Sunday, May 5, 2013

E = Eliminating Errors

Last month I mentioned an acronym I use when editing my writing. (see April 15 post) Following that post, I wrote about sentence structure, the "S" in my "Self-Editing" acronym. Today I'd like to discuss the "E in "Self-Editing" -- Eliminating Errors. 

The most common writing errors occur in spelling, and even though most of us use spell check when editing our work, mistakes still happen. 

I can attest to that in my own work. Just this week I received an email from Dana, my editor at Harlequin, in which she commented that she found and fixed a typo in my manuscript of THE RUNE STONE MURDERS, the cover of which is shown above. (Release date: June, 2013) Now, I went over that manuscript at least three times before sending it to Dana, but obviously my eyes saw what my brain said I'd meant to type, not what I'd actually typed. That's because, like all writers, I was too close to my own work, and I knew instinctively what each sentence should say. Our brains can trick us that way, which is why we all need editors, people without preconceived notions of what they're seeing on the written page, people who can look at our work in a totally objective manner. 

Sometimes we spell a word correctly, but it's the wrong word for the sentence. In THE RUNE STONE MURDERS, I meant to write "he went to his death", but I actually wrote "he was to his death". Spell check didn't catch my mistake because I'd spelled "was" correctly. As good as it is, spell check can't read our minds. 

Common word mistakes I've seen in manuscripts include "there" for "they're" or "their", "hear" for "here", and "witch" for "which".
Again, spell check won't catch those kinds of mistakes because the misused word is spelled correctly.

Sometimes writers incorrectly capitalize certain words. I recently read two novels by two different writers in which the main characters worked as real estate agents. Both authors repeatedly called their character a "Realtor" rather than a "realtor".  Just like we don't capitalize the words engineer, doctor, scientist, conductor, or police officer when referring to a person's occupation, we don't capitalize the word realtor. 

Nicknames in sentences are capitalized. Example: "Rich is a tough guy; that's why we call him Gruffy." A second example: "Paul 'The Waiter' Ricca was a Chicago mobster and a close friend of Joseph 'Diamond Joe' Esposito." 

Terms of endearment are not capitalized. Examples: "Let's go to the store, honey." "I really don't want to go, sweetheart."

Do you capitalize the first word after a colon? It depends on which style manual you use (or which one your publisher requires you to use). The Chicago Manual of Style recommends you use lowercase lettering for the first word after a colon unless that word is a proper noun or the start of at least two complete sentences or a direct quote. The Associated Press Manual of Style recommends you use lowercase for the first word unless it's a proper noun or the start of one complete sentence. The AP manual makes no mention of a direct quote following a colon, but one can assume that all direct quotes begin with a capitalized word.

In my next post I'll discuss errors in punctuation and POV. See you then!