Editing your novel-6: Answers to editing skills test

From Rick:

Last time I gave you an editing challenge. This time I’ll prove the answers in two forms. One is the corrected version. The other is a file showing the actual changes to create that correction.

Here are the links to download all the files. If you have any problems downloading these, please drop me a note using the contact email in ABOUT on the menu header or post a comment on the blog entry. I now allow comments and will monitor it to keep spammers out.





A few comments are in order. Some of the edits are required because the errors are grammar ones. Note especially commas required when addressing a person, even if that address is just “man.”

Small numbers are always spelled out. One exception here is 9th Street because that’s how the street name is shown on the Cleveland street signs. You’d spell it out only if the city spelled it out. If the street is fictional in your novel, then it’s up to you.

Note that in this excerpt the nine-to-five is both spelled out AND hyphenated because it’s an adjective (nine-to-five job).

I want to call attention to the names of the subjects Alex is taking and whether these should be capitalized.

He needed one of those quick moments to go over his notes before his Economics class. He struggled with the material and was doing far worse in English and History.

“English” of course is always capitalized. Normally we would not capitalize economics and history if we were referring to them in general terms, such as “He was studying history in college.” Here, however, one can make the case that they refer to specific class names, not to the generic subjects. Certainly you would capitalize the class titles if they were listed as Economics 101 and History 101. I think that, for consistency in this particular case, it looks better to capitalize all three, but it would not be incorrect to capitalize only English.

Some of you might wonder why “ok” was spelled out. Isn’t it correct to abbreviate it? Yes, it is, but the abbreviation is capitalized “OK” (or O.K.) in both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries (which are considered the authorities). Even dictionary.com agrees.

I believe that everything else in the exercise answers is self-explanatory. If you corrected any sentence fragments to complete sentences in the dialog passage below, then you overstepped your bounds as an editor.

“Well, it’s like this… I’ve never gotten along with people. I’m not very good with making friends. And girls… Ha. Forget about that. But listen to this crap they’re playing. It’s lame, ya know? Nothing there. But what else is new? Wherever I go, it’s all the same ol’ crap. Bums me out. Maybe I was born in the wrong century or something.”

I think I’m done with this series, for now anyway. I’ll be moving on to another topic next week. I hope this has been instructive. Editing is a complex subject to deal with because it has so many elements to it.

As I said earlier, if your language skills are good, then you may be able to edit your own stuff satisfactorily. If they’re lacking or weak in any way, then the work is best left to a professional or someone with better editing skills.

The reason I designed this test/exercise was for one way to determine how good your skills are. Unfortunately, it’s far from comprehensive and only covers one level of editing.

Even if you determine that skills are up to par, be careful and take your time. Don’t be overconfident and double check everything even when you’re pretty sure. Don’t rely on grammar checkers to catch more than a small portion of the errors because they miss a lot more than you’d expect. Sometimes they’ll catch its/it’s and passes/past errors and sometimes not. I do use them in conjunction with my editing to alert me to something I may have missed.

A friend of fine sometimes misspells “below” as “bellow” in his manuscript. Word doesn’t catch it, but Word Perfect’s grammar checker flags it—not because it’s a misspelling but because it thinks it should be the noun “bellows.” It’s catching what it perceives as a different error, which isn’t necessarily bad, but the correction suggestions it makes are all wrong.

I’ve said before that I’ve never found any one piece of software or even a combination of software that can come close to replacing a human editor, even a one who is just okay as an editor. Editing is a lot of work on any level, and if you’re editing your own work, you have to be able to edit on many levels.

Finally, just because your editing skills are currently inadequate or weak doesn’t mean you can’t learn to become better. With practice and guidance, over time you should be able to brings your skills up to a at least a satisfactory level.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.