Learn the top 3 edits to improve your writing, your sales, and your readership from a professional!
Writing is a valuable tool, but when coupled with strong editing, it becomes a powerful tool. As a writer and an editor, I often see mistakes that people make that drive me away from that product or service.
I’m only one person--one potential sale. But if you’re not fixing these editing problems in your writing, you’re potentially losing out on a lot of money from people like me.
Capitalization seems simple. Capitalize the first word in a sentence, the personal pronoun I, and proper nouns, right?
Yes, but it’s not always that simple. The first word in a sentence is easy. The personal pronoun I is easy, but we often forget it or get lazy in allowing autocorrect to fix it. But a proper noun--that’s a little more complicated.
Proper nouns are specific, formal versions of people, places, things, or ideas.
The thing is, often people can’t distinguish between the noun and the proper noun. (Some of that confusion is because they don’t know, but there are some nuances in the English language that make it more complex.)
Sentence structure is the variety that spices up your sentences. When you don’t have a variety, your sentences are boring. When you have too much variety, your message gets shrouded in the construction. It’s also essential to use proper punctuation to clarify your sentences.
Sentences have independent clauses and dependent clauses. Independent clauses can stand alone while dependent clauses cannot.
There are four basic sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.
Simple sentences have one independent clause.
For example: Sally and Bob go to the store and buy groceries.
Compound sentences have two or more independent clauses.
For example: Sally and Bob go to the store, but they forgot their grocery list.
Complex sentences have an independent clause and a dependent clause.
For example: Sally and Bob go to the store because they need groceries.
Compound-complex sentences build upon the concept and structure of compound sentences (two or more independent clauses) and complex sentences (an independent clause and a dependent clause).
For example: Sally and Bob go to the store because they need groceries; however, they realized they forgot their list, so they had to go back home to get it.
Commas are complicated. Back in the day, we used to have these tips and tricks that were presented as rules. We got used to them and used them, but they were wrong. And those of us who know better are suffering.
STOP using commas as a pause. Written language and spoken language are different. Commas are not spoken; pauses are. Pauses are not written (unless you’re writing narration); commas are. If you use pauses as a guide, fine, but you need to make sure you edit them.
There are a lot of rules around commas, but I’m going to list the top 5 comma rules and uses.
When you have four or more items in a list, separate the items by commas. If you have three items in a list, a comma is optional (Oxford comma), but whatever you decide should be consistent.
For example: Sally bought apples, bananas, and strawberries from the outdoor market.
When you have certain numbers, date formats that are the same (words or numbers), or places that are layered, use a comma to separate them.
For example: On July 12, 2021, Sally and Bob went to the outdoor market in Naperville, Chicago, Illinois to get 1,200 blueberries.
This rule is where that pause complicates ideas. When you have an introductory word or phrase, you use a comma; however, many people cannot define what an introductory word or phrase actually is.
For example: Sadly, Sally lost Bob at the market when she got distracted.
Comma use in sentences is very particular. The two most common errors in this rule are:
Not using commas correctly with compound sentences
Not using commas with complex sentences
For example: Sally and Bob found each other, but they ended up missing out on all the blueberries.
For example: Because they missed the blueberries, Sally and Bob had to go to another market.
Sometimes, there are words or phrases that interrupt a sentence. If that interruption is essential, commas are not necessary, but if that interruption adds information that could be omitted, use commas on both sides of the interruption.
For example: Sally and Bob, who had been together for 5 years, never got distracted at the market again.
Editing is extremely complicated. It involves more than capitalization, grammar, usage, and punctuation but knowing the three tips above will help your readers understand what you’ve written, but it will also help your readers feel a sense of fluency, flow, and connectedness to your writing.