Category Archives: Editing

Totally Transform Your Next Blog Post

The Unfair Advantage Popular Writers Try to Hide

You know your writing heroes? Would you be shocked to learn that their writing is no better than yours?

Sure, the end product is better, but the first draft is just as clumsy, flabby, and downright difficult to read as any of your own writing efforts.

What popular bloggers know that many people don’t know (or don’t want to believe) is that a post isn’t finished simply because they’ve said everything they want to say. In many ways that’s just the beginning.

Think of your draft as a rough diamond. Value is hidden inside it and you need an expert gem cutter to reveal its beauty and clarity.

Which is why many top bloggers hire a professional editor to transform their rough diamonds into gleaming jewels. That’s right – someone else is helping them.

Somewhat unfair, right?

No wonder their writing seems so much better than yours. And even those bloggers who don’t use an editor have simply learned how to edit their own posts like a pro.

Fortunately, editing isn’t rocket science. If you have someone to show you how.

So let’s break down the rules that’ll help you transform your unremarkable draft into a perfectly polished post.

7 Editing Rules That Will Totally Transform Your Next Post

(Or: Avoid Using Grammar Expletives)

Grammar expletives are literary constructions that begin with the words it, here, or there followed by a form of the verb to be.

(Expletive comes from the Latin explere, meaning to fill. Think smelly literary landfill).

Common constructions include it is, it was, it won’t, it takes, here is, there is, there will be.

The problem? When it, here, and there refer to nouns later in the sentence or – worse – to something unnamed, they weaken your writing by shifting emphasis away from the true drivers of your sentences. And they usually require other support words such aswho, that, and when, which further dilute your writing.

Let’s look at an example:

There are some bloggers who seem to have…

The there are expletive places the sentence’s focus on some nebulous thing called thereinstead of the true focus of the sentence – some bloggers. And the writer must then use another unnecessary word – who – that’s three unnecessary words in one unfocused sentence.

Train yourself to spot instances of there, here, and it followed by a to be verb (such as is,are, was, and were) and adjust your sentences to lead with the meat and potatoes of those sentences instead.

(Tip: Use your word processor’s find functionality and search for there, here, and it and determine if you’ve used an expletive).

Other before-and-after examples:

  • It’s fun to edit – Editing is fun
  • It takes time to writeWriting takes time
  • There are many people who write – Many people write
  • There’s nothing better than blogging – Nothing’s better than blogging
  • Here are some things to consider: – Some things to consider are:

Caveat: If you previously described an object using there, here, and it, you’re not guilty of an expletive infraction. For example:

  • I love editing. It’s fun. (This is not an expletive construction since I previously described what it refers to.)


(Or: Avoid Weak Verbs; Use Visceral and Action Verbs Instead)

Not only does to be conspire with it, there, and here to create nasty grammar expletives, but it’s also responsible for its own class of sentence impairing constructions.

Certain uses of to be in its various forms weaken the words that follow. The solution is to replace these lightweights with more powerful alternatives.

Let’s see some before-and-after examples:

  • She is blogging – She blogs
  • People are in love with him – People love him
  • He is aware that people love him – He knows people love him

Other verbs besides to be verbs can lack strength as well. Use visceral verbs or verbs that express some action. Let’s edit:

  • Give outOffer
  • Find outDiscover
  • Make it clearer – Clarify
  • I can’t make it to the party – I can’t attend the party
  • He went to Mexico – He traveled to Mexico
  • Think of a blogging strategy – Devise a blogging strategy


(Or: Avoid Weak Adjectives)

Weak adjectives sap the strength from your writing just as nefariously as weak verbs. Use the best adjectives possible when describing nouns and pronouns. And be mindful that certain words, like really and very, usually precede weak adjectives. Take a look:

  • Really badTerrible
  • Really goodGreat
  • Very bigHuge
  • Very beautifulGorgeous

Even if you don’t have a telltale really or very preceding an adjective, you can often give your writing more impact by using stronger alternatives:

  • DirtyFilthy
  • TiredExhausted
  • ScaredTerrified
  • HappyThrilled

Even worse than using weak adjectives is using weak adjectives to tell your readers what something isn’t as opposed to telling them what something is:

  • It’s not that good – It’s terrible
  • He’s not a bore – He’s hilarious
  • He’s not very smart – He’s ignorant


(Or: Avoid Verbose Colloquialisms)

Today’s readers have limited time and patience for flabby writing. Their cursors hover over the back button, so say what you mean as concisely as possible before your readers vanish:

  • But the fact of the matter isBut (Avoid flabby colloquial expressions when possible)
  • Editing is absolutely essential – Editing is essential (Absolutely is redundant)
  • You’re going to have to edit your work – You’ll have to edit your work or You mustedit your work (Going to and going to have to are flabby expressions)
  • Due to the fact that editing takes time, some people avoid it – Because editing takes time, some people avoid it
  • Every single person should love editing – Every person should love editing (Single is redundant; and shouldn’t married people love editing too? 😉 )


(Or: Avoid Nominalization)

Nominalization occurs when a writer uses a weak noun equivalent when a stronger verb or adjective replacement is available. Like expletives, nominals usually introduce other unnecessary words when used.

Count the number of words in the before-and-after examples below, and you will witness how badly nominals weaken your writing:

  • Give your post a proofreadProofread your post (verb form)
  • Alcohol is the cause of hangovers – Alcohol causes hangovers (verb form)
  • The plane’s approach was met with the scramble of emergency crews – The planeapproached and emergency crews scrambled. (verb form)
  • He shows signs of carelessness – He is careless (adjective form)
  • She has a high level of intensity – She is intense (adjective form)


(Or: Use the Occasional Comma for Clarity)

The rules around punctuation can be complicated, even for the humble comma.

But do you truly need to know the difference between a serial comma, an Oxford comma, and a Harvard comma to write a great blog post? Of course not. (And it’s a trick question – they’re all the same.)

So my philosophy on commas is simple:

Use commas sparingly if you prefer, but if excluding a comma MAKES YOUR READER STOP READING, add another bleepin’ comma – regardless of what any comma police may say.

Let’s look at an example:

You can ignore editing and people reading your post may not notice but your ideas will get lost.

By not including a comma between editing and and, I read this sentence and asked myself, “I can ignore editing and people reading my post? Really?” Of course, readers work out the intended meaning a moment later, but by that time, they’ve already stalled.

So, regardless of what comma rule I may break by adding a comma to this sentence, as long as my readers don’t get confused and stop reading, I don’t care – and neither should you.

Let’s look at another example that needs a comma for clarity:

One day, when you find success you can pull out your golden pen and write me a thank-you letter.

By not including a comma between success and you, I read this sentence and asked myself, “Is success something you can pull out of a golden pen?”

Regardless of your stance on commas, you ultimately want your readers to keep reading. You want them to continue down your slippery slope of powerful content all the way to your call to action – without getting jarred from their trance to contemplate commas with their inner editors or a Google search.


(Or: Use Noun Modifiers Whenever You Can)

You won’t use this technique often, but at least be mindful of it.

When we use two nouns together with the first noun modifying the second, we are using noun modifiers. I like them because they hack the flab from our writing by shortening our sentences. Let’s review some examples:

  • Tips on editing – Editing tips
  • Great advice on how to boost traffic – Great traffic-boosting advice (Traffic-boosting is a compound noun here)
  • Information regarding registration – Registration information

These sentences have prepositions between the noun sets. Whenever you spot this construction, try to implement this noun-modifying technique.

What’s Your Excuse Now?

These tips are not magical, mystical, or complicated. In fact, you could consider them downright boring, plain, and inconsequential.

But applying smart editing rules is what separates your heroes from the masses,catapults them to success, and makes readers say, “I don’t know what it is about their writing, but it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Look at is this way: You’ve expended a ton of effort on SEO, content marketing, networking, and social media promotion, all in the hopes that more people will notice your blog. So when they arrive, shouldn’t your next post blow their socks off too?

And how about your last post and the one before that? (Yes, you can apply these rules to your old posts too!)

Or are you one of those writers who think they write well enough already? Well, you might be surprised by just how many of these crimes against clarity you’re committing.

Open one of your posts right now and see how many of these editing rules you can apply.

Read each word of your post. Is the word an expletive? Is it a weak verb? A weak adjective? Does it represent nominalization or flab or break any of the other rules mentioned in this post?

Run each word of your post through this process. You will find something to improve. And your writing will be 100% more powerful as a result.

Because the search for perfection never ends.

And your writing is never too good.

Sure, proofreading and editing take time.

And yes, you’re already busy enough.

But your writing heroes edit, and they land the guest posts, book deals, and exposure you only wish you could.

So, take a break from #amwriting and start #amediting right now.

Your success will thank you.

About the Author: Shane Arthur is the copy editor for Jon Morrow’s kick-butt Guest Blogging Apprenticeship Program (aff.), where he applies these rules (and others) to polish students’ guest posts to perfection before final submission.

7 Simple Edits That Make Your Writing 100% More Powerful by Shane Arthur


Indie Authors: Should You Hire a Professional Editor to Polish Your Book Before Publishing

5 Reasons to Hire a Professional Editor and What that Editor Can Provide

by Michelle Rene Goodhew

Even if you think you are aware of the basic reasons why it is a good idea to hire a professional editor, this article is worth reviewing. If you want to be a professional author than it is imperative that you treat your manuscript professionally as well.

You may think it costs too much money, or that you are equipped enough to handle the editing. This is nonsense. How much time have you invested in your manuscript and how do you want it to be received by the public? If you respect your own writing then you will afford the cost of a professional editor and listen to all they have to offer.

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What a Professional Editor Provides

Editing your manuscript is a job for a professional editor. Whether you’ve written beat poetry or the next blockbuster screenplay, a lavish period romance or a hard science fiction adventure, the right editor will know your form and genre. They will know about important things like leaving the dialects alone, preserving your voice and vision, and making sure you retain complete creative control. If you’ve written nonfiction, your editor will be focused on helping you communicate your ideas clearly and concisely, giving you a better, stronger, and perfectly crafted manuscript.

Proofreading and copy editing are different services. 

  • Proofreading is the reading of a galley proof or an electronic copy of a publication to detect and correct production errors of text or art. Proofreaders are expected to be consistently accurate by default because they occupy the last stage of typographic production before publication.
  • Copy editing is the work that an editor does to improve the formatting, style, and accuracy of text. Unlike general editing, copy editing might not involve changing the content of the text.


5 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Professional Editor

1.  You Need an Expert, Honest, Fresh Pair of Eyes

No matter how many times you have proofread your manuscript, you have missed something. With the services of line editing and developmental editing, you have the opportunity to have your story structure analyzed. These services could take your already great writing and make it exceptional.

2.  Your Book Can Be Improved

There are several areas in which your book can be improved. Sentence structure, confusing scenes, too much dialogue, or an abundance of information that actually detracts from your story. These are things an author will overlook because the story reads well in their head simply because they created it. The author is unable to see from the perspective of the reader.

3.  Your Book is Not Their Baby

An editor takes the viewpoint of a reader. They don’t care if you are in love with a certain paragraph or chapter that you have written, if it needs rewriting, or needs to be scrapped, they will boldly tell you.

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” — Mark Twain

4.  Editors Have a Unique Perspective

The editor has a unique perspective. Not only are they a fresh set of eyes to fine tooth comb your work, but they have the background that labels them as an expert in their field. They know grammar, sentence structure, story outline, pitch, premise, tone, and theme, and they understand how all of these things work together to create a great story.

5.  Even Famous Authors Have Editors

Do you think the great authors like Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy, or Stephen King, do not have to scrap sections of their work or do rewrites? Do you think they think they can or would choose to only self-edit their work? No, they wouldn’t, they rely on professional editors for guidance. They understand the benefits of editing and polishing their manuscript.

“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”
Patricia Fuller

Hiring an Editor

Before you hire an editor, you need to know what kind of help you’re looking for. Do you want developmental editing—“big-picture” feedback about structure, style, pacing and voice? A developmental edit for a work of nonfiction may include feedback about the book’s organizational structure, as well as both stylistic and informational strengths and weaknesses. (For example: “The strongest parts of the book are where you use humorous anecdotes to illustrate your points about how bad managers don’t even know they are bad managers. Why don’t you try opening each chapter with one of those anecdotes, to make it easier for the reader to identify with the problems you’re about to discuss?”)

If you’re writing fiction, developmental editing also includes notes on plot, point of view and characterization. (For instance, “I think the real story starts in Chapter 3, at the moment when she wins the lottery,” or, “While I love the way you show the character growing throughout the story and her sarcasm is often funny, she comes off as unlikable. Here are some things she might do/say to get the reader on her ‘side’ from the beginning.”) Often, a developmental edit is given in the form of a detailed report or letter rather than as notes made directly on the manuscript.

If you want the latter, you’re looking for someone to line edit your manuscript. In a line edit, your editor will point out specific things such as certain lines of dialogue that don’t sound convincing, or pacing problems in a given section. (“Why not skip the backstory here and move right to the kiss? It’s what readers have been waiting for!”)

I suggest both. Often, an editor provides both developmental feedback and line edits. Because developmental feedback assumes the writer will return to the manuscript and rewrite parts, line editing is sometimes held off until that rewrite has been completed. Alternatively, the editor may be contracted to work on a second line edit of the book to address anything that has been added or changed in the revision.

See: How to hire a freelance editor by Arlene Prunkl

Take All You Can Get From Editing Services

Many authors are reluctant to accept developmental feedback and line edits. Not taking these editing marks into serious account is a mistake. It is important to remember that your editor is an expert in their field and will only make suggestions where, as a reader of your work, they deam a change is necessary. You don’t have to accept everything your editor suggests, but it may help to do the rewrites and get new feedback from proofreaders or friends. It is quite possible that the magic of your story will be enhanced by your revisions and attention to detail. Hiring an editor to fine-tune your manuscript can take your story to the next level, possibly making you an award winning author.proof7Facebook Banner copy small add


Editing and Proof Reading – Busting the Myths

So you’ve written a novel. Oh, okay, let’s not use the word ‘novel’. Say anything: short story, essay, just any form of writing. You’ve written the first draft. You think it’s good. You think it’s great. You think it’s wonderful.

But it’s not ready to be distributed or shown to anyone else yet. Before that, there is what some writers call the ‘mammoth’ task of editing/rewriting. To make sure that everything is perfect. No contradictory information, no confusing sentences, no over-used words, no kid-like grammar, and the like. Similarly, checking for spelling mistakes (typos) or grammar mistakes (called by some as grammos — I personally don’t use that word!) is known as proof-reading.

Proofreading-details (1)

Many writers hate the task of editing or proof-reading. Why?

Because they think it comes when the ‘creative stage’ of writing is finished. They hate to look for errors — they’re already convinced it’s done, come on! Proof-reading — argghhh (according to some writers). Necessary evil.

But when one looks below the surface, a lot of different answers are to be found. Editing is not as hard as it looks. Nor is it boring. It’s fun.

Yes, I’m not kidding. It’s fun to correct your work. Although it’s not as much fun to correct the same mistake over and over again.  To fix broken sentences, to correct grammar — the fun of that depends on you. For me, they’re not too great, but they have to be done, nevertheless.

And what about proof reading? Well, even that’s not as hard as most people think. Yes, it is a bit boring—in fact, very boring at the start—but it’s immensely rewarding. When you go over the same thing twice and find that all previous mistakes were corrected by you, the author, the feeling which comes is great. Sense of achievement!

As a matter of fact, proof reading your own work is also helpful long-term. When the brain collects information about what kind of mistakes it’s doing, it will not do the same mistakes again. Grammatical errors such as the wrong use of the apostrophe, “its” vs. “it’s” or “accept” vs. “except” will be done plenty of times in the first draft. But as you keep editing, proof reading, writing, editing and proof reading all over again, you’ll find that the mistakes will gradually reduce. The brain will get more competitive.

Proof reading: proof reading generally means to check your work minutely for typos, grammatical errors, strange repetition of words, accidental contradictory information and the like. Although they’re highly annoying to correct the first time, it’s also rewarding to see after a period of time that you’re no longer making those mistakes just because you made them in the first place.

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When we write, self-correction drives us bananas

Writing articles drives us crazy. Our natural tendency to self-edit gets out of hand. We can’t seem to put it on hold, even for a few minutes.

And the reason for that is our lack of competency.

Competency is a state of mind you reach when you’ve made enough mistakes that your brain can now move on.

That’s right. It’s not about getting things right in your brain — it’s about getting things wrong. The brain has to make hundreds, even thousands of mistakes — and overcome those mistakes — to be able to reach a level of competency.

Once it reaches competency, it self-edits on the fly

You can see this for yourself by spending time with a two-year-old.

Get the child to walk on grass, and then on gravel. He’ll struggle, and he may fall.

Get the child to say a sentence, and he’ll struggle to find the right words in the right order.

And yes, you may say that a child’s brain is not fully developed. But in fact, the brains of two-year-old children have more neural connections than at any other point in their lives. As they grow older, they lose many of those neural connections. Technically speaking at least, the child is in the best possible situation to learn — and learn quickly.

Yet they struggle

And that’s because the child hasn’t made enough mistakes yet. His brain is still working on finding and correcting them.

Once the brain makes enough mistakes — and corrects them — it now has a database of information that it can call upon at any time. Your brain has now reached its level of competency in that field, be it walking, talking or writing.

Your brain can now self-edit on the fly.

This is what great athletes do

And great writers.

And great singers.

And great speakers.

They’re still constantly self-editing, but they’ve reached such a high level of competency that they’ve moved into the realm of ‘fluency.’

Fluency is when self-editing happens so quickly that we can’t see it

It seems magical. And when things seem magical, we call it ‘talent.’

But what we call talent is just an advanced level of self-editing. Over and over and over again, until it’s second-nature.

Until your article writing looks like this:

Write. Write. Write. Edit. Write. Write. Write. Write. Edit.

For Your Professional Cover Design and Illustration See Michelle Rene




Finding A Good Beta Reader


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Today I’m going to list some of the characteristics of the “ideal” beta reader. Don’t forget that I said ideal. You will have to pick and choose among these characteristics, to decide which ones are most important to you and your book. Think about them, and don’t rush yourself. You’ll begin to get a feel for the people you know who could fit the bill. You’ll begin to understand which aspects are more important to you and your book, and which are less relevant.

Personal characteristics

  • The ideal beta reader is in the target audience for your book, in terms of age, gender, interests etc. That way they will respond to your book in a similar way to the intended reader, without having to think about it.
  • If they are not the target demographic for your book, they have the publishing savvy to be able to put themselves in a hypothetical reader’s shoes. They can see the strengths of something that may not actually appeal to them personally.
  • They are opinionated, but they know how to express their opinions without killing your dreams. Ideally, you want someone who knows what they think about things and isn’t afraid to say it, but also has the ability to say it kindly. They can criticise in a way that makes you feel hopeful about what you can do to fix it, rather than sinking you into despair. Yes, this is a tricky one to find! If you have to choose between “too brutal” and “too kind”, you’re probably better to go for the “too brutal” person, painful as that may be, because you really do need to hear the truth. But consider wearing body armour and a foil hat when you read their beta report. Also keep chocolate (or mood booster of choice) on hand.
  • They are not so close to you that they will find it hard to say things you don’t want to hear. Some best buddies will have the ability to speak honestly from the heart, but others will hold back because they don’t want to hurt you, and they value the relationship more than they value your book. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of asking a best buddy to do your beta read. Can they be frank with you? Does the connection you have with them allow honesty without sustaining damage to the relationship? Weigh this up, as you decide whether or not to ask them.
  • Most likely they are not your mother or life partner. Yes, this is a bother, because that was someone you maybe could have asked! But in general, they know you too well and it colours what they read. They don’t read with fresh eyes because they are putting it through the filter of all the things they’ve ever heard you say, and the events they know have happened to you. There are always exceptions to this; some close relatives can stand back and give you an objective perspective. But many can’t. Weigh it up.

Reading and writing characteristics

  • They are regular readers. If you’ve been to their house, it probably has plenty of bookshelves in places where you can see them. Maybe they often mention a book they’ve read. Ideally, they read broadly, not restricting themselves to just one type of book. Ideally, they are neither a book snob who only reads impenetrable “literature” and sneers at the unwashed masses, nor someone who never reads anything other than short, trashy novels. A good mix of popular and literary reading, as well as an interest in non-fiction books, will give them a broad perspective which they can then bring to your beta report.
  • If the target audience for your book is people who don’t read much, you might deliberately seek one or two beta readers with that characteristic, just to check if the book is working for them. If a non-reader says, “I couldn’t put it down,” you know you’re on a winner!
  • They read the genre you are writing. It may not be their favourite, but they need to have some experience of it. Someone who only ever reads sports biographies won’t be the best judge of a paranormal romance thriller, because they don’t know how to recognise the techniques and preconceptions of such a book. Someone who reads your genre — often and by choice — will be familiar with the way such books tend to be structured, without even having to think about it. They will have an instinct for what works and doesn’t work in terms of plot or structure. They will recognise where you have broken the established rules, and be more likely to evaluate wisely whether or not you’ve gotten away with it!
  • They are very often writers themselves, because fellow writers understand the challenges of creating a book-length manuscript in a way that no one else can. They are also less likely to think less of you for using a dangling participle on p214, because they know that’s only a tiny part of what makes a writer. Fellow writers are also motivated to help you with your book, because they know how much they appreciate help with their own work. They comprehend the value of a good beta read.
  • Ideally they have never read your manuscript before. Fresh eyes will give you the best value from your beta read, giving you the kind of untainted response that you’d get from a person picking up your book in a store. Some critique group members can have the skill to step back and give you an objective view of your manuscript, even though they’ve been hearing about it for some time. But many can’t. Weigh this up. To get around this, you might ask a couple of your critique group to be beta readers, but also try to have at least one beta reader who knows nothing about the book.

Publishing smarts

  • They understand what makes a good book, in terms of things like plot development and characterisation, structure and purpose. They understand what creates suspense, and what draws a reader on to keep reading and reading till the end. They recognise what creates a good resolution, and what falls flat. In a non-fiction book, they comprehend the value of theme and a cohesive structure.
  • They recognise the difference between what your school teachers told you was Proper Writing, and what represents a writer’s “voice”. They are not afraid to deviate from “technically correct” if there is something that actually works better, and communicates more effectively. They can weigh up your eccentricities as a writer, and give you an opinion on which ones are making your book come alive versus the ones that you probably should ditch because they’re just clunky or obstructive.
  • They understand what is relatively unimportant in a first beta read. I’ve seen manuscripts dissed by beta readers because there were a few typos, because the reviewer was someone who’d never seen a book-in-progress before. A few typos doesn’t make a bad book. (A lot of typos might, but that’s a topic for another day. )A copy editor or proofreader can fix a couple of typos. I’m not suggesting we don’t try to be accurate as writers, just saying that a good beta reader understands that a few typos will happen, no matter how good a writer is, and there are bigger issues to look at in deciding whether or not a book “works”.
  • If your book is in a specialist field, they have knowledge and experience in that field, or at least a strong interest in it. For example, if your book is about nuclear medicine, you probably want a beta reader who knows something about nuclear medicine. If on the other hand, your book is Nuclear Medicine For Newbies, you’ll want a beta reader who knows nuclear medicine (to make sure you’ve got the science right) and another beta reader who doesn’t know nuclear medicine (to make sure you have adequately explained it for a non-expert).
  • If your book is set in a particular exotic location, it can be handy to have a beta reader who knows that location well. They can tell you what doesn’t ring true. But then it can also be handy to have a reader who knows nothing about the place. They can tell you if they got a strong sense of place and weather and topography — if the location came alive in their minds. Weigh up which would be best for your book. For example, in non-fiction, it might matter that you have been accurate, whereas in a novel, it might be more important simply to have built a believable world, whether or not it matches absolutely with the real place.
  • Ideally, they are savvy about the publishing world and have good instincts about what it takes to get a book noticed by a literary agent or a book buyer. They are familiar enough with the state of publishing to know that self-publishing is no longer the poor cousin, and traditional publishing is in a state of flux. They understand at some level what makes a person buy a book in a store versus on the internet. They often know the latest books that have been successful, but they don’t think aping those books is the only way for you to succeed, or even the best way for you to succeed.

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