It was the year of editing dangerously. Okay, admittedly, not that bad. While it wasn’t exactly dangerous, I found certain errors kept creeping into the manuscripts, no matter if the stories came from Denmark or Duluth. My list of common errors follows. See if you can relate.
Point of View: Whose story is it, anyway? If your main character’s name is Penelope, then we must see the entire story through Penelope’s eyes. She acts as the filter through which we hear the dialogue, see the landscape, feel the wind blowing. So that means we can’t jump into the head of the dashing Count Van Dunderfield and discover that he thinks Penelope is a dolt. Granted, there are ways to get this information out, but that’s for another post. (Ask me in the comments if you’d like to know.)
“Alright”: While altogether confusing, we should already know that we should never, never spell all right as alright. All right?
Bland verbs: We certainly don’t want to ban is, are, was, and were, but let’s try a little moderation, please. In my editing adventures, I often find sentences constructed with a dull verb but brimming with adjectives and adverbs to try and add flavor. Writers, don’t rely on adjectives and adverbs that way! Let your nouns and verbs be the heavy lifters of your sentences.
Present tense-past tense problems: When telling a story in past tense, it’s common to use past perfect tense, referring to an event happening before the current action of the story. Our ears are used to this subtle transition. The problem with telling your story in the past and switching to present tense is that it sounds off, like the wrong note played at a piano recital. We’ve listened to stories all our lives, and most are told in past tense. While writing a story in present tense does work, switching from past to present generally does not.
Dialogue tags: Try this at home—chuckle a sentence. Laugh a sentence. No, you say a sentence. So that means this construction is wrong: “You’re funny,” she laughed. Correct: “You’re funny,” she said. Or, “You’re funny.” She laughed.
Don’t let these common errors creep into your writing. Be wise and revise!
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