What Editors Look For: Mechanics

Posted by on Mar 18, 2013 in Writing Advice | One Comment

If you know what someone wants, it becomes that much easier to give it to her. Outside of genre and word length preferences, editors look for some basic things in a manuscript that’s been submitted to them. One of those things is good grammar and spelling.

Never underestimate the power of a good, aesthetically pleasing sentence. You can have the most amazing story idea ever, but if it’s not clearly written, nobody will understand what the heck you’re talking about, or they’ll have to work so hard to understand what you’re saying that reading ceases being a pleasure and becomes a pain.

I don’t have to tell you how easy it is to check your spelling. At the most basic level, you can use spell check in Microsoft Word (but that little bugger can be tricky, so don’t bet the farm on it). You can Google a word you’re unsure about. You can ask someone on FB or Twitter. If you feel like getting up from your desk, you can go get your dictionary. Some mistakes in your final draft are inevitable, thanks to evil typos and the impossibility of human perfection. But numerous mistakes are a big red flag that the writer didn’t put much effort into his or her work, or worse, weren’t even aware of the mistakes.

As far as grammar is concerned, there are a ton of rules, and lots of writers break them regularly. If you pick up a YA or NA novel, odds are that you’ll find fragments, maybe some run-ons, comma splices, etc. BUT, the successful rule-breakers do it in such a way that is natural, unobtrusive, and suited to the voice of the character and the tone of the book.

Never break grammar rules for the sake of breaking grammar rules or because you’re tired of line edits. For the most part, following the rules helps you create clean sentences that are easy to read and understand.

In summary:

1. Be fastidious about spelling and grammar.

2. Don’t depend on spell-check.

3. Your dictionary is your friend.

4. Stick to the rules unless you have a monumentally good reason to do otherwise.

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1 Comment

  1. djinnia
    March 8, 2014

    or i use my little friend: dictionary.com. it’s the most wonderful site. there’s a thesaurus attached.

    so is fantasticfiction.co.uk but that’s just an amazing book site.

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