Hello, fellow literary people!
This week, Jennifer covers some of her favorite editing rules.
Last week, we learned about the revision process. Once you created (to the best of your ability) a flawless manuscript, you asked a beta reader to critique it. Now it’s time to send it off to an editor. Wrong! Don’t hire a professional until you have edited your mss the best you possibly can on your own.
1) Misplaced or Dangling Modifiers
Modifiers offer additional information. Place the modifier as close to the word you want to modify.
Misplaced Modifier: Description that modifies the wrong word.
Crawling in a giant pile of ants, Jennifer fire-torches her apartment to the ground.
Because Jennifer is what comes immediately after the modifying phrase, I am crawling in a giant pile of ants. Simply move the modifying phrase after apartment to describe the apartment.
Jennifer fire-torches her apartment crawling in a giant pile of ants to the ground.
Dangling Modifier: Unstated subject.
Dowsing the house with gasoline, giant piles of ants go up in smoke.
Because the subject isn’t clearly stated, our modifying phrase isn’t really modifying anything. Fix this by adding the doer of the action.
Dowsing the house with gasoline, Jennifer watches giant piles of ants go up in smoke.
2) Faulty Parallelism
Consistency is key – even when it comes to grammatical forms.
Items in a series:
Jennifer’s hobbies are writing, reading, and to research controversial topics.
Remember, we want similarly constructed phrases, so we want “to research” to match writing and reading.
Jennifer’s hobbies are writing, reading, and researching controversial topics.
All in all, Jennifer’s literary videos are whimsical and a form of education.
Just change “a form of education” to “educational” and we’re good to go.
All in all, Jennifer’s literary videos are whimsical and educational.
It is wise to comment on Jennifer’s videos today than waiting until next week.
Since we said “to comment,” we also want to say “to wait.”
It is wise to comment on Jennifer’s videos today than to wait until next week.
3) Active v. Passive Voice
Although passive voice comes in handy, it’s best to eliminate the be verb “was.”
(Passive) Object + be verb + subject
The scrumptious sandwich was eaten by Jennifer.
In passive voice, the object (sandwich) of the action (eaten) is in the subject position (me!). It isn’t incorrect to write in passive voice, it’s just wordy. However, passive voice helps eliminate subject repetition (for example, if you don’t want to say I did this, I did that, over and over again).
(Active) Subject + verb + object
Jennifer ate the scrumptious sandwich.
In active voice, the subject (me!) is doing the action (ate) to the object (sandwich). Active voice gives us clear, concise sentences.
4) Oxford Comma
You have probably read a list of items without a comma separating the last two items. We think the conjunction “and” does a fine enough job… but it really doesn’t.
I love watching The YA Publication Project with my parents, David Hasselhoff and Pee-wee Herman.
Without the oxford comma, your parents’ names are David Hasselhoff and Pee-wee Herman. Lucky you.
I love watching The YA Publication Project with my parents, David Hasselhoff, and Pee-wee Herman.
With the oxford comma, we separate your parents, David Hasselhoff, and Pee-wee Herman. Phew!
Here are a few more editing rules:
5) Apostrophes for Removed Characters
Say we have the year 1990. If we remove 19, an apostrophe replaces the removed characters: ’90. Some people write 90’ – but that’s wrong. Some people write 90’s, but this is also wrong, because this makes the year possessive. It’s just 90s.
Another example is chicken ‘n’ rice. We remove both A and D, so we replace both characters with an apostrophe.
6) Commas with Nonessential Elements
I swear there is a real name for this rule, but I have no idea what it is. If you can eliminate a phrase within a sentence and the sentence still makes sense, put commas around it.
My mom, who is a beautiful person and great writer, is one of my heroes.
The information “who is a beautiful person and a great writer” can be deleted and the sentence still makes sense.
My mom is one of my heroes.
- “Commas with Nonessential Elements.” Purdue OWL. <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/>.
- Writer’s Digest Best-of Writing Articles. <http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/62-of-the-top-writing-articles-from-2013-that-can-help-you-in-2014>.
- “The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks.” <http:www.unnecessaryquotes.com>.
New episodes are periodically posted on Mondays.