How to Self Edit a Book?

These days, writing has become a new trend. Almost everyone I know is writing something or the other and the most common question they as is “How to Self Edit a Book?”

While, this is a good thing, it often becomes havoc for the editors. Firstly, there is a dearth of good editors in the country and then, often due to budget issues, authors avoid sending their scripts to the editors. This results in shabby content being published and consequently, readers feel cheated when they spend their money and time on reading an unedited script.

Now, authors can avoid their content being thrashed if they follow a checklist for their script before giving it a publisher or to a proofreader (who charges less than an editor, yay!).

From my experience, I have found these 10 common errors that most of the authors leave in their books:

  • Spelling Errors: This might sound absurd with authors using the Office software, but it happens. Often, in a hurry to finish the script, authors spell words incorrectly or due to auto-correct feature on Word software, often words change by themselves. Some authors still follow the traditional way of writing and thus, spelling errors tend to multiply in such cases.
  • Spelling and Language Inconsistencies: Often, authors forget to double-check how they are spelling a particular word. Writing a script takes a long time. During this span, if a writer takes a break in between and then come back to writing, he/she tends to forget how he/she chose to spell a particular word. Yes, some of the words in English can be spelled in two ways; British spelling and American spelling. For example: color or colour, honor or honour, program or programme.

Names of the characters are often misspelt too. For example: Sheela or Sheila, Apurv or Apoorv.

As an author, you must decide beforehand which style are you going to use; whether the setting most suited for your script is American or British. Both language styles are often confused and mixed up in the scripts. Do a thorough check for –ise and –ize spellings.

  • Inconsistency: Now, this is one error that almost every book has. Inconsistency of language should be avoided at all costs. Decide whether you want to put a dot after etc or not and follow it throughout. How do you want to spell words like okay, and, etc. For example: OK, okay, ok. And, &.

Similarly, how to write abbreviations is unclear to most of the new writers. For example: Mr or Mr. and PV Sindhu or P. V. SindhuandStd or Std.

Please check the grammar rules on abbreviations before you begin writing or follow your own consistency. I personally follow a style guide that says no dots in contractions such as Mr, Dr but dots after Rev., no., etc. While writing names, I tend to go for PV Sindhu and not P. V. Sindhu. Abbreviations that include the first and last letter of the complete word, do not generally require dots. For example: Std (Standard).

  • Improper Use of Oxford Comma: Using an oxford comma, is a personal choice. However, consistency should not be forgiven at any given point. Generally, oxford comma is used while listing items. For example: I brought a red skirt, a pair of blue jeans, a chocolate, and a ring from the market. The highlighted comma before and is an oxford comma, which is optional.

However, while writing about two to three incidents, you must use a comma to avoid confusion (again, this is optional, but I prefer to use it). For example: Priya went to the temple and prayed for an hour, and then she went to the market and brought the sweets. Here, the highlighted comma separates two particular things that Priya did.

  • Using Single Quotes and Double Quotes: Scripts that have dialogues, references and quotations from sources; have single and double quote marks. However, the usage is inconsistent. If you are using single quotes, use it throughout.
  • Using Hyphens and Dashes: Because everyone is writing and everyone isn’t well aware with the language and grammar, we get confused with hyphens and dashes.

Hyphen (-) is used to link two words placed together (as a noun in most cases). These are called hyphenated words. For example: one-word answer, well-aware writer, well-verse orator, etc.

Dashes are of two types: en dash (–) and em dash (—).En dash is used with numbers and em dash with words. For example: 10–100 and Ram went to office—there he worked on some files.

  • Use of Unending Long Sentences: Some writers go on and on with a single sentence. They tend to use a lot commas and ands in a sentence till the sentences becomes a paragraph in itself. This is very confusing for a reader to read and comprehend. Break sentences as often as you can to simplify the idea.
  • Confusing Words: Some of the words in English language are quite confusing. Homonyms and homophones confuse everyone, and there’s no shame in double-checking your script for such errors. For example: for and since (for is used when it’s an approximate time and since is used with exact years—She has been working for an hour. / She has been working since 2001 in this company.

Similarly, be attentive while using words like effect or affect, ensure or insure, inquire or enquire, compliment or complement, etc.

  • Writing Dates: While writing dates, writers forget to maintain the consistency. For example: 24th April 1987 or 24.04.1987 or 24thApril, 1987 or April 24, 1987.

This often looks bad in print and the breaks the flow for the reader because he/she has to adjust with the change in pattern so often while the reading process.

  • Use of Too Many Pronouns: Because we know the story, we go on writing it. We are in such a hurry to reach the end sometimes that we tend to overuse pronouns. We assume that the readers will understand what we are trying to say and who we are talking about. For example: We introduced a character A in chapter 1 and then suddenly, in chapter 5, we start talking about the same character without mentioning the name. In such a case, the reader is left on his/her own to guess who the writer is talking about exactly. They have to figure it out themselves. A writer must avoid it.

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