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Notebook and Pen

Editorial Notes
by Neila Forssberg

These are the notes I sent to an author upon completion of her edit.

Repetitive words are highlighted.

Throughout the manuscript, you will notice places in which I highlighted words or phrases. I did this when I noticed you repeated the same word in a brief period of text. I did correct with synonyms where possible. Otherwise, they are highlighted for you to decide if you want to correct them.


Action before dialogue

One thing you’ll see I changed in your manuscript was moving a character’s action before his/her dialogue. Not only does this save you from having to use a dialogue tag, but it also helps the reader interpret what is being said.

A quick example:
“Where did you go last night?” I asked.

“Nowhere,” Richard said, smiling.


“Where did you go last night?” I asked.

Richard smiled. “Nowhere.”



Had, not would

I noted this a few times within the manuscript. The contraction ‘d stands for , not . I left this alone in dialogue because that is how people talk, but in narrative, I spelled out in the spots where you had it as a contraction.



Sentence Fragments

I’ve tried to cut out some of your sentence fragments by rewording or combining them when possible, or when it seems natural. Even though sentence fragments aren’t grammatically correct, they can sometimes add a sharp, punchy beat. I definitely think you can get away with it, but if a sentence fragment seemed unnecessary or awkward, I tried to change it to a full sentence. I equate sentence fragments with curses: they can be effective when used sparingly, but if you overuse them, it takes away the impact you’re trying to create.


Italicizing internal thought

You will notice as you go through that sometimes I italicized parts of the narrative. The portions I italicized read as more of an internal thought to me rather than narrative. Curses used as exclamations I think definitely work better as an internal thought rather than proper narrative.


By the same token, I may have unitalicized something that I didn’t think was necessary. For example, there were some points where you italicized an entire sentence for emphasis, when I think just italicizing one word in the sentence for emphasis was almost more effective.



Vague antecedents

An ambiguous or vague antecedent occurs when it’s not clear what noun the pronoun is replacing. I find this a lot with sentences that begin with “it” or “that.” You will see that there are a few questions throughout in my comments asking who was “it,” “that,” etc. In these instances, I would just provide a little more clarity so the reader doesn’t get confused.


Fragmented speech

Ellipses should be used to suggest faltering or fragmented speech in situations that a character’s speech is suspended due to insecurity or confusion (stammering). Also, an ellipsis can be used at the end of a sentence if a character’s dialogue trails off. However, if a character’s dialogue stops abruptly, like if they were interrupted, then you would use an em dash.


Dangling participles or participial phrases

This is something you’ll notice I changed throughout your book. Basically, a participle is an “ing” word that is used as a modifier. When it’s dangling, that just means that it’s not clear what that word or phrase represents. One example sentence from your book was “Nodding, her eyes welled.” That makes it sound as though her eyes were nodding.


In addition, participle clauses can also show that two actions were happening at the same time. This is something to watch out for when writing because you don’t want to accidentally indicate that two things were happening at the same time when that’s not what you meant.


I forgot to snatch an example from your book as I was editing. But just so you know what I mean, one example would be, “Tying her shoe, Neila ran out of the house.” That implies that I’m tying my shoe and running out of the house at the same time. Instead, I would change that sentence to, “Neila tied her shoe then ran out of the house.”


Action breaks in a sentence.

I touched on the difference between ellipses and em dashes, but I wanted to talk real quick about action breaks in the middle of the sentence.


The example I pulled from the book was this one:

“You”—Jared scowled—“are going to get yourself killed over a clean-the-planet blog.”


This structure shows that he scowled while he was talking but didn’t pause in his speech. When the em dashes are inside the quotes, it signifies that the dialogue came to a sudden halt.

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