6 Common Editing Mistakes

When you get to the editing stage in your manuscript journey, it can be incredibly daunting because there is so much that you need to check for. This means that it's also easy to miss, or over-look mistakes that you may not have thought about, which is why these mistakes are so common. Let's take a look at what these are.

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Accidentally switching between past tense and present tense

This is a common mistake, and one that I always struggle with as with some words and phrases, it can be difficult to distinguish between what's past tense and what is present tense. In order to solve this, make sure you research how these tenses are different, and look out for words that are in the incorrect tense when proofreading. As a note, past tense words usually have an 'ed' at the end. For example, 'uses' would become 'used'. 'mumble' would become 'mumbled' and so on.

It's important to note that all dialogue should usually be in the present tense unless they are directly talking about something that happened in the past. An example sentence in the past tense, but with dialogue in present would be, "Quick! Let's run to the nearest bus stop," Elizabeth cried.

Spelling changes

Spelling changes are another common mistakes made by many writers. Make sure that you're being consistent with the way words are spelt. This tends to happen when a made-up word has been used, and the writer may forget how the word has been spelt. What I tend to do, is make sure I add all character names, location names and any other names or made-up words to my dictionary on the writing programme I'm using.

Another thing to watch out for is the incorrect spelling of words, that may not be correct in other countries. For example, 'colour' is spelt correctly in English (UK) but in America (USA) they spell the same word as 'color'. Make sure you're writing from where you're from, and watch out for these. Most writing programmes, such as Microsoft Word, have a default language of English (US) set on their system, so if you're from the UK, you can go in and change this to English (UK). In Microsoft Word, you can do this by going to Tools and then Language and selecting the option you'd like.

Finally, also check that capitalisation is correct across words, and know when words need capitalisation and when they don't. For example, I used to think that north, south, west, and east had to always be capitalised, but they don't. These words only need to be capitalised when they designate regions or are a part of a town name. I also thought the word 'king' needed to be capitalised at all times, but it doesn't, so make sure you're researching this if you're unsure.

Not enough research

Another common editing mistake is not doing enough research for your novel. Never just guess at something. For example, this can relate largely to medical circumstances. If your character has broken a leg, it's very unlikely that they're going to die from that unless they've lost a large amount of blood, and even then it would mean they would have had to have a gaping wound. When I wrote my YA, Crime Fiction/Adventure novel, Caught Undercover, I had to research the different types of guns there are, and how to load, and reload a gun. Similarly, I had to learn how to fly a parachute. Research for my recent work in progress has consisted of learning how to rig and sail a boat!

Having similar names

I had fallen victim to this when writing my YA Fantasy novel, Cloaked Shadows. Originally, the Cloaks were called Sentinels. It wasn't until the beta reading process where I received feedback from almost all readers that they found it difficult to distinguish between the Sentinels and the Sinturi. This was extremely worrying as the 'Sentinels' were the 'good guys' and the Sinturi were the 'bad guys'. I then came up with a new name called the Cloaks, and this actually helped me to come up with the title of the book. This doesn't just have to relate to character names, but also place names, laws, orders, items and more.

Repeating the characters name constantly

Let me give you an example paragraph.

Holly looked at Fred and blushed, he was undeniably handsome. Holly picked her fingernails and stared at the floor, not wanting to make eye contact with Fred. Holly couldn't help but notice the glimmer in his eye as the sunlight hit him.

The sentence above is incredibly difficult to read because the character's name has been overused, and doesn't allow the paragraph to flow easily. It's okay to use words like 'she', 'he' and 'they' to make the paragraph an easier read.

Using incorrect punctuation

This is a common writing mistake that can help distinguish new writers, from experienced ones. It's also useful to have your novel sent to an editor to check for punctuation, but sometimes it might not be doable due to timing or expense. There are many online grammar tools, such as Grammarly that can help you check your punctuation, but it's important to note that some of these tools may pick up on types of punctuation that aren't commonly used in fiction writing.

For example, Microsoft Word can often recommend the use of semi-colons (;) in your writing, to help break up a sentence. However, semi-colons are typically frowned upon in fiction writing. Make sure you're doing your research on what the correct punctuation is and how it can be used in your writing. One thing that I personally struggle with, is the use of punctuation in dialogue. However, I've recently come to learn the following...

The rule is that if you are using speech after the dialogue, then the end of the dialogue should always have a comma. For example, "I don't know," David said. If there is an action tag after the dialogue, then there should be a full stop at the end of the sentence. For example, "I don't know." David paced up and down the room.