It's more than just red ink in that editing pen, and you know it. You will never find anyone else in the writing world whose blood is less precious or expensive, or more invested, than your own.
From simple punctuation to Pro-Tips on writing, this guide is a compilation of tips and concepts for beginning authors to keep in mind when they sit down to self-edit.
2nd Edition updated with more of everything, including an all-new section on self-publishing.
"…I was delighted to discover the updated and expanded edition here on Amazon. Five stars from me! My only quibble is that I think the author is selling himself short by marketing the book to novice writers. It is information-packed and helpful for everyone."– Reader review
"Insight on working with editors and references (with great examples) for self-editing anything. I love this book!"– Reader review
"Mr. Knight's humorous and conversational tone make the subject matter approachable for new writers while the scope of the information also makes the book a useful refresher for those who have already been around the block a few times."– Reader review
I DO NOT THINK THAT WORD MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS
There are some words that are repeatedly misused. The mistake can cause a chuckle or ruin a story. Some people don't mind, others can't stand it. As a writer, words are your trade, so you owe it to yourself to have the best command of them you can.
One of the biggest "invisible" problems writers can have is homonyms. Homonyms come in two different flavors. Homophones and Homographs.
Homophones sound alike, have different meanings, and have different spellings (too, two, to). (They are sometimes (rarely) referred to as heterographs.) Sometimes they are phrases or groups of words, such as "I scream" vs. "ice cream." When that happens, they are called oronyms or eggcorns. (More on eggcorns below.)
Homographs are spelled the same, but pronounced differently, and have different meanings ("Time to wind your watch" or "Feel the wind in your hair").
Homographs aren't usually a big problem for a writer, other than they sometimes stop us in our tracks as we try to figure out why what we just wrote doesn't look right. But Homophones can slip past even the best of writers. For some reason, our brains occasionally put the wrong one out there, and then we need a proofreader to find and fix them for us.
I often see "I'm over hear!" or "Did you here that?" Those are generally just an honest typo that needed another set of eyes in order to catch it. Most of us easily know the difference between hear and here, but some words can stymie us and need to be mastered before they ruin our stories.
This especially applies if you use dictation software, which will be more than happy to make the mistake for you.
While there are online services that will allow you to run checks on your text for homophones, they generally just highlight everything in their dictionary that is a homophone, and you have to go through one by one manually and see if you used the correct word. And those type of checks definitely won't help you with problems caused by other things, like malapropisms, eggcorns, and mondegreens.
Also known as a Dogberryism, from the character Constable Dogberry in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, a malapropism is the use of the wrong word in place of a word that sounds similar. While this is often used for comedic effect, such as when the famous Yogi Berra said, "Texas has a lot of electrical votes" (instead of electoral votes), the unintentional use of a malapropism can make you sound ignorant and ruin a story for the reader.
The same can be said, but maybe even more so for eggcorns, which are generally near (meaning not exact) oronyms (the name comes from the mishearing of the word acorn and thinking what was said was eggcorn), and mondegreens, which are what happens when people mishear or misunderstand common phrases or song lyrics (such as "bathroom on the right" instead of "bad moon on the rise").
A general term for the incorrect use of words, especially those that sound alike, is Acyrologia.
By now, you may be wondering why I chose to dump so many terms and details on you. I did it because there is one more I want to bring up, and, for me, it is the biggest problem. The one that is most likely to ruin a story for me. Okay, I admit, it will ruin the story for me every single time.
I spent a long time trying to research the correct term for it, and the closest I was able to come was Cacozelia. Which doesn't fit what I want. Cacozelia is when someone uses "big" words, or foreign words, to appear educated or snooty or whatever. Great. Fine. Whatever. We can all do that and pretend to be haughty.
Except when we can't.
A writer who attempts that in their writing, but unknowingly falls victim to malapropisms, eggcorns, and mondegreens, ends up with something that is, well, generally unenjoyable and unreadable. So don't do it. Stick with words you know instead. Not only your writing, but your story as well, will be much better for it.
And if, like me, you find yourself making the same mistake over and over again, consider adding it to your Final Checklist.
If you take nothing else away from this section, heed this: always be willing to look up anything you are not 100% sure of. If you can't find it, you've probably got it wrong.
Following is a list of some of the most commonly misused words and related mistakes I have seen.