Copy-editing involves much more than finding errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Working with authors on their manuscripts, I recognize errors similar to those I made in my early writing.
One of the more common bad writing habits I’ve noticed in my editing jobs is the overuse of words and phrases.
We all have pet phrases that we tend to overuse. Watch for repeated words. If possible, avoid using the same word twice in one sentence and check for repetition within a paragraph. Often they are words we overuse even in our speech—some of mine were “maybe,” “just,” and “so”—but more than being annoying to the reader, what starts out to be only a bad habit can damage your writing in more serious ways.
If you know what your pet repeated words are you could use Find in your Word program and it will take you to each instance of the repeated word, giving you the option of changing it to something more interesting. I would wager that you’ll be shocked at the repetitions you’ll find when you look for some of your pet expressions. For example, have you noticed how many times I’ve used the word “pet” in this post? I rest my case.
Another method that is surprisingly simple but works very well is to read your work out loud. You’ll be amazed at what you find. You’ll make corrections automatically because what you wrote doesn’t “sound right” when read aloud.
Why not give it a try and read a page of your writing out loud?
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