Editing your Content
Every writer, no matter the field - journalism, copy writer, fiction writer, horror writer, etc. - has to have what is known as 'clean copy'. All this simply means is that whatever you write, it needs to be written clearly and concisely, so the reader, your audience, (the one's that pay the bills) understands the meaning behind your written words. And to do that, one needs to have good writing skills. And you don't necessarily have to be an award winning writer to accomplish this. Trust me, I am not an award winning author (at least not yet). There are some simple things to do to clean up your copy, or manuscript if you will, to make it presentable for your audience. Look at grammar, sentence structure and most importantly punctuation.
I can remember in journalism school, being taught, that if you can 'say it, you can write it.' And, to tell you the truth, that took me a long time to learn. But, just think about it for a minute, If you can say it, you can write it. What does that mean? Can everyone do it? Yes. But it is a skill one has to learn. It's like everything else in life, it takes practice. And each person will learn this skill at his/her own pace. One of the main things you learn when learning to write for a huge audience, as in journalism (print media, radio, and TV) is that most people in the United States read on a seventh grade level. It's a sad statistic, I know, but it's the truth. So if you have a seventh grader around to practice with, you have a leg up on most of the country. Because if he/she can understand what you, as the author, is trying to get across, then you have it made. So, if you can say it, you can write it.
One of the simplest exercises you can do, to teach yourself this skill is to get a tape player, and tape yourself speaking into it. Or, tape a conversation between yourself and a friend. It doesn't matter what you say, or how you say it. Simply let your mind wonder, and then write down on a piece of paper, later, what was said. Simple. Write was you said on tape. This is also a form of data processing. People learn this skill every day to make a living. Transcribing a court session is just one example.This teaches you not only to write what has been said, but to listen to how someone speaks. When its done, look at how each sentence is put together, (the sentence structure) how you said it, (grammar) and how you can improve it in some way. And, as always, use the proper punctuation. Some of the most basic mistakes an author can make is punctuation and spelling.
Try not to over use the exclamation mark in a sentence. One good rule of thumb; don't use two, when one will do the job. Example: The King exclaimed in a loud voice, "The War is over!" One exclamation point is enough to do the job. More than that is just redundant. And poor editing.
All of these tips to writing are part of the same thing. It's known as editing. Try to be as thorough as you can when you read over your work. Sloppy writing, and poor copy editing are two of the worst things an editor will take marks off on any writing assignment. And that's exactly how you must take any work that you do: as a writing assignment. Even if you undertake it on your own. With each assignment you become more efficient and more competent. The more proficient and competent, the more money one can make, which is the ultimate goal of any writer.
When you go over your copy, or draft, of your writing, make sure you go through it thoroughly. Look for the obvious mistakes. Leaving out a period at the end of a sentence is probably the most common mistake made. The next is how each sentence is put together to make a whole paragraph. Then the next of course is grammar. And don't worry about catching everything wrong with your 'copy'. No one can do that. But you can catch the basic things that an editor especially looks at. Just strive to be as thorough as possible.
And a good rule of thumb: for most occasions, there is no need for swearing. One of the most irritating things a writer can do is put in unnecessary swear words, or what most people call 'bad language'. Example: "What the f---- is going on here?" ; When the writer could just as easily have put in; "What's going on here?"
(But, as in all things, there are exceptions to that rule. When you are writing about convicts, you wouldn't necessarily say they were "In the big House." You would probably say: Convicts hate that f------ng place they call the G-- ---- big House.") But you don't want to over use that either. And that goes back to one of the basic truths in writing; you have to know your audience that you're writing for; your 'niche'. Which in basic no-nonsense language means you are writing for a certain group of people who like that form of writing. Crime, sex, horror, fantasy, young adult, etc., each has their own audience base, and that's who you are catering to. You wouldn't go to a burger joint and expect to be served pizza would you? No! You wanted burgers. So, if you write horror novels, give your audience what they want; blood and guts.
So, what have we learned?
- Use good grammar.
- Look at sentence structure when you write.
- Make sure you go over your 'copy' thoroughly.
- Try not to over use 'swear words."
- Make sure periods are used at the end of a sentence.
- Look for punctuation throughout your writing.
- Try exercising your writing skills with a tape recorder.
- Know your audience you write for.
- And don't worry about catching every error in your 'copy'. No one is perfect. But you can catch most of the 'pet peeves' editors hate.
And, as always, have fun with your writing. Try not to make it a chore. Writing is supposed to be fun, especially for someone who enjoys what they do.
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