No doubt you’re aware how important it is to have a professional editor check your manuscript before self publishing your book. But what do editors actually look for in your writing and why do you need their professional advice?

While obviously every author is different and every manuscript has its own strengths and weaknesses, there are a few mistakes that commonly crop up. Many of these can be avoided if you know what types of errors are stumbling points for a lot of writers.

Common writing pitfalls

Here’s a list of some common mistakes writers make:

  • Passive voice: Passive voice is probably one of the most widespread writing problems. With passive voice, you need more words to express your thoughts. In most cases, passive voice makes sentences long and boring.
  • Jargon: There’s a time and a place for technical language. However, when it becomes a barrier to readability, it’s probably best to think of another way to present your message. Your goal as a writer is to communicate with your reader. Unless you define any unfamiliar terms for your readers, you are not communicating well.
  • Weak Verb Constructions: Verbs are the ‘workhorses’ of a sentence. The more information you can convey with a verb, the better. Some writing contains weak verb constructions because nouns are used in their place. Turn your nouns into verbs, and see your writing suddenly come to life.
  • Lack of Subject/Verb Agreement: When speaking or writing in the present tense, a sentence must have subjects and verbs that agree in number. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural too.
  • Repeating words: Sometimes a writer has a favourite word they use a few times on a page. On every single page. A thesaurus can be a helpful tool for substituting repeating words in your manuscript.
  • Wordiness: One of the most common writing errors is simply to use too many words. It’s amazing how often we use five or six words when two or three will do. When you review your writing, focus on any words that don’t add anything to the meaning or effect you’re trying to convey. The more concise or ‘economical’ your writing is, the better.

You should always aim for lean prose, with all the words in your sentences working as hard as possible. When you edit your manuscript, keep the checklist above handy. By targeting these common problems, you can dramatically improve your writing. You (and your editor) will be pleased with the results.