We are all editors!

Blog on editing - image
Are we really all editors?
Yes, really. Let’s look at a few examples.
A handwritten or typed note. An informal letter. An official form. A poem, short story or a novel.


What do they all have in common?
If we were honest, we rarely get across the intended or perhaps the necessary information at the first attempt, irrespective of the category of our ‘writing’. This means that when we change a part of our original document, we are editing.
Books have been written about editing. With that in mind, please remember that my aim is merely to draw attention to the importance of editing and hopefully highlight some of the prime issues for the unwary.


What is editing?
An accepted definition is any, ‘change made before the final copy is ready for submission’. With particular regard to the indie writer, I would suggest that the final copy could be some way off, so please don’t believe that you write, you edit, you publish.


Let’s extend our simplified look at editing to include drafts.
Each time you amend the document you are working on the next draft. For example if you’ve written a story and you go through it to edit, the end result is the second draft. If you go through and edit again, then that one becomes the third draft and so on.
You write a story and are happy with the general feel of the manuscript. You have your first draft. We’ll say for the sake of argument that like me, you don’t have a team of editors. You have a long road ahead of you if you intend to edit the work yourself. There is a variety of issues to watch out for, but they cannot all be searched out at once. It takes a slow, systematic approach whereby each aspect of editing is tackled separately.
Look at my next question and ask yourself if you could check for all of the issues listed – and deal with all of them at the same time.


What are we looking to amend?
Incorrect syntax (assembly or structure of sentences), punctuation, grammar, spelling (for a particular market), unnecessary word usage and incorrect word usage. We must also check for: incorrect use of capitalisation and efficient use of dialogue tags.
Those items are the basics, because if we are writing a short story or novel we have to be aware of many other issues. We must check continuity, facts, weights, measures, cliche, dialect, slang, racism, sexism, and more.
What about sentence length, paragraph length, section breaks, page breaks, headings, sub-headings and suchlike?
These are items I would classify under formatting. Having said that though, I would keep a wary eye on sentence and paragraph length while writing.


What’s the difference between editing and formatting?
To my way of thinking, the main difference is that editing is the nitty gritty of our manuscript, whereas formatting is more to do with presentation. For example, when e-publishing we should keep in mind that the average paragraph should be smaller than it would be for a traditionally published book.
In December 2014, I stopped reading a book on my Kindle because the average paragraph was taking up two or three screens. If that occurs it becomes a block of text to the reader.


I have no doubt that there will be those who visit, read this post and have their own opinions on editing. If you are one such person, please leave a comment. The more we discuss the topic, the more benefit it will have for each and every one of us.
My intention is to produce a topic heading in my main menu in which I’ll list a variety of the issues pertaining to self-publishing. I mean e-publishing as opposed to paper publishing. Under that topic I will build a selection of issues to watch out for and a simple guide with regard to how I deal with those issues.


What can you expect to see in my self-publishing menu?
Editing (of course), formatting, use of numbers, use of capitals, continuity, simple research and also dialogue.
Before I close I’d like to thank Michael Roberts from our Indie Author Review Exchange on Facebook. Why? It was thanks to Michael that I put this post together and I will go on with the other projects mentioned above.
Michael asked in the Facebook thread if I had any trusted editors. Unfortunately the answer is no. I paid for an editor once, but it is an expense few of us can afford. I decided after my first novel to build my own system, which I must admit has been refined with each book I’ve produced.


Why don’t I pay for an editor?
Let’s see … should I pay for a line editor, a copy editor or a proof-reader? Each of those is different and each could be paid for separately but still not produce the best result to meet the author’s needs and budget.
Finding a good editor is like finding a good anything. You must consider cost, time, means of contact, whether or not you accept suggestions and many more factors.


Have I paid for anything to help with my editing?
Yes, I pay for a programme called Grammarly, which like all such things has a few glitches, but it helps me speed up the editing process and draws my attention to some classic issues. It is an essential part of my editing system, but I still make the suggested amendments manually, I never click on the automatic adjustment. Like I said, there are glitches.


This feels like about the right time to stop …

Thinking, “Talking”, and ‘Quoting’

How and when to use quotation (speech) marks can be confusing.     Website - Author page

Should we use ‘single’ quotation marks or “double”?

When we write a story we are invariably going to use dialogue. We are also likely at some point to use a character’s train of thought.

Before a word is written the author must be clear on how the text is going to be presented throughout the entire story.


If there is difficulty in remembering whether to use ‘speech’ marks, just keep in mind that thoughts are not the spoken word – therefore there are no speech marks used.  Simple.


How should I demonstrate this, he thought.



There are those that say we should use single quotation marks, and others suggest double. For many years it was thought that one method was right and the other was wrong, and that certain nationalities used single, while others used double. It is one of the many aspects of creative writing that has seen a lot of flexibility over the years.

It appears to be a growing trend to use single quotation marks. Check out work by Lee Child, Jeffrey Archer, or Ian Rankin. They all use single quotation marks for regular dialogue.

I admire all of these writers, but my own preference is to remain with double and I will go on to explain my reasoning.


Single – ‘The use of single speech marks is quicker when typing,’ he suggested.

Double – “I know,” I agreed, “but there are times when double helps. It tends to make me concentrate whenever I’m using dialogue.”

Now those two simple sentences demonstrate that either method works equally well, so I will now go on to complicate things a little.



We must also remember the use of a quote within a piece of dialogue. If the regular dialogue has been produced with double quotation marks, then any quote within the speech should be completed in single quotation marks. If the regular dialogue has been produced with single quotation marks, then any quote within the speech should be completed in double quotation marks.

Example 1.

“What did he say to you?” Helen asked.

“Well,” Barbara said and paused. “He said, ‘Check it out first,’ and that was it.”

Example 2.

‘What did he say to you?’ Helen asked.

‘Well,’ Barbara said and paused. ‘He said, “Check it out first,” and that was it.’

Either method works equally well as long as it is used consistently throughout the manuscript.


In Summary

There are other occasions when single quotation marks are used in a manuscript, but I’ll write about them in my next post. However we decide to play it out in our writing there are guidelines we should observe.

  1. The writer must remain consistent in the use of either single or double throughout the manuscript.
  2. Whenever a quote is inserted within a passage of dialogue, the quote must be in the alternative type of quotation marks to the main speech.


As always, thank you for dropping by, especially if you decide to leave a comment. I’ll be back with more soon.