My editing Foibles

Things are well underway here at Editing Central.

We have a few foibles to report:

I like starting sentences with ‘But …’. This works when I speak, but when I write? Not so much.

I spell ‘toward’ with an ‘s’ on the end. Rather naughty of me apparently.

I didn’t quite catch all of my English English words and translate them to American English. ‘Colour’ to ‘color’.


An awareness:

Editing is a very time-consuming process. Certainly for the edit-er, and most assuredly for the edit-ee who has to contemplate everything the edit-er has suggested and make decisions based on a whole lot of variables … like, “my editor probably knows a helluva lot more about what works from an editing POV than I do, but this is my story, and I know what I want to say, but if she’s made a change does that mean I didn’t say what I wanted to clearly, and if so is there another way I can say it, and if not do I rethink what I’m trying to say, and how important is it to the story arc, but I really like the phrase, but if it has to go, it has to go, and … and …” See what I mean?


And lastly:

Things that will probably make your editor very happy.

Go through your MS and highlight every ‘that’ and ‘own’. After reviewing, delete 98% of them!

Instead of ‘was’. Try using one of the senses instead, like ‘felt’. She ‘was’ happy, to she ‘felt’ happy.

Go! Do these things right now, or you’ll be seeing hundreds, nay thousands of red ink marks on the precious offspring of your creative loins. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I bravely soldier … erm … edit, on into the Valley of Death, through the Slough of Despond, into the bowels of the Death Star, to Mordor … and Beyond!


“Remember the waterfront shack with the sign FRESH FISH SOLD HERE. Of course it’s fresh, we’re on the ocean. Of course it’s for sale, we’re not giving it away. Of course it’s here, otherwise the sign would be someplace else. The final sign: FISH”Peggy Noonan

7 comments on “My editing Foibles

  1. londonmabel says:

    I use towards too–it’s not incorrect, just a British preference. But one I was unaware of (I mean, I just googled it) so good to know. The “colour” ones you can catch if you change your computer language to American English. Then your dumb spell checker will annoyingly alert you. I finally gave in and started Americanizing my blog writing even. Le sigh.

    Interesting tips, otherwise. If you pick up your favorite (well written) novel do you find it has no “thats” and “owns” ? I get the But and the “was/felt” but I don’t quite understand the context of that one. I can think of innumerable examples in dialogue where characters need to use the word “that” or “own” and it can’t be replaced.

    What was that noise?
    Do you own a car?
    What’s that?
    That’s a new one!
    Own up to it, already.
    That’s rich.
    That was this morning’s conference.
    That is one ugly child.
    You don’t own me!

    This must be something having to do with narrative style rather than dialogue?

    Thanks for sharing, c’est vair interesting.


    • Widdershins says:

      When I first got here – to Canada – I was so frustrated by the Americanised spellchecker that I started ‘adding to dictionary’ all the English spelling of words so that annoying red wiggly underline would disappear. By the time I realised (red wiggly underline) that I needed to write in American it was too late to delete those words. Even though Canada still spells a few words in English, there’s a whole bunch that aren’t.

      The 2% of ‘that’ and ‘own’ I’m keeping are in my dialogue … I’m guilty of ‘She sat in her own chair’, rather than, ‘She sat in her chair’. In this instance ‘own’ is redundant.

      Talk about a steep learning curve. I’ll probably never forget these things though, which will make the next MS a better piece of writing a whole lot sooner.


  2. spbowers says:

    I should have read your post first, I posted on pet phrases/words too. I’m going to bookmark this so I can check for all these things. Good luck on the edits.


  3. londonmabel says:

    Ahhh thanks for explaining. 🙂 I thought: What strange English is this editor speaking that she doesn’t use the word ‘that’?

    I think I did that with the dictionary on one of my old computers too–adding all the Brit spellings. I feel ya. Luckily I got to *start fresh* on newer computers. I suppose there’s a way to throw out and reinstall your dictionary, for the next time. If it’s at all practical. Those durned Americans bending us to their ways!

    I’ve got my own set of strange habits too I’ve noticed when editing. I love to use dashes and semi-colons, so I revise those a lot. I like to capitalize for humorous effect, but I have to not Overdo It. I can’t remember the others cause it’s been awhile, but it’s funny when you suddenly look at your writing with fresh eyes and go: WTF! Something can sound so amazing when it first pours out of you, then you re-read it and … out comes the metaphorical White Out.

    Good luck! 😀


  4. londonmabel says:

    Don’t call it throwing away! Call it “reinstalling software.” 🙂


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