Tag Archives: elements of style

Spot Check Your Writing

by Catherine L. Tully

Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully
Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully

Just finish a draft and want to check your writing? Here are some top tips for making sure everything is in tip-top shape!

  • Spell check. Sound basic? It is. Even so, as an editor I’ve gotten documents from people – writers who should know better – with simple errors I have to fix because they didn’t run a spell check. And as an editor, it really is annoying. Take that step.
  • Read aloud. This is another great way to catch mistakes. I’ve found things by doing this that I missed after reading something three times over.
  • Get another opinion. If you have a writer (or editor) friend you can run the piece by, it’s good practice to do so. Perhaps you can swap articles/chapters/posts on a regular basis to keep that workload even.
  • Walk away. Taking some time out to clear your head is a good thing. After a break, go back to your writing and re-read. Your fresh perspective will help.
  • Look it up. Not sure about how to word that sentence? Does something look off grammatically? Don’t just lament it and try to figure it out on your own…look it up. Every writer should have a copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style somewhere nearby. Seriously.

Got any tips to share? Leave one here in the comments section below!

Holt Uncensored on Empty Adverbs

freelance-writing-adviceI stumbled across this great article on Holt Uncensored about common writer mistakes. The entire piece is definitely worth a look, but the payoff for me was the section on what Holt calls “empty adverbs”.  There is nothing worse than reading something stuffed with these needless words. How many times have we all gone there with descriptions of things that are “completely” or “totally” something or other, an “absolutely” such and such?

The point of the empty words screed according to the Holt Uncensored post is not that you should cut these words out of everything you write, but that more often than not the words do the opposite of what they’re supposed to do–they make the sentence bland and trite rather than calling attention to something important.

The article gives some hilarious examples of wretched writing from famous authors including Dan “The Da Vinci Code” Brown. He also skewers People Magazine (rightly so!) for their flagrant abuses of the adverb.

I’d never read Holt Uncensored til I found this post, but I’m a fan now…