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Want Your Writing to Sing? Find a Good Editor

Polishing Prose, Keeping Your Voice

A master book editor first reads book manuscript all the way through without touching the writing in order to get the big picture of an author's ideas and the structure of the work. The next step is looking at the work's overall structure: What is the author trying to convey? Does it say that? How well is the book organized? Are there any extraneous parts? Ideas that are missing? Sections that are misplaced? Depending on how much back-and-forth can be done, those comments could be made first so that the author can restructure. If the editor is simply given the piece to shape, then the next step will be to effect cuts, moves, and suggestions for additional material. After that, it's time to look at transitions, which ensure that the reader can follow what the author is saying. Along the way, changes will be made in formatting, grammar, spelling, and word usage. All changes can be noted in Microsoft Word using "track changes." Another important check is for passive voice. An example of a passive sentence is, "The ball was thrown." In such a sentence, the action is actually moving backward rather than forward, and we don't even know who is doing the throwing. A better sentence is: "The pitcher threw the ball." This sentence is in active voice and keeps the reader moving forward through the writing. If a manuscript is full of passive voice, it becomes very hard to read and even boring. Not all passive voice can be eliminated, but doing so in most sentences keeps the writing much more lively. Above all, an editor wants to be sure that the author's voice shines through by discerning style, cadence, and key phrasing in a work. That may mean holding onto sentence fragments, for example, because they are part of an author's style. A good editor makes your writing sing.

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