Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Style sheets are a helpful tool for self-editors. They allow a writer to keep track of particular elements of a story: locations, characters, plotlines, timelines. . .you name it.

The layout of a style sheet can be as varied as the authors who use them. They can be created in a processing program such as Word or on a spreadsheet. Some creative writers could find other formats, but the simplier the better.

One great use of a style sheet is to keep track of the many confusing bits of grammar, spelling, and punctuation writers come across. A list of easily confused words is a great tool when self-editing.

Today, let's take a look at some of those words a writer might wish to add to his personal style sheet.

Affect/Effect:
Affect: With one exception (when used as a psychology term), affect is always a verb.
Effect: This word is a noun, which means result or a verb, which means to bring about.

Among/Between:
Among: Use this word when referring to more than two people.
Between: Use this word when referring to two people.

Apart/A part: These two are easy to remember if you think of them as meaning the opposite of what they appear.
Apart: This means separation as in: They were pulled apart.
A part: This means a union as in: The were a part of the union.

A while/Awhile:
A while: We use two words when it is a noun meaning a period of time.
Awhile: We use one word when using an adverb meaning for a period of time.

Back seat/Backseat/Back-seat
Actually, there is no useage for back seat.Backseat is the noun while back-seat is used as an adjective describing a noun: My mother is a back-seat driver.

Ensure/Insure:
Ensure: This means to assure or secure.
Insure: This means to guard, protect, safeguard, or to shield.

Farther/Further:
Farther: This word is used when meaning a measurable distance or space.
Further: This word is used when indicating greater in quantity, time, or degree.

Good night/Goodnight/Good-night:
Good night is spelled as two words except when used as an adjective describing a noun as in: The stuffed animal the girl clutched was her good-night bear.

It's/Its/Its'
It's: This is the contraction for it is.
Its: This is the possessive form of the word, as in: The door opened on its own.
Its': There is no such usage.

Sneak/Sneaked/Snuck:
Sneak: Of course, this is the present tense form of the word.
Sneaked: This is the correct past tense.
Snuck: A socially accepted form of the word, but actually incorrect.

Feel free to share some additional words that might end up on your style sheet. Examples like these are truly something writers should collect and add to their style sheet for easy identification when self-editing. Until next week, Happy editing.

3 comments:

  1. So glad to see another site emphasizing self-editing. Excellent work. Here are a couple I'd add--

    Fewer/less: Fewer individual items, less bulk: fewer peas, less flour; fewer people, less emotion; fewer hours in a day; less time on my hands. You can find this used incorrectly on billboards (and in a lot of manuscripts that come my way).

    Pronouns used incorrectly make me want to gag -- unless the misuse is purposeful and fits a character's voice: objective pronouns should not be used where nominative are needed and vice versa. Usually a writer can tell which one works by substituting the plural--if "us" fits, then use me, her, him, them; if "we" fits, then use I, she, he, they.

    ReplyDelete