Are you writing a book? Congrats on starting! So many people say they’ll write a book someday, but never do. 


So now that you are writing your book, I bet you want it to be the best it can, right?


To elevate your book, you’ll need an editor, as you can’t see all your errors. Trust me, as an editor, I’ve seen a lot of errors. Some were big, some required major rewriting, and some the author didn’t even realize could be an error until I pointed them out. 


So when you get to the self-editing stage, avoid these common writing errors. A cleaner manuscript will mean less work for your editor, which should translate to a lower editing cost.

1.) Avoid using unnecessary words.


After you’re happy with your manuscript, set it aside for a bit. Then come back and read the whole thing. As you read, continually ask yourself if you need that word/sentence/paragraph. If it does not move the story along, cut it. For example, you don’t need your character literally saying “Good morning,” to everyone as they walk into work for the day. 


“Good morning,” Jane said as she saw Sam.

“Good morning,” said Sam.

“Good morning, Jim,” Jane said as she walked passed Jim’s desk.

“Good morning, Jane,” Jim said.

When Jane reached her desk, she saw a mysterious letter on her keyboard.


As you can see, all those “Good mornings” were necessary and just make the story drag. The interacts with the colleagues are unnecessary.


As Jane walked to the office that morning, she saw a mysterious letter on her keyboard.

 2.) Question every “that” and “just.”


Most of the time, you don’t need words such as “that” or “just.” As you read the sentence, if you can remove “that” or “just” and keep the meaning of the sentence, then do so. It will make your writing clearer. 


Delete: These are the clothes that I ordered.

Keep: I want to keep that shirt.


Delete: I’m just checking in to see how the project is going.

Keep: I’m checking in to see how the project is going.


**Editor’s Insight**

By cutting all these unnecessary words, you are doing yourself and your editor a favor. Many editors charge per word, so the fewer words you have, the less your editor will charge.

3.) Don’t use apostrophes to make something plural.


If you use an apostrophe, nine times out of ten you are making something possessive or showing an omission of a letter or number. So please, don’t add an apostrophe to make something plural. 



All the cats are black.



Mrs. Washington’s cat is black.


Omitting a letter

“Cannot” turns to “can’t.”


Omitting a number

Way back in ’45, near the end of the war, I met my wife.


You can see more examples here.


4.) Hyphens are not em dashes.


I know everyone loves em dashes—I do too! But it seems everyone uses a hyphen instead, which is incorrect. 


I’m not going into the details here of how to properly use an em dash, en dash, and hyphen. If you’d like to read more about how to use them, check out this post I wrote. 


**Editor’s Tip**

For an em dash on a PC, type Alt + 0151, and on a Mac, type Alt + Shift + Minus. 

5.) Be consistent in your punctuation.


If you capitalize the first letter of every word in a heading, then do it for every heading. Or if you do sentence-style capitalization, then do that, but be consistent. Same with the Oxford comma. Use it or don’t, but don’t go back and forth. It can throw the reader off and make your book hard to read.

6.) Keep track of details.


Did you find the color of your main character’s eyes changed halfway through the book or you named two important characters “John” and “Jon”? For the names, while the spelling is different, there is no need to confuse your readers (unless the names are an important part of the story). 


Keep track of all these details in a style guide. I’ll be covering how to make and keep a style guide in a future post, but for now, start a document and record all the details.


There! Your manuscript should now be in much better shape for your editor. 


Which of these tips did you find the most helpful? I’d love to know, so comment below!

Need more editing help?

Join my Facebook group, Now What: Getting Your Nonfiction Book Ready for Publishing.