Author Topic: The most common mistakes of craft, or "Come on, folks, this is your profession!"  (Read 3525 times)

David VanDyke

There was a pretty lively thread on The Other Place about this. As we can't import whole threads from there, let's recreate it.

So what are the most common errors of craft you see?

Include basics such as punctuation, grammar and word use, all the way up to plotting, use of tropes, cliches and other such issues.

Unless prohibited by forum policy, this specifically includes posts, not just books. That's where the "Come on folks, this is your profession!" comes in.

Share your pet peeves about any writing you see!

Some of mine:

Confusion of its and it's. Its is possessive. It's is a contraction of it is. "It's always happy to eat its food."

Occasionally I see even other possessive pronouns acquire an apostrophe. (incorrectly): Their's, her's, etc.


Similarly, any use of apostrophes when trying to create a plural. Except in specific cases, plurals never take apostrophes. Not even for names, or for words ending in vowels, which seem to be where the biggest confusion comes in.

Plurals: How many emojis are in this sentence? Let's have dinner at the Murphys.

Possessives: That emoji's color is too bright. Joe Murphy's dog is is annoying.


Comprise or compose: Compose means to make up. Comprise means to contain. The most common error with these words I see is to write "comprised of." Substitute "contain" and you get "contained of," which makes the error quite clear.


Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 
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Max

There was a pretty lively thread on The Other Place about this. As we can't import whole threads from there, let's recreate it.

So what are the most common errors of craft you see?

Include basics such as punctuation, grammar and word use, all the way up to plotting, use of tropes, cliches and other such issues.

Unless prohibited by forum policy, this specifically includes posts, not just books. That's where the "Come on folks, this is your profession!" comes in.

Share your pet peeves about any writing you see!

Some of mine:

Confusion of its and it's. Its is possessive. It's is a contraction of it is. "It's always happy to eat its food."

Occasionally I see even other possessive pronouns acquire an apostrophe. (incorrectly): Their's, her's, etc.


Similarly, any use of apostrophes when trying to create a plural. Except in specific cases, plurals never take apostrophes. Not even for names, or for words ending in vowels, which seem to be where the biggest confusion comes in.

Plurals: How many emojis are in this sentence? Let's have dinner at the Murphys.

Possessives: That emoji's color is too bright. Joe Murphy's dog is is annoying.


Comprise or compose: Compose means to make up. Comprise means to contain. The most common error with these words I see is to write "comprised of." Substitute "contain" and you get "contained of," which makes the error quite clear.

So question.

If you say, Let's have dinner at the Murphys, aren't you really saying at their home? Home being implied, I think? So would it be Murphys's? Murphy's? Mur—oh, the heck with it, you know what I mean. lol

I mean it's different than saying Let's have dinner with the Murphys.

I remember hearing a conversation about this long, long ago.
 

Ginny

I don't have to look all that far for errors of craft. (the calls usually come from inside the house on that one)  :afro:

gerund

Been using and abusing those. I had to google it. Had no idea what the heck that was.

 

Solitary Dan

When writers say that forum posts, tweets, eMail and other online communications "don't count" in terms of properly using the English language, I cry foul.  There's no argument that there is a difference between formal and informal use of language.  A forum post, for example, may be less formal.  I mean, I probably wouldn't toss out an emoticon of an animated banana riding a green llama in a novel.

 :banana-riding-llama-smiley-em

Okay, maybe I would if I could but most writers wouldn't.

But there's a difference between formal vs. informal use and not using the language properly at all.  i mene if u start riting stuph in fourahm posts lyke u just dont kare dat's not gonna leeve a good impreshun wid potenshal reeders, u no wut i mene?  n arguin its just a fourahm post aint gonna kut it.  prubublee.

Practice makes perfect or at least better and every communication outlet is an opportunity for practice.  Plus you have a tendency to absorb what you read, so if you're reading badly written forum posts by other writers, that may affect your own writing.  So, really, people who write poorly in forum posts are hurting others as much as they are hurting themselves.*

I should probably write this stuff anonymously.   :hug:

Anyway, that's my opinion and I reserve the right to change it when convenient for me.   :icon_think:




*As an example, I apparently misuse the heck out of commas so by reading this post, I have just subtly made your own command of commas slightly less correct.  Also, I have overused the word just and that's gonna hurt you too.  And I double-space between periods and start sentences with prepositions and make frequent use of run-on sentences, so you are now a worse writer than when you started reading this post.  All your readers are belonging to me now.  You're welcome.
     
 
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guest390

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If I had to narrow it to one: Thinking an editor isn't a necessary part of the process. Writers who have the "it's good enough" attitude set indie back. Since the first wave of indies  - 2010-2012 - until this day we've struggled to be taken seriously. And we've made a lot of headway. For years we've done our best to produce books that are comparable in quality to what the Big 5 produces. It's why we get pissy when we see people shoving an unedited, unproof read, mess onto the market. Particularly now that there are so many wonderful, and affordable, resources available. There's really no excuse for it.
 
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David VanDyke


So question.

If you say, Let's have dinner at the Murphys, aren't you really saying at their home? Home being implied, I think? So would it be Murphys's? Murphy's? Mur—oh, the heck with it, you know what I mean. lol

I mean it's different than saying Let's have dinner with the Murphys.

I remember hearing a conversation about this long, long ago.

Possessives of plurals that become plurals with S take only an apostrophe.

Possessives of plurals where the singular already ends in an S take an apostrophe-S.

If the family name is Murphy, and they are the Murphys (plural), then it's the Murphys' house.

If the family name is, say, Robbins, then it's the Robbins's house.

http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/english-grammar-rules-for-possessive-plurals.html

That one's pretty esoteric, and doesn't bother me terribly, personally. It's the really common, obvious ones that get my eyerolls going.

Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 
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elleoco

Well, since there's an invitation....

My pet peeve in homophones, since I have a horse background, is rein vs. reign. The entire world, indie and traditional, has great difficulty with those two for some reason. Sometimes it's correct in one place and wrong in the next within the same book.

As to editing, I remember the days when Amanda Hocking posted that she had had her books edited as often as three times, and readers still complained that they needed editing. To be fair, I think in those days some readers just slapped "needs editing" in any review of an indie book, with or without grounds. A real problem for indies was, and I think remains, that if you don't knows this stuff yourself, you can't judge an editing job.

From my own reading, I believe editing is still a problem, not that authors aren't sending books to editors, but in results. When I try new-to-me indie authors, I often find a book that has few or no technical problems of the typo/homophone/possessive sort. It sure looks as if it's had editing, and definitely has had proofreading, but still lacks something. What if an editor does a careful job on a work that is just not that well written to start with?

I've been reading some of Janice Hardy's articles on her Fiction University blog about more nuanced things such as rhythm of language, and trying to up my own game, which isn't that easy since there seems to be a fine line between learning such things and throwing up one's hands.

Max


Would of being used instead of would've/would have. Any of the '-ould' words.
 

Shoe

So what are the most common errors of craft you see?

Include basics such as punctuation, grammar and word use, all the way up to plotting, use of tropes, cliches and other such issues.

Years ago, the Paris Review featured final drafts from great authors once their editors brought out their red pens. The grammatical errors, misspellings, etc., were abundant. We're talking seas of red ink on final drafts by Hemingway, Henry Miller, Steinbeck, even Nabokov.

This points to the essential need for good editing, even for iconic authors. But what else does it point to?

Perfect grammar and spelling matter less than the quality of the prose beyond the essential mechanics.
Publishing since May 2017. Writing full time since January 2018 general fiction and satire.
 

LD

A real problem for indies was, and I think remains, that if you don't knows this stuff yourself, you can't judge an editing job.

From my own reading, I believe editing is still a problem, not that authors aren't sending books to editors, but in results. When I try new-to-me indie authors, I often find a book that has few or no technical problems of the typo/homophone/possessive sort. It sure looks as if it's had editing, and definitely has had proofreading, but still lacks something. What if an editor does a careful job on a work that is just not that well written to start with?


This.  I know an "editor" who says the one thing she knows is grammar. Yet the majority of her posts have errors in them.  Of course, these are Facebook posts and maybe she would argue that she doesn't edit those posts, but I would think as an editor it would be second nature to you to know the rules without needing to correct them to begin with.  These are not spelling errors or typos, but grammatical errors, like the "would of" and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.  Then she always has people commenting on her posts, singing her praises. 
« Last Edit: September 24, 2018, 01:40:25 PM by LD »
 
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Crystal

TBH, my posts are often full of errors because I write them on my phone. A lot of this stuff is auto-correct/predict related.
 

PJ Post

The Murphys didn't make it out of the inter-dimensional transport in time, now, when we want to have dinner at the Murphy's, we have to ask which half.
 

LD

TBH, my posts are often full of errors because I write them on my phone. A lot of this stuff is auto-correct/predict related.
But wouldn't you (general, of course), as an editor, want to fix it?  Not only because it doesn't put you in a good light, but  because it would bug you?
 

elleoco

The Murphys didn't make it out of the inter-dimensional transport in time, now, when we want to have dinner at the Murphy's, we have to ask which half.


I hope that was supposed to be a challenge.



The Murphys didn't make it out of the inter-dimensional transport in time. [Comma-splice was here.] Now, [I'd leave out the comma after "now," but that's not wrong, just style.] when we want to have dinner at the Murphys', [Needs plural possessive, not singular.] we have to ask which half.


Dennis Chekalov

Some authors just don't underdstand how the society works. And they don't want to understand. That's why some imaginary worlds are shallow and unconvincing. Think about The Phanthom Menace. The world, where people like Jar Jar Binks become senators... Oh.
 
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David VanDyke



Perfect grammar and spelling matter less than the quality of the prose beyond the essential mechanics.


Depends on how you view that polish. Would those iconic authors have made it if their stuff had been released with all those problems?


Are you (general) impressed by a classic car that's not been restored well?


Is a pretty girl nearly as pretty with no deodorant and bad makeup?


Does the lack of editing ruin an otherwise good story? It does for me.


***


Another pet peeve:


Echoes. Reusing the same significant work in the same paragraph, sometimes several times, sometimes throughout a book. Characters nod hundreds of times, or they always "look" a certain way, over and over and over.

« Last Edit: September 25, 2018, 01:19:35 AM by David VanDyke »
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

David VanDyke

[size=78%]  I know an "editor" who says the one thing she knows is grammar. Yet the majority of her posts have errors in them.  Of course, these are Facebook posts and maybe she would argue that she doesn't edit those posts, but I would think as an editor it would be second nature to you to know the rules without needing to correct them to begin with.  These are not spelling errors or typos, but grammatical errors, like the "would of" and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.  Then she always has people commenting on her posts, singing her praises. [/size]


The blind leading the blind--and the related Dunning-Kruger syndrome, which means someone is so inept, they can't actually tell how inept they are.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

Dennis Chekalov

Quote
and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.


Really? I'm Russian, I've studied German (not English) in school and in college, and I still know the difference.
How is it possible that a native speaker doesn't?
 

RCoots



My pet peeve in homophones, since I have a horse background, is rein vs. reign. The entire world, indie and traditional, has great difficulty with those two for some reason. Sometimes it's correct in one place and wrong in the next within the same book.



THIS.  So much this. I've also got a horse background and every time i see this i imagine the character as a horse.


Another thing that bugs me is voice. Quite often, I'll pick up a book and every single character has the same voice. Stilted, no contractions, no verbal tics (either in dialogue or as they narrate) to make me go "OH, this is Character A speaking." And quite often, they all use the same vocabulary. I drop a fifty cent word without thinking about it in conversation, half the room has to stop and figure out what I meant. (This has actually happened. It's a bit awkward)
 

LD


Perfect grammar and spelling matter less than the quality of the prose beyond the essential mechanics.
I'd have to disagree with this.  It's not likely to be PERFECT, but those guys had editors go over their work too before it was released, which shows it IS important.  It's not like their books were printed as is and they were still a huge hit.
 

Lysmata Debelius

When a writer doesn't differentiate between the narrator's voice, and a character's way of talking. You know, when a character describes something, but they suddenly start talking like a written description. You know :


Susan turned to Mary. "What did you do last night ?"
"I was walking home," said Mary, "with the snow crunching crisply under my boot-heels and the wind tugging my hair away from my face..."
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy and Science Fiction


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Llano

Quote
and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.


Really? I'm Russian, I've studied German (not English) in school and in college, and I still know the difference.
How is it possible that a native speaker doesn't?

Apparently our education system sucks.

Before the Internet few people wrote things that other people could see. As long as they could speak somewhat properly they could be completely illiterate and nobody would notice. Now everybody writes and shows it to the world, and the level of semi-literacy is shocking. In the past people were embarrassed when called out on their grammar and spelling. Now they get defensive, even aggressive, insisting it doesn't matter because everybody knows what they mean.

I see they're/their/there and its/it's misused so often that I now have to stop and think myself before writing. For those who don't know the proper usage, or are unsure, this avalanche of misuse will eventually win out and we'll all be illiterate.
 

DrewMcGunn



Apparently our education system sucks.

Before the Internet few people wrote things that other people could see. As long as they could speak somewhat properly they could be completely illiterate and nobody would notice. Now everybody writes and shows it to the world, and the level of semi-literacy is shocking. In the past people were embarrassed when called out on their grammar and spelling. Now they get defensive, even aggressive, insisting it doesn't matter because everybody knows what they mean.

I see they're/their/there and its/it's misused so often that I now have to stop and think myself before writing. For those who don't know the proper usage, or are unsure, this avalanche of misuse will eventually win out and we'll all be illiterate.

Hey, I'm not illiterate... I know who my parents are.  :Grin:

Drew McGunn
 

guest390

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A trend I'm seeing in the comments are grammar issues that an editor would catch. I know there have been heated arguments about the need for editing. And I guess you can tell which side I'm on. But here's the thing...Early in my career I struggled to find a decent editor; not an uncommon problem in 2011. I was getting dozens of reviews complaining about it. It hurt my rankings and the overall standing of my work. When I found a good editor (two in fact) those complaints all but ceased. Instead of being judged for the quality of the grammar, I was judged by the quality of the work.
Another thing writers can do is look into a developmental editor. I know indies are wary of this, but I'll make my case, nonetheless. With my most recent book (not to be released until 2020), I worked with a completely new process. I've been an indie for seven years and have total control over content. My editors chime in, but not often. With Tor, I was in a position where I had to listen. I could argue my perspective on the matter. And I could fight it if I was determined enough. But in the end, I was wrong nearly every time. How do I know this? Beta readers. The reaction was consistent. After making the suggested revisions, the book was at a whole new level. One of the readers has read almost everything I've put out. He said what started as a good book turned into the best work I've produced to date.
Much of what indies stumble through can be fixed with a sound editing process. It's so important to understand your own limitations. I, for example, do not have a background in English. So for me, editing is crucial. Also, I tend to write flat secondary characters. Through the editing and beta reading process, I've greatly improved on this. I have "writing ticks" that are hard for me to catch. It's when you over use words like very, every, or whatever little thing you do that you don't notice. Even repetition of phrases throughout a manuscript can be removed through editing. For example: if you have a character "blink hard" or "flick his wrist" a bunch of times.
Anyway, a good book is certainly about the story. But if you can't get past the lack of editing, readers will never know how good it is. They'll get frustrated and stop reading.
 
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David VanDyke


Another thing that bugs me is voice. Quite often, I'll pick up a book and every single character has the same voice. Stilted, no contractions, no verbal tics (either in dialogue or as they narrate) to make me go "OH, this is Character A speaking." And quite often, they all use the same vocabulary. I drop a fifty cent word without thinking about it in conversation, half the room has to stop and figure out what I meant. (This has actually happened. It's a bit awkward)


Good one. I remember a book I read where every character said "explicate" for "explain." It would have worked for one professorial character, but not everyone. It just ended up being annoying.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

Shoe




Depends on how you view that polish. Would those iconic authors have made it if their stuff had been released with all those problems?



My point was, a fine spit and polish doesn't mean the writing will be any good. Of course, every book should be well edited.
Publishing since May 2017. Writing full time since January 2018 general fiction and satire.
 

Wifey

How about stories told in first person where the MC is too self-aware of their physical tics?
Genres: Romance, Chic Lit, YA
 

David VanDyke

In Commonwealth English, "ly" adverbs used in phrasal adjectives take hyphens.

A commonly-held belief. A badly-formed sentence.

In American English, they do not.


A commonly held belief. A badly formed sentence.


Similarly, in CE, periods (full stops) and commas go outside the quotes.

The man said, "I need a drink".

In AE, they always go inside.

The man said, "I need a drink."

The key is to stick with one--Commonwealth or American. Don't mix and match.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2018, 06:33:19 AM by David VanDyke »
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Al Stevens

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Endless descriptions of places that seem to want me to know the author has been somewhere. I'm reading a book now where the MC walks from street A to intersection B where business C is located, across the D bridge that crosses river E and into his office building F. The whole thing could've been, simply, "He walked to work."
Genres: mystery, music, programming, science fiction, historical fiction


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Al Stevens is a retired author of computer programming books. For fifteen years he was a senior contributing editor and columnist for Dr. Dobb's Journal, a leading magazine for computer programmers. Al lives with his wife Judy and a menagerie of cats on Florida's Space Coast where he writes by day and plays piano, string bass, and saxophone by night.
 

David VanDyke

Endless descriptions of places that seem to want me to know the author has been somewhere. I'm reading a book now where the MC walks from street A to intersection B where business C is located, across the D bridge that crosses river E and into his office building F. The whole thing could've been, simply, "He walked to work."


Yeah, that's a good one.


I think newish authors are often afraid not to account for all the time in the story. If I get a chance to tell them, I tell them to think of it like something on the screen--most of the time, they cut from scene to scene with even less explanation a book has, and people follow along just fine.
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Al Stevens

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Voice is a problem for me. If there are two detectives for example in the same office, partners, working the same cases, I tend to make them talk alike. I've tried to correct that by infusing each one with different traits. One is soft-spoken and deferential, the other aggressive, and so on. And I work to show those differences in their speech rather than simply tell the reader about them.


A trick I worked out--or read about, I forget--is to assign to each character a person I know in real life. I write dialogue with the assigned acquaintances in mind. How would George say that? How would Emily answer? I think of the real people's voices and expressions. I don't know how well it works, but it's got to be better than nothing.
Genres: mystery, music, programming, science fiction, historical fiction


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Al Stevens is a retired author of computer programming books. For fifteen years he was a senior contributing editor and columnist for Dr. Dobb's Journal, a leading magazine for computer programmers. Al lives with his wife Judy and a menagerie of cats on Florida's Space Coast where he writes by day and plays piano, string bass, and saxophone by night.
 

Alice Sabo

I have "writing ticks" that are hard for me to catch. It's when you over use words like very, every, or whatever little thing you do that you don't notice. Even repetition of phrases throughout a manuscript can be removed through editing. For example: if you have a character "blink hard" or "flick his wrist" a bunch of times.


I've noticed that, too. There is always a word or phrase that I overuse. In one book it was "For a moment". When I realized what it is, I do a Find and Replace in all caps. Then I can go back and tweak each sentence. In my current WIP, I seem to be using underbrush an awful lot. Weird.
Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Mystery and Space Opera Genre Hopper
 

Dennis Chekalov

1. Genres. Mixing genres is great if done right. Alas, some (many) novice authors just don't know what exactly they want to write.
2. Killing one of the main characters in the second part of the story just for EMOSHUNS. Such a cliche.
3. No proper midpoint.
4. Empty scenes which have no purpose at all.
5. Main characters are brainless idiots who ruin everything (and still count as heroes).
 

Jeff Tanyard

David's post is spot on, but I wanted to expound a little on this:


Similarly, in CE, periods (full stops) and commas go outside the quotes.

The man said, "I need a drink".

In AE, they always go inside.

The man said, "I need a drink."


The "commas and periods always go inside quotation marks" rule only applies to commas and periods.  Question marks, on the other hand, follow the logic of the sentence.  They can go either inside or outside the quotation marks.
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WHDean


You see a lot written about the types of editing--copyediting, line editing, developmental editing, etc.--but not much about different kinds of editor. In my experience, the editor's background is more indicative of what you'll get than the "editing function" they claim to perform. Bear in mind that I'm offering my four kinds of editor as food for thought--they're just generalizations from my experience:


1. Amateur editors are avid readers with an interest in fixing all the mistakes they see (or think they see) in the books they read. They're probably fine with proofreading for typos, but they rarely know much of anything about grammar, usage, or style beyond what they've picked up from Google searches. KB seems to have a surplus of these editors, probably because they come cheap.


2. The-best-writer-in-the-room-at-the-time editors happened to be there at start-up and got assigned the task of editing and hiring editors. You'd be surprised how many firms, institutions, and even presses employ such people. It's one of the reasons that "editor at such-and-such press" means nothing to me; they're often no better than amateurs.


3. Trained copy editors have a technical writing or copyediting diploma. They're usually much more knowledgeable than the first two about the conventions you find in the Chicago Manual of Style and the handbooks. But the only style they seem to know is the stripped-down plain style familiar to any reader of newspapers, magazines, and the big writers in the popular genres. Their weakness, in my experience, is over-editing. When someone complains about an editor sucking the life out of something--assuming there was life there to suck out--or complains that all the characters sound the same, they probably had a copyeditor. Making everything align with the generic pattern, after all, is what they're trained to do.


4. I call the fourth group MFA editors, not because very many have MFAs, but because they all come from an academic background in the humanities. Where copyeditors focus on conventions, MFA editors focus on style. They'll be weaker on handbook conventions, but they'll have a better understanding of your voice and what you're trying to achieve. Of course, you have to know what you're trying to achieve to get the most from an MFA editor.


My 2 cents.
 
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David VanDyke

Good observations, WHDean. Especially about 3, though that can apply to all of them.

The thing is, if you pay an editor to edit, they will edit, just like if you pay an investigator to investigate, they will find something wrong with whomever they're investigating. That becomes their purpose in life. You can see this by the fact (there have been tests) where an MS is given to an editor, then the changed MS is later given back the the exact same editor--and they will recommend changing things back the way they were.

Really good editors know when to leave well enough alone--and they're smart to do so. It makes for a lot less work for everyone.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

idontknowyet

Quote
and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.


Really? I'm Russian, I've studied German (not English) in school and in college, and I still know the difference.
How is it possible that a native speaker doesn't?



I don't think its lack of knowledge. It's more of a lack of patience or thought about it. If I'm writing fast or something not important like a post, I don't stop to think about which its im using. Nor do I usually bother going back to correct it when I notice it's wrong. Writers and storytellers might be two different things. I will never be known for my amazing grammar and I probably wont be known for my storytelling, but I don't think those two skills are necessarily tied together.
 

WHDean

Good observations, WHDean. Especially about 3, though that can apply to all of them.

The thing is, if you pay an editor to edit, they will edit, just like if you pay an investigator to investigate, they will find something wrong with whomever they're investigating. That becomes their purpose in life. You can see this by the fact (there have been tests) where an MS is given to an editor, then the changed MS is later given back the the exact same editor--and they will recommend changing things back the way they were.

Really good editors know when to leave well enough alone--and they're smart to do so. It makes for a lot less work for everyone.


The incentives are hard to get around, no doubt. One suggestion--which is only liable to work in specific cases--is to say something like the following to the editor:


Look, I know you make your beans by making changes, and you don't want to come off as useless by not changing anything. So here's what you can do: Use the comment function. Leave me a suggestion when you think you have one and your rationale for it. I'd prefer that to a bunch of unnecessary synonymous substitutions.


I expect this might help in cases where you think you need to take the pressure off. And what you get might be more useful.


Another thing: I've always thought working out a "style statement" (or whatever you want to call it) about what you're trying to do, along with some writers you're emulating, is a good idea. Having a benchmark like that orients the editor toward a goal, instead of having him or her focused on "fixing mistakes." The side benefit of this is that you weed out the people whose aim was to mold you in their style.   
 

guest390

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Good observations, WHDean. Especially about 3, though that can apply to all of them.

The thing is, if you pay an editor to edit, they will edit, just like if you pay an investigator to investigate, they will find something wrong with whomever they're investigating. That becomes their purpose in life. You can see this by the fact (there have been tests) where an MS is given to an editor, then the changed MS is later given back the the exact same editor--and they will recommend changing things back the way they were.

Really good editors know when to leave well enough alone--and they're smart to do so. It makes for a lot less work for everyone.


The incentives are hard to get around, no doubt. One suggestion--which is only liable to work in specific cases--is to say something like the following to the editor:


Look, I know you make your beans by making changes, and you don't want to come off as useless by not changing anything. So here's what you can do: Use the comment function. Leave me a suggestion when you think you have one and your rationale for it. I'd prefer that to a bunch of unnecessary synonymous substitutions.


I expect this might help in cases where you think you need to take the pressure off. And what you get might be more useful.


Another thing: I've always thought working out a "style statement" (or whatever you want to call it) about what you're trying to do, along with some writers you're emulating, is a good idea. Having a benchmark like that orients the editor toward a goal, instead of having him or her focused on "fixing mistakes." The side benefit of this is that you weed out the people whose aim was to mold you in their style.   
Through the editing process, you should have the option to accept of reject the changes. This is true in indie or traditional publishing. The edits are done in MS Word, so you should be able to see the changes and read the notes while reviewing the manuscript. Punctuation are typically those you accept most, assuming you have a quality editor.
Where it gets subjective is mostly during developmental and copy editing. But it's also where a writer's ego can get in the way. Be careful not to dismiss a suggestion or criticism out of hand. If you find yourself disagreeing, move on and give it time. Think on it a while. It's crucial to remember that you are close to your story. You might not have the best perspective to make certain judgments.
 

RCoots


Another thing: I've always thought working out a "style statement" (or whatever you want to call it) about what you're trying to do, along with some writers you're emulating, is a good idea. Having a benchmark like that orients the editor toward a goal, instead of having him or her focused on "fixing mistakes." The side benefit of this is that you weed out the people whose aim was to mold you in their style.   

I did this after my copy editor gave me back my sample edit. Let her know that yes, my sentences are choppy. Yes, I know she could put 'and' or 'but' in front of alot of them. But please don't do it unless it's really a clarity issue. And it seems to have gone great. (Also helped that instead of dumbing down my language choices from an older more formal word to something that did NOT fit the character, she went "Hey, I learned a new word!")
 
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Vijaya

I still have to double-check lie/lay when I use it. Esp. in the past tense.



Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces, primarily for children
Vijaya Bodach | Personal Blog | Bodach Books
 

Solitary Dan

Similarly, in CE, periods (full stops) and commas go outside the quotes.

The man said, "I need a drink".

In AE, they always go inside.

The man said, "I need a drink."

The key is to stick with one--Commonwealth or American. Don't mix and match.

This was easier when I wrote everything by hand.  Periods in or out?  Can't remember?  Easy solution: Put the period right below the closing quotation mark.  BAM!  Out?  In?  Could go either way.  Let the editor sort it out.

:wink: <--- OMG.  The wink emoji is GONE!  Noooo!  I can't go back to ;) after being spoiled by all these yellow smilies!  Nooooooo!
     
 

WHDean

On another matter, I've noticed an epidemic of comma splices. It seems to be a social contagion.



 

LD

I still have to double-check lie/lay when I use it. Esp. in the past tense.
I still cannot figure out how to know when to use which.  I've looked at explanations, but they all confuse me.  I need an easy way to remember the rules, some type of "hack."
 

Jeff Tanyard

On another matter, I've noticed an epidemic of comma splices. It seems to be a social contagion.


The comma has become something of an all-purpose punctuation mark on social media.   :icon_cry:
v  v  v  v  v    Short Stories    v  v  v  v  v    vv FREE! vv
     
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy (some day) | Author Website
 
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WHDean

On another matter, I've noticed an epidemic of comma splices. It seems to be a social contagion.


The comma has become something of an all-purpose punctuation mark on social media.   :icon_cry:


That seems to be where it's spreading from. Either that or I can't help blaming antisocial media...for everything! :evil2:





 

Cathleen

On comma splices, the one thing I can't wrap my head around is this: even among people who understand what they are (a disappointingly small percentage), there seems to be a feeling that they're okay used in dialogue. I've heard this is because trade editors frown on semicolons inside of quotes, not because someone's mangling punctuation to give a feeling of dialect.

This has never made sense to me. A semicolon is a useful little thing, good for more than just emoticons. ;)

Sure, we shouldn't overuse them, but simply turning a blind eye to the exact same sentence construction punctuated incorrectly with a comma splice seems like a nonsensical fix. Sentences can be broken, em dashes can be used, FANBOYS conjunctions added--there are a number of potential fixes that don't involve incorrect punctuation.

Everyone makes mistakes, but committing them deliberately doesn't seem like a good idea to me.
 
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elleoco

On comma splices, the one thing I can't wrap my head around is this: even among people who understand what they are (a disappointingly small percentage), there seems to be a feeling that they're okay used in dialogue. I've heard this is because trade editors frown on semicolons inside of quotes, not because someone's mangling punctuation to give a feeling of dialect.

This has never made sense to me. A semicolon is a useful little thing, good for more than just emoticons.
I never heard that about dialog, but I agree. There are times when I want two sentences closely associated so much that a comma splice is tempting, but IMO if it's that tempting the thing to do is use a semi, and I do. I see an occasional semi in pretty much every one of my favorite traditionally published author's books, which gives me a strong belief that the no-semi rule is another one of those things like no adverbs that went from the good advice of "don't over use" to the rule of "don't ever use" and ought to be recognized for the exaggeration it is.

Gaylord Fancypants

In romance, paying way too much attention to "realism". A lot of people try to come up with realistic plots, like I was telling an aspiring-author friend about one of my current projects, and she said "but it's not realistic that a straight professional wrestler would publicly declare his love for a man, while in the ring and on national TV", and I'm like that's the whole goddamn point! Of course it's not realistic. Real romance is usually boring, slow, irrelevant to anyone besides the people involved, and about ugly people. No one wants to read a book about that. Go big or go home.
 
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Becca Mills

Dangling modifiers. I see them all the time. Total pet peeve.
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