Over the last sixteen months, I’ve had the dubious pleasure of having my proposal and manuscript edited and proofread. Through working with multiple editors, I came to see patterns in their corrections and comments. Recognizing my writing flaws has helped me edit and proofread.
I get wordy.
I do it in life and on the page. Now, as I edit, I look for ways to state things more succinctly. I challenge myself to reduce my word counts, even on shorter posts.
My self-doubt results in over-editing.
In life, I tend to start my paragraphs in the middle. When I’m half-way through an anecdote, I’ll remember that I left out why the story matters or is relevant to the conversation. In trying to prevent this potential writing flaw, I go too far in the other direction. I over-edit.
In fact, editors had to edit-out what I had, in a fit of self-doubt, edited-in. In other words, the final version was close to the original. Now when I evaluate an introduction or explanation, I think to myself, “You can lead a horse to water, but you need to give him or her credit for having enough intelligence to drink.”
I use vague referents
My that’s and which’s don’t always refer back to a concrete word or phrase. Or, if they do, it’s not clear to those who don’t have direct access to my thoughts. This one is another result of my jumbled brain, but it’s more laborious to fix. Particularly if I try to write, edit, and proofread in setting, I miss those. Whenever possible, I try to let my writing simmer before I edit and proof.
I like to list things in threes.
I know; writing is not like flower arranging. Things aren’t always better with an odd number.
I like adverbs.
There, I said it. In the above paragraph, I’d prefer to state, “A disturbingly high number of edits…” Now when I edit and proof, I’ll evaluate whether using the adverb brings something other than a lack of grammar to the table. Sometimes I’ll leave them, but often I find another way to structure my sentence.
I don’t vary my sentence structure enough.
For me, proofreading and editing don’t mix. A by-product of reading each individual sentence for errors is failing to evaluate the flow of a page. The fix: one more pass through the piece.
What are your most common writing flaws? How do they change the way you edit and proof your work?