As a writer, critic and editor, I have been on both sides of the screen. It’s always easier to find flaws in other writers’ work. An author lives in and with the story and can miss the same errors over and over again, no matter how many times they edit or read their own story. There is an intimacy, and a familiarity with their work that often blinds the writer.
One of the simplest tools I’ve employed in self-editing is to read the story out loud. Often hearing my own voice will alert me to the natural pauses in language that require commas. Better still is to have someone else read the story out loud to you. The elements change in oral language and questionable passages are easily identified when a devoted friend stumbles over your words.
There’s also a second danger in our cryptic world of texting and social media. We have become accustomed to shooting off messages with minimum thought to grammar in order save bytes and fit our message into the space provided by the communication network.
Though I’m not big on social media, I find that I often miss words purposely, feeling their absence should be ‘understood’ by the reader— a fill-in-the- blanks example of the relaxed language sloth of our times.
I’ll respond to a story with a simple-- ‘Loved it!’ Instead of the correct format— ‘I loved your story.’ While I don’t think it’s a big deal (how convenient of me, when I’m the one writing the sentence) I find myself filling in the missing words when editing other’s work, expecting the writer to use every single one.
Our tendency for short forms in everyday communication has dangerous potential to spill over into the writing we hope to someday publish. It’s a habit, one that has become so accepted by the general public that we become inured to the grinding teeth of the editor who is judging our masterpiece.
I read some excellent advice recently. In very strong terms, the essayist stated that if a person claims to be a writer, then every written word that the person releases to the world needs to reflect the highest standard an author would invest in his own story.
It’s advice that I am trying very hard to embrace.
copyright © 2014
♦ After a thirty year career as a sales and marketing executive, Ingrid Thomson is a top-ranked author in a website writing community and a published short story author who is working on the final draft of her first novel.
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.