Editing Like a Badass: Common Mistakes

No book that you have ever read was the first draft. Not even the second… Nor the third and most probably not even the fourth.

As an amateur writer myself, I must say I will never reach the point where I will be completely satisfied with my manuscript. But I learned a few tricks along the way.

But if you think you did all you could and you don’t know what else is there to correct here are some tips.


Let’s start with basics… Have you passed your manuscript through a spell and grammar checker?

Good, but not all of them can detect incorrect verb tenses.

Reading and re-reading your manuscript one word at a time is the best way to pick up on those.


Have you checked all you -ly words in your manuscript? Do you really need them? Is there a way you can say it in other words that would add more color to the story?


Do treat yourself sometimes to a useless adverb. One or two in an 80.000 words manuscript is not that bad.

Needless Punctuation

Does your sentence have a semi-colon, five comas, and a few parentheses?

It really shouldn’t.

I recently read a book, where there were parentheses on every page and then some and it was so annoying. If you are writing a dissertation then it is okay. But if you are writing fiction try to omit over-complicated sentences. Your reader will appreciate it.

Misuse of Punctuation

Check the rules if you are in doubt, but sometimes the coma should be there and sometimes not.

‘She will lead the army if the generals stand by her side.’

‘If the generals stand by her side, she will lead the army.’

I will not talk about oxford coma in here, but if you like to use, then do so.

The passive voice

It is much better to say ‘the King gave her a chance to redeem herself’ rather than ‘she had been given a chance to redeem herself’.

Make things happen in real-time in your manuscript!

Dialog tags

“You need to help me…” she whispered.
“Why should I?!” he cried.
“I will die if you won’t,” she said.
“That is not my problem,” he answered.

Do you need all these dialog tags? The answer is no.

If there are only two participants in your dialog, there is no need to mention the person speaking after each reply.

The punctuation in itself will help the reader to understand that when the man answers “Why should I?!” he shouted, screamed or cried out.

And please, avoid using overcomplicated and unnecessary verbs in dialog tags. If you need to address the thesaurus each time, you write a dialog tag then you know what I am talking about.

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