I love having Wendy come visit my blog and share her wisdom with my readers, especially when she visits as her editor persona, The Grammar Goddess. Today she is sharing a few of her editing pet peeves, carefully curated from over 15 years of experience.
I’d like to share writing no-nos (aka Turtle Editor Wendy’s writing pet peeves) I’ve “collected” during my years of editing and proofreading. I’ll be gentle (I hope) and no names will be mentioned. This isn’t intended to be a “roasting” session, rather, a humorous, helpful post about some things to avoid when polishing your work before sending it off to your Editor. It’s easy to miss some things after writing your new Shiny and reading it a bazillion times (even we editors make mistakes *gasp*), but if you do any of the things I mention here, trust me, you’ll be more aware of them next time. 🙂
Let’s dive right in, shall we? 😉
Twelve Noon & Twelve Midnight. Really? So Noon & Midnight need to be specifically at “twelve?” They can’t be “One Noon” and “Three Midnight?” If they’re always the same – twelve o’clock p.m. for Noon & twelve o’clock a.m. for Midnight, then WHY in the name of all things holy do we need to specify that they are at “twelve?” Please break yourselves of this habit. Twelve p.m. is noon and twelve a.m. is midnight. Period. End of story. If your readers don’t know that, then they may need to go back to elementary school to learn the basics.
“She nodded her head.” Well, what else are you going to nod, your finger? I suppose that’s possible, but why? When you NOD, it’s a given that the item being nodded is your head. You don’t need to say “her head.” You don’t usually “nod” your finger or your hand; you wave a finger, wave a hand. Nodding is usually reserved for your head. Contrarily, “He shook his head no.” In this case, you’ll need to add “his head” because if you write it as “He shook no,” it makes no sense. Many things can be shaken – heads, feet, hands, etc., so you need to specify WHAT was shaken/shook.
“Every step you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.” Please don’t tell the reader every move your character makes. Unless they have a disability or infirmity that keeps them from walking upright, we know they stepped inside the room, shut the door with their hand (as opposed to their foot, maybe?), turned into the room away from the door, walked across the room to the window and opened the curtain to let in the light. We just don’t need all of that; it’s over-sharing (like telling us about the tinkling of urine in the pot as your heroine emptied her bladder…okay, maybe THAT’S more in the vein of TMI, but surely you get my point), and boring. It doesn’t further the action and frustrates the heck out of your editor. Simply tell us that “She entered the room, closed the door behind her and walked to the window, drew back the curtains to let in the sunlight.” See how much cleaner and succinct that is? And your editor won’t scream at you in her head…or leave lots of red marks all over your manuscript.
Stood, not “stood up.” Now this is a personal choice. It seems obvious to me that if a person stands/stood, then they’re standing “up.” But they could also be standing down. This is most common in military or paramilitary (law enforcement) settings. “I said stand down, soldier!” Rarely would someone not affiliated with either military or paramilitary tell someone to “stand down.” Therefore, whenever you write, “She stood up and walked across the room,” the “up” isn’t really necessary. “She stood and walked across the room” is sufficient. Now what I mean by this being a “personal choice.” I’ve edited manuscripts in which the author wrote “stood up” and I’ve left it in. For me, it’s about how the sentence flows around “stood up.” If it seems awkward and “stood” trips easier off the tongue (yes, I often edit aloud), then I’ll edit out “up.” But if it doesn’t mess with the flow of the action, then I’ll often leave it alone. 🙂
Wake me (up) before you go. Another personal choice. Sometimes you need to tell us your character “woke up” and other times, “she awoke” or “please wake him.” Similar to “stood” and “stood up,” whether or not I give the writer a slash of the red pen (metaphorically speaking, because often my edits appear in blue or purple…) depends on how “wake him up” flows with the action taking place within the context of the phrase. If your character is yelling in someone’s ear, “Wake up!” then yes, we want to keep the “up.” If your character “wakes each morning with the sunrise” then “up” is just unnecessary window dressing and red-pen worthy. 🙂
Now go forth, intrepid writers, better armed with tips to help you polish your work, make your editors proud and your manuscripts even more awesome! 🙂
Wendy is a writer and editor who holds multiple degrees from several universities (that’s what happens when you want to do everything!), including MA and MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University.
Her debut novel, SERPENT ON A CROSS, originally published in 2012, by Northampton House Press, was re-released with new content by Booktrope Publishing in 2014.
She’s authored numerous poems, and is currently juggling several Shiny Things (AKA, Works in Progress). She has served as a copy editor and panel reader for Hippocampus Magazine, as a reader for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship.
Wendy’s most recent venture is her freelance editing business, Grammar Goddess Editing. For information on services, fees, author reviews and a visual resume, visit her website.
In her day job, Wendy is a crime analyst for a sheriff’s office. Her hobbies include writing, reading, and traveling. She lives in South Florida with her teenage son.