So before you send your work off, give it one last look and keep an eye out for any of these. The cleaner your writing is, the better the chance to have your story read and enjoyed.
- Clichés. Be original. Your readers want to hear what you have to say in your own words. Using tired and old clichés will make your writing seem tired and old. Think of a fresh way to say it. Here is a great, comprehensive list of clichés to avoid from suspense.net.
- Intensifiers. Instead of saying “My coffee was incredibly old,” try “My coffee tasted like burnt tar.” Instead of saying “I really need a coffee,” try “The dull ache behind my eyes told me it was past time for my coffee.” Here is a list of 10 intensifiers you should avoid from Daily Writing Tips.
- Ellipses (…). I am a recovering ellipses addict myself. These are only used to show that there is text missing from a quote, or sometimes during dialogue to show the tone falling off at the end of a statement. If you have used these for any other reason, chances are you should use a comma, period, dash, or some other common punctuation mark. The overuse of ellipses makes for bumpy reading. Best to use them as infrequently as possible. One more thing about ellipses – they are three dots. Not four. Not two. Not five or just holding down your period button on rapid-fire until you think you have enough. Three. If you’re going to use them, please use them properly. An ellipsis with more than three dots looks like a spelling mistake to me, and I am sure I’m not alone on that one.
- Exclamation marks. Never use these within your narrative text. There could be an exception, maybe one in a 300+ page novel, but likely not. Make the emphasis with your words, not with the exclamation point. When a character is shouting within their dialogue, however, the exclamation point is acceptable.
- Unnecessary words. You know the ones. ‘That’ and ‘of’ are the most common. If a sentence reads just as well without the word, strike it. The one I see the most is ‘of’ used after ‘off.’ Example: “I picked my coffee cup off of the counter.” That ‘of’ is not necessary.
- Repetitive writing. If you have described someone raging through a space, throwing things around, hollering profanities, you don’t need to add the line “He was angry.” I often find that sort of telling thing right before the description. Why tell when you have already, or are about to show?
- Redundancy. A close cousin to repetitive writing is to use two words that imply the same thing. Free gifts, closed fists, brief moment. Gifts are not gifts if they aren’t free, fists can only be fists if they are closed, and a moment is always brief. No need to say it twice. Here is a great list of 200 Common Redundancies from about.com.
Did you find these tips helpful? Please share with a friend. Also, check out my previous post with 5 helpful manuscript polishing tips to help you get your manuscript as perfect as possible before sending it out.