Quick Editorial Tips

For nearly every client – especially those for whom I am doing a beta-read or full edit – I write an Editorial Letter. In that Editorial Letter, I note (among other things):

Writing Problems

Repeated Bad Habits

Recurrent Punctuation Snafus

For those of you about to send your manuscript to an editor, here are a few things to check and/or avoid:

Overuse of pronouns

If you have more than one SHE and more than one HE in a scene, chapter, whatever, and all you use is he/she throughout. I’m confused. Your readers will be confused too.

List of Chapters

You have a list of chapters at the beginning of the book, say 30 chapters. But the book has 31 chapters. Oops.

If you are going to list chapters at the beginning of your novel, check and double check that the chapters in the Contents agree with the number of chapters in the novel.

If you name your chapters, make sure they translate from Contents to text.

Michael or Mike?

Throughout the book you call a dude “Michael.” Then in one chapter you use “Mike.”

I’m thinking, “Who’s Mike?”

Or you spell a character’s name Karen and then later you call her Karin.

Ellipsis …

A mark used to indicate that something has been omitted from a text.

Why are so many writers using these … on every dang page?

Or in one place you have…. and then you have ……. and then in another place you have …and then in another place…

If you must use the dot-dot-dot, then make them the same throughout the manuscript. Type them with a space before/space after or no space before/no space after. And the same number of dot-dot-dots.

Consistency. That’s the ticket!

Moving on …

Continue on

This is one of those things my Mother would chide me about. Continue ON is redundant. Or lift UP. Or drop DOWN. Or jump OVER.

Learn to use commas

And then you can break the rules – if you want to.

Good resources –

Diane Hacker, Rules for Writers

Strunk & White, The Elements of Style


He sat in a dark, red velvet, plush, antique chair with a heavy, green, cable-knit sweater around his shoulders with a well-worn, old, leather-bound book on his lap.

Okay, this is an exaggeration. But still. Some of y’all are using way too many adjectives.

I’m reminded of Anton Chekhov: Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Show, don’t tell.


Stayed tuned for more Quick Editorial Tips. A special Thank You to editor Shawn MacKenzie for her beta-read on this blog post.

See her Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photos from pb_homepage, BryBuy8, and lenakhalid – Photobucket.


Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, literary, historical, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and University of New Mexico, and was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

16 responses to “Quick Editorial Tips

  1. Thank you! I’ll have to put this one in my file for my next story. And I would recommend Karen to edit anything!

  2. You’re welcome any time.

  3. Interesting and informative. I liked the comment about Anton Chekhov.

  4. Excellent reminders of writing rules!!

  5. Gonna . . . share this one. 🙂 (Love this photo of you.)

  6. Esther

    Have to admit…two really bad habits: too many …s and dropping the subject of the sentence way too often. I seem to have lots of company.

  7. Thanks everybody! The … from my experience – it seems a lot of people use an ellipsis when they don’t know what else to use or when they are doing a first draft. I use a lot in my first drafts. I’m working on a few more Quick Editorial Tips posts. Stay tuned!

  8. Bookmarking. Thank you, Karen. Off I go to kill a few more darlings. 🙂

  9. This is super! Thanks for posting 🙂 My pet hate is the over use of adjectives, too. Hate it!! Like Tonia, I’m bookmarking – would hate you to find too many of these when I send you mine one day soon!

  10. Adjectives have their place, yes. But I much prefer Chekhov’s mantra of showing us. Thanks, Susannah!

  11. I confess that this had me alternating between “Ouch” and “Bravo!” Seriously, this is a terrific checklist which I’ve just copied for future reference. Thanks!

  12. Great advice for writers aiming to maintain their continuity throughout an essay or book. Nothing worse than being tripped up by a new term of reference half way through a read. That momentary, ‘Who?’, can take the shine off an exciting chapter.

    • The “Who?” makes me stop, think, stumble. And writers don’t want that to happen! Too much frustration – or questions in the midst of the prose – can be a “make it or break it” for writers.

  13. Pingback: Quick Editorial Tips II | Karen S. Elliott's Blog

  14. Pingback: Quick Editorial Tips III | Karen S. Elliott's Blog

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