, I think out of a sense of nostalgia for when she used them as a student and teacher. When I was little, I spent many happy hours reading them. I have them today.

Comments are closed.