My first foray into editing was as a publisher of dark fiction, so it’s safe to say I’ve read a lot of bizarre things. I’ve seen people do a lot of weird things in their writing. Every writer has their own particular set of quirks, but there are a few things I see consistently as an editor. I’m going to go over three of the most common issues I encounter and show you the error of your ways!
First, a bit of honesty. “That” is a grammatical pet peeve of mine. Generally, it’s a lazy word. It’s rarely used in a way it isn’t replaceable with something else, and sometimes you can remove it altogether. It’s not a grammatical hard and fast rule, but in most cases, it’s a stylistic choice made by the editor. Because most writers overuse “that” (no finger pointing, I do it too) in most cases I choose to remove it or rewrite the sentence.
Writers, particularly nonfiction writers have a tendency towards starting sentences with, “I think…” Your readers are coming to you because they want your opinion or expertise on a particular topic. They know it’s what you think. It’s understood; stating it is redundant.
Repetitive Phrases and Sentence Starters
In the same vein, many writers, and often those who are new to the endeavor will use repetitive phrases. Typically, this occurs in the form of their sentence starter. For example, in a paragraph with five sentences, four of them begin with, “I think…”
The easiest way to remedy any of these problems is to be aware of your writing style, and the best way to do this is to read your writing. Yes, I’m going to advocate hiring an editor to work with, but you are your first editor. Reading your work, and self-editing will make you a better writer! If this seems like an overly simple solution, that’s because it is!