Three Errors That Spell Check Will Never Fix

Day 54/365

(Image courtesy Roxanne Cooke, Flickr Creative Commons)

Aside from the most obvious need for editing—that is, correction of spelling, grammar, and punctuation—there are a multitude of reasons for having a professional editor handle your manuscript. Lack of clarity, confusion over when to show and when to tell, and wrong information show themselves in virtually every manuscript I’ve handled. Below are a few examples inspired by projects I’ve worked on:

Lack of clarity:
The author may mean one thing but inadvertently say another:

Living near Woodbine Racetrack attracted some rough characters. 

The narrator lived near the Woodbine Racetrack and was exposed to some “rough characters”, but it certainly wasn’t his presence that drew rough characters to the neighbourhood; it was the racetrack itself (and the gambling that went on there) that attracted rough characters. Therefore, the sentence was changed to:

The Woodbine Racetrack attracted some rough characters to the neighbourhood.

Confusion over when to show and when to tell:
Sometimes an author will write dialogue when it should be narrative; at other times, the author may explain that the characters are speaking instead of showing it:

She phoned him and told him to meet her at the motel. He told her that he’d be there at noon. Then he told her that he’d be wearing a red carnation. She told him that sounded good, and that she’d be wearing a blue dress.

Now, it could be argued that it depends on the style of the storytelling, the context, and any other number of things, but with the above example, I wanted to try it out as dialogue. Which sounds better to you?

She picked up the phone and called him.

“Meet me at the motel,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll be there at noon,” he said. “I’ll be wearing a red carnation.”

“That sounds good. I’ll be wearing a blue dress.”

Wrong Information:
In a story set in 1990, the characters had smartphones, used lightweight laptops, and did detective work by searching information on Google. No, it wasn’t speculative fiction; these were anachronisms. The use of communication devices was important to the story, so with some research, feedback, and collaboration, the anachronisms were adjusted for improved accuracy.

Again, there are all sorts of reasons to find a trustworthy editor; having someone who isn’t your coworker, your daughter, your spouse, or your online sweetheart is important if you want the benefit of objective, helpful feedback. Your effort, creativity, and success are worth it.