Writing and Publishing

What Are Some of Your Editing Pet Peeves?

Things Writers Do That Irk Me

Here are my editing pet peeves:

  • Writers who don’t spell check their work. This is so easy to do. Why do they skip it?
  • Writers who use “creative formatting” of their text, with bold, italics, underlines, and combinations thereof. Along with this are UPPER CASE phrases, sentences, and even paragraphs. I need to undo all this before I can start working on their submission.
  • Writers who use multiple exclamation points and question marks, sometimes in combination, to end a sentence. Use just one but only when it’s appropriate. And before adding an exclamation point, consider whether it belongs or if a period is correct. Most people overuse exclamation points. When in doubt, use a period instead.
  • Writers who slap something together and assume I’ll fix all their mistakes. That’s lazy, and sometimes it’s more work than I’m willing to do.
  • Writers who send a draft and ask me to let them know what changes they should make. It’s their job to send me their best work and not expect me to do it for them. And if they really have doubts about their work, then they’re not ready to be submitting their writing.
  • Writers who request feedback on their writing. While I understand their desire for feedback, so they can improve (we all want that), it should come from other sources, and not a person who expects to read a finished piece. (From a practical sense, whenever I’ve tried to give feedback, it’s never gone well. So even when I want to help someone who asks for feedback, I know from experience to not try.)
  • Writers who miss deadlines. Sometimes we can’t help asking for more time, but usually, it’s a result of poor planning and a lack of priority. Besides, it’s disrespectful. Without deadlines, nothing would ever be published.

I’m more than willing to overlook a few of these mistakes and be extra tolerant of new writers, but when these things occur too often, it’s often easier to just reject the submission.

I hope this helps.

Whew, I feel better having gotten editing pet peeves off my chest. Thanks for asking.

Writing and Publishing

How to Deal With Passive Sentences

How concerned should we be over passive sentences?

My response has included both extremes: ignore every one of them and kill each one. Right now, I’m somewhere in the middle.

Years ago spell check shocked me by showing all of the passive sentences I used when I wrote. Seemingly every sentence. It was so bad I turned off the option. That way my passive wording wouldn’t confront me. I justified this by claiming passive writing was my voice.

I was just being lazy.

Eventually, I got serious about writing and turned the option back on. I now check for passive phrases and attempt to correct them.

Half the time it’s easy to do. The rest seem hard to fix, and sometimes the result is less clear and more wordy. When that happens I leave them as is. A few passive phrases aren’t bad. Really.

So every time spell check warns me of a passive sentence I scrutinize it. If I can correct it and make the sentence stronger, I will gladly do so. However, if removing the passive construct results in a sentence that is verbose, confusing, or longer, I’m better off leaving it as is.

Keeping a passive construct that’s concise seems preferable to forcing an active voice that’s ambiguous.

That’s how I deal with passive sentences.

Writing and Publishing

Beware of Commonly Confused Words

In last week’s post, Check Your Writing, I mentioned the need to watch out for commonly confused words. Spell checkers point out some of the most typical—such as its versus it’s—but I suspect all writers have certain words that trip them up. Knowing what these words are is the first step to avoiding them when we write.

Some of my commonly confused words are:

  • advice or advise
  • choose or chose
  • complement and compliment
  • conscious versus conscience
  • council, counsel, console, and consul

This, of course, is not a complete list, but merely the ones I have bothered to document so far. Although some of these pairs are pronounced differently, my diction doesn’t always distinguish between them. These are words that can cause my writing to stumble, so I carefully scrutinize their every appearance.

Writing and Publishing

The Great Google Spell Checker

I struggle with spelling. I always have and despite some improvement as I write more, I fear I always will.

I suspect the root cause of this dilemma is that when I read longer words, I don’t look at all its letters, but merely the first few, along with the overall shape and length of the word.

Therefore, when I go to spell a word, I may sense that it needs more letters, but I am clueless as to what they might be. Or I may suspect what letters are needed, but am stymied as to their proper order. Sounding it out is usually no help, either.

In more cases then I care to admit, I cannot even spell a word close enough for my word processor’s spell checker to comprehend my intent. My futile attempts at correct spelling are so much in error as to be useless.

After several unsuccessful attempts at a close approximation to my intended target, I give up and pop my assemblage of characters into the trusty Google search engine. Faster than the time to blink my eye, Google informs me of the correct spelling. This works almost every time I try it.

Even when I don’t give Google much to work with, it comes through for me. For example, I always struggle with “bureaucracy” (in more ways than one). I threw my suspected jumble of letters into Google, along with some typos when my fingers failed to cooperate with my brain. In .19 seconds, Google came back with:

“Showing results for bureaucracy. Search instead for buerocrrary.”

Not only is Google the leading search engine, but it may also be the leading spell checker.