"Cut It!" An Editor's Take.
"To overcome writer's block, allow yourself to write a bad first draft." We've all heard this, right?
Eventually, that bad first draft transforms into a great final draft—or, at least, that's the dream. When you're happy with the structure and flow of your message, don't forget to complete a grammatical self-edit before releasing it into the world.
If your writing isn't properly polished, you might slow down your readers by forcing them to navigate awkward phrasing or guess what you mean. Here are three quick things to look out for:
Comma splices: Avoid using a comma to connect two complete sentences ("independent clauses") unless you add a conjunction.
Incorrect: I'm an aspiring author, I hope to self-publish this year.
Correct: I'm an aspiring author; I hope to self-publish this year.
Correct: I'm an aspiring author, and I hope to self-publish this year.
Faulty parallelism: Maintain the same grammatical structure throughout a phrase or clause.
Incorrect: This weekend, I should go running, biking, and sit down to write.
Correct: This weekend, I should run, bike, and write.
Correct: This weekend, I should go running and biking then sit down to write.
Correct: This weekend, I should go running and biking, and I should also sit down to write.
Correct: This weekend, I should go running, take a bike ride, and sit down to write.
Inconsistent spellings: Some words have variant spellings, so choose one or the other rather than switching back and forth. Stick to using one type of English (American, British, etc.); this will help keep your spelling consistent.
Ex: Fulfil vs. fulfill, traveled vs. travelled, analyze vs. analyse
Good copy editors will catch the errors you miss. If you're unable to hire a professional editor for each piece of writing you release, ask a friend to read it first and flag any sentences they have to reread for clarity. As the writer, you know what you were trying to communicate, so fresh eyes are key! Happy writing (and editing)!
Meghan Lafferty is a freelance copy editor and proofreader living in Columbus, Ohio. She helps her clients ensure their text is readable, consistent, and free of errors while maintaining their unique voice. Meghan works primarily with bloggers, aspiring authors, nonprofit leaders, and entrepreneurs. She posts weekly grammar tips on Instagram (@meghanlaffertyediting).