You just read another member’s blog and you’re thinking ‘I can write like that. How hard can it be?’ That depends. Are you going to sit down and write something without any forethought? Or are you going to think out the story first and write with proper formatting and editing? Because there’s a big difference between the two.
I got involved with editing because I like to write but noticed it was taking months for my blog to get published. Every day I’d check to see if it had been posted yet. I messaged Adam and asked him if he needed help. Coincidentally, that was the day he was about to put out a call for volunteers to join the editing team. I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education, so I figured I could do with something for the site. My offer of help was accepted and a few days later I was sent my first assignment.
Some blogs are easy to work on. Some are… not so easy. And a lot were frustrating because someone sat down, wrote something, and submitted it without bothering to check their spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Those can be an editor’s nightmare.
Let’s go over a few tips for writing that will help all of us.
Spacing in a sentence – you write a sentence and you end the sentence with some kind of punctuation. Then you go on to the next sentence. Did you notice how those 2 previous sentences were written? There’s only 1 space between sentences. Not 2. Not 3. Don’t worry if the spacing looks funky. Word processing programs will automatically take care of the spacing between letters. Just remember – only 1 space between sentences.
Quotation marks – this can get a little confusing, but there are still some basic rules you can follow to make your life easier. “See Sally run. Run, Sally, run!” Notice that the punctuation at the end of the sentence is inside the quotation marks. And also notice that the quotation marks come immediately after the exclamation mark. There’s no space between the two.
Here’s a different example. “Sally rode her bicycle around the block,” she said. The comma is inside the quotation marks and the period is at the end of the complete sentence. And then there’s this – She said, “Sally rode her bicycle around the block.” It can get confusing, so do your homework.
Every time you change speakers, you should start a new paragraph – like this:
He said, “blah blah blah.”
“Blah blah blah?” she said
“That’s what I said,” he said. “Blah blah blah.”
And so on.
Here’s a link to a great resource for writing dialog: https://firstmanuscript.com/format-dialogue/
Exclamation marks and question marks – these go at the end of the sentence right after the last letter of the last word – there are NO spaces between the two! WHOA! Did you see what I just did there? And there again!
The ever-popular There, Their and They’re, and Your or You’re – it’s not that hard. And if you choose the wrong word, Editor and Grammarly should tell you that when you edit your story. But you can’t rely on them to tell you the catch everything, so pay attention to the following:
They’re is a contraction of They are. Instead of ‘They are going to the store’, you can write ‘They’re going to the store’.
Their is a possessive form of they. Meaning they own something. Their home. Their book. ‘They left their stuff in the hotel room.’
There – it’s not here, it’s there. ‘The dog is over there’.
Your and You’re – again, not hard.
You’re – another contraction but this time it’s you are shortened to you’re.
Your – a possessive form of you. ‘That’s your jacket”.
Proper Names – proper names get capitalized. ALWAYS! It’s not “I took lassie for his daily walk.” It’s “I took Lassie for his daily walk.” Even God is a proper name. Make sure this is consistent throughout the story. He, she, him, and her are not proper names and should not be capitalized.
Starting a sentence with the word ‘So’ – while it may be acceptable to do this, I’m not a fan of it. It’s gotten more popular over the last few years, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. I avoid it.
Repeating the same phrase over and over throughout the story – repeating a phrase is fine if you’re doing it to emphasize something really important to the story. But If it’s the same “Ohhh – the dog is fucking me so hard!” paragraph after paragraph, it gets annoying very quickly. Use it once and then say it differently.
The word “I” – gets capitalized. Every. Single. Time. I went to the store. I took the car. Get it? Not yet? Here’s another example for you: I hate it when people don’t capitalize I.
Run-on sentences – a run-on sentence occurs when 2 sentences are put together without using proper punctuation such as a period, comma, or semicolon. The easiest way to fix a run-on sentence is to split it up into individual sentences.
Make paragraphs – you don’t have to indent new paragraphs, but at least put a space between them. You should make a new paragraph when you start a new idea. Times to start a new paragraph include a change of time or location or when a new character starts speaking.
Plagiarism and Citations – anytime you write using someone else’s words or commit literary theft without crediting the source, you’re plagiarizing. You can get into a lot of trouble for that. I almost failed a graduate-level course because someone in my learning group didn’t correctly cite something he used in a group paper. Even though neither I nor my other group members committed the crime, we all would have gotten punished for it. Citations are most commonly used in non-fiction or scientific papers and are not hard to do, but there are proper ways to do it. The 2 most popular ways to cite are APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association). Chances are that you’ll never have to cite anything for something you write for this site but in case you need to, here’s an inclusive list of ways to create citations: https://pitt.libguides.com/citationhelp.
Edit yourself – once your story or article is written, run it through Editor in Word and Grammarly, which is a free download add-on for Word. They each focus on different things, and the more ‘eyes’ on your writing the better. Read your story. Look for mistakes, and then read it again. Put it down for a couple of days and then look at it again. Ask a friend to read it. Then ask another friend to read it. Although this article is short by my normal writing standards, you wouldn’t believe how many times I read and re-read it, taking things out and adding things in until I was happy with it. And you can bet your last dollar I ran it through Editor and Grammarly several times. I can’t emphasize how important editing is.
If and when you have questions on if you’re doing something correctly, Google it. There are a ton of resources on the internet, but it’s up to you to do your due diligence. I know you’re enthusiastic about getting something published but take your time, do it right, and make sure your work shines. There’s no better feeling than knowing you wrote something you can be proud of and that other members enjoy.
Happy writing!Published in