Writing: Editing Tips

1. Prefer plain English.
2. Vary the length of sentences. Short and sharp adds tension. Long, languid sentences slow down the pace.
3. Avoid starting every sentence with the main clause.
4. Prefer the active verb to the passive (e.g. the guard led the way rather than we were led by the guard), the strong to the weak.
5. Use adjectives, adverbs and other ornamentation with discretion. Prefer a strong verb e.g. he swayed, rather than he walked unsteadily.
6. Look for any unnecessary words that can be removed such as almost, nearly, hardly, quite, somewhat, rather, sometimes, really, actually, in fact. Be specific and positive as often as you can. The exception is in dialogue where people may use these terms.
7. Check for clichés and replace them with fresh, original images.
8. Check that viewpoint is consistent.
9. Check the dialogue - it should either move the story forward or tell us something else about the characters.
10. Study syntax.
11. Express thoughts clearly, avoid muddle.
12. Check you’ve used the right word, in the right place, to say exactly what you intended.
13. Read some of your writing out loud – how does it sound? Would it be engaging to someone else?
14. Make a final painstaking check for small errors and repetitions.
15. Ask someone else to proof-read your story if you can.