Hi, I'm Ray Evans. I'm a certified copyeditor and proofreader.
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Hey there, word-wranglers and story-spinners!
It's your friendly neighborhood proofreader and copyeditor, here to help you navigate the treacherous waters of scene-setting like a literary Christopher Columbus (minus the whole discovering-new-continents thing).
We've all been there: deep in the throes of our latest literary masterpiece when suddenly, we hit the dreaded...gasp...description conundrum!
How do we create a setting that's more captivating than a hypnotist at a sleep clinic, without turning our tale into a five-volume encyclopedia? Here’s how you do it!
Step One: Sensory Salsa Dancing 💃🏼
The first rule of setting the scene is to create a sensory fiesta for your reader.
Don't just stick to the ol' humdrum sights and sounds.
Get up close and personal with your characters' senses, and let your reader experience the world you're building.
Is the rain a gentle caress, or does it pelt them like a thousand icy needles?
Can they smell the tangy aroma of oranges wafting from a nearby grove, or is it the pungent scent of a dubious alleyway?
Don't be afraid to tango with taste, touch, and even temperature! A sensory smorgasbord will leave your reader hungry for more.
Step Two: Meticulous Minimalism
Now, you don't want your reader drowning in an ocean of adjectives like a hapless, wordy Titanic.
To avoid this, think of description as a fine wine: too little and you leave your reader parched, too much and they'll be stumbling through the story in a stupor.
Be selective with your words, and let your reader fill in the gaps with their imagination.
Remember, brevity is the soul of wit, and also the key to keeping your reader's attention.
Step Three: Mood Swings and Tonal Tidbits
The art of setting the scene isn't just about painting a pretty picture; it's about setting the emotional stage for your characters to play upon.
Description can be a powerful tool in shaping the mood and tone of your story. Is your scene tense and suspenseful?
Use sharp, staccato phrases to keep your reader on the edge of their seat.
Or perhaps you're penning a dreamy, romantic interlude?
Try using soft, flowing language to sweep your reader off their feet.
Step Four: The Dynamic Duo - Action and Description
A well-executed description can be as thrilling as a high-speed car chase or as enchanting as a moonlit waltz.
But how do you strike the perfect balance between description and action?
The answer lies in blending the two like a literary smoothie.
Weave descriptions into your action, and let the setting become a living, breathing part of your story.
The rustle of leaves in the wind can mirror a character's mounting unease, and the golden glow of a sunset can cast a warm light on a tender moment.
By intertwining action and description, you'll create a dynamic, immersive world that will keep your reader spellbound.
So there you have it, my aspiring scribes!
By utilizing sensory detail, practicing minimalism, setting the mood, and blending action with description, you'll be able to create settings that transport your readers like a first-class ticket on the Literary Express.
Now, go forth and conquer the written word, but remember: with great description comes great responsibility.
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Hey there, folks!
I'm your friendly neighborhood editor/writing consultant, here to give you some tips on how to make your dialogue sizzle and pop like a cold beer on a hot summer's day!
Let's start with the basics: formatting.
When writing dialogue, it's important to make sure you're using the proper punctuation and formatting so that your readers can follow along without getting confused.
Each time a new character speaks, you should start a new paragraph, and their dialogue should be enclosed in quotation marks.
Here's an example:
"I can't believe you ate the last piece of pizza," said Sally.
"Hey, I was hungry," replied John.
Notice how each character's dialogue is separated into its own paragraph and enclosed in quotation marks?
This helps the reader keep track of who's speaking and what they're saying.
Now, let's talk about another of the common mistakes in dialogue.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is incorrect punctuation.
Specifically, people often forget to include commas when using dialogue tags.
Dialogue tags are the phrases that indicate who's speaking, such as "he said" or "she asked."
Here's an example of incorrect punctuation:
"I'm going to the store" said Bob.
Do you see the problem 👀?
There should be a comma after "store" to separate the dialogue from the dialogue tag.
Here's the correct version:
"I'm going to the store," said Bob.
3) Unnecessary punctuation/parallel constuction
Now, let's take a look at some examples of dialogue mistakes in fiction writing.
Imagine you're reading a novel and you come across this gem:
"I can't wait to see you!" said Mary, jumping up and down.
"Me too," said John, smiling.
In this case, the author has made a couple of mistakes.
First, the exclamation point after "you" is unnecessary - it's already clear from the context that Mary is excited.
Second, the dialogue tag "said John" should be switched to "John said" for proper sentence structure.
Here's the corrected version:
"I can't wait to see you," said Mary, jumping up and down.
"Me too," John said, smiling.
Remember, folks - proper formatting and punctuation are key when it comes to writing great dialogue.
By avoiding common mistakes and using strong, natural dialogue tags, you can make your characters come to life and keep your readers engaged from beginning to end.
Now go forth and write some killer dialogue!
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Parallelism: How to Double Your Fun, Double Your Pleasure, and Double Your Prose! (Self-Edit Tips Pt 7)
So What is Parallelism?
You want your writing to be gripping, entertaining, and, dare I say it, grammatically correct?
Then listen up, because I'm about to explain the ins and outs of parallel construction and why it’s
crucial to the success of your book. But what is parallel construction, you ask?
Simply put, it's the art of constructing sentences with similar grammatical structures.
Think of it as building a symmetrical sentence, like a game of jenga but with words.
Each piece needs to fit snugly into place, creating a sense of balance and harmony.
You don't want your sentences to be all over the place like a game of drunken Twister, do you?
I didn't think so.
Faulty Parallelism: How does it affect your writing?
But here's the rub: faulty parallelism is like a rogue Jenga piece, throwing off the entire tower.
It occurs when the grammatical structure of a sentence is inconsistent, making it sound
2) awkward, and
3) downright confusing.
And let me tell you, dear friends, nothing turns off readers faster than a poorly constructed sentence.
It's like trying to eat a gourmet meal with a fork made of Play-Doh.
The rule is pretty simple:
Parallel ideas must be presented in parallel form.
Incorrect: We debated the difference between the weather in Michigan in the winter and how it is in the summer.
Correct: We debated the difference between the weather in Michigan in the winter and the weather in Michigan in the summer.
Example 2: Verbs
Incorrect: "Mikey loves baking, sleeping, and to hike."
Correct: "Mikey loves baking, sleeping, and hiking.
All the listing items are gerunds and we corrected the list by changing “hike” from its infinitive form
to its gerund, -ing, form so that we have consistent parallel construction with the verbs.
Example 3: Adjectives
Incorrect: The students were unprepared, poorly behaved, and disrupted the class.
Correct: The students were underprepared, poorly behaved, and disruptive.
Now the sentence has parallel elements, underprepared, poorly behaved, and disruptive, which are all adjectives.
Putting it all together...
The Chicago Manual of Style also covers parallelism in section 5.212(linked for reference).
You should avoid faulty parallelism because can make your writing sound unprofessional and
amateurish, leading to poor reviews and a bad reader experience.
Nobody wants to buy a book that reads like it was written by a first-grader who's had too much sugar.
And if your writing is confusing, readers are more likely to put down your book and never pick it up
again. That's the last thing you want if you're trying to make a name for yourself in the competitive
world of fiction writing. But fear not!
With a little attention to detail and a healthy dose of parallel construction, you can create sentences
that are as satisfying as a perfectly cooked steak. So take the time to review your work and make sure
your sentences are symmetrical, consistent, and balanced.
Your readers will thank you for it, and your bank account just might too. Until next time!!
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Those sneaky little devils that can wreak havoc on even the most well-written piece of prose.
Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings.
You know, like "there" and "their," or "to," "too," and "two."
Now, I know what you're thinking.
"Big deal, Ray. It's just a few little words. What harm could they possibly cause?"
Well, my dear authors, let me tell you - a LOT of harm.
"Jim and I went to Sarah’s house to exercise the ghosts.”
From this sentence, can you tell if whether Jim and the speaker are priests who are going to drive out
some pesky poltergeists from poor Sarah’s house?
Or are Jim and his friend are paranormal personal trainers and the ghosts are just out of shape and
they’re going to spend the afternoon doing pilates or hot yoga with them so they spend their
afterlife toned and in shape?
No one really knows!
⚠️🚨Misusing homophones can make your writing confusing, unclear, and downright unprofessional.
Imagine a reader trying to make sense of a sentence like,
"Their going to the store two buy some bread."
Are they going to the store to buy some bread?
Is there a person/persons called "their" who are going to buy some bread?
Is there some sort of mystical bread-buying ritual that involves the number two?
Not only does this kind of mistake make your writing hard to understand,
it also makes you look like an amateur.
And in the cutthroat world of fiction writing, that's a death sentence.
Readers want to feel like they're in good hands, like they're being guided through a story by a skilled
and knowledgeable writer. They don't want to feel like they're slogging through a swamp of
grammatical errors and confusion. And let's not forget about the all-important Amazon reviews.
One or two slip-ups with homophones, and you'll be seeing those one-star ratings pile up faster than
you can say "there, their, they're." It's not just about sales - it's about your reputation as a writer.
So, my dear authors, do yourselves a favor and double-check those pesky homophones.
Read your writing out loud, use spell-check, and if all else fails, consult a dictionary.
Your readers (and your bank account) will thank you 🤑
Quick Reference: Common Homophone List
To end this section here’s a list of common homophones you should look out for
(Grammarly, above, and spell-check often miss these too!):
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The next grammar issue that pops up a lot is "which" and "that."
These two little words are often used interchangeably, but there is actually a subtle difference in their
usage: "that" is used to introduce a restrictive clause, while "which" is used for non-restrictive clauses.
A restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence and without it the sentence would not
make sense. It provides information that is necessary to identify the noun it modifies.
The book, which I read last night, was amazing."
In this sentence ☝️, the clause "which I read last night" is not essential to understanding which book
is being referred to, but it provides additional information about when and how the book was read.
On the other hand, a non-restrictive clause provides additional information that is
not essential to the meaning of the sentence.
In a non-restrictive clause, "which" should be used instead of "that."
Now, let's look at an example of each type of clause:
Restrictive clause: "The car that I bought last week is already in the shop."
In this sentence, the clause "that I bought last week" is essential to identifying
which car is being referred to.
Non-restrictive clause: "My dog, which is a golden retriever, loves to sleep in my bed."
In this sentence, the clause "which is a golden retriever" provides additional information
about the speaker's dog, but is not essential to understanding which dog is being referred to.
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Hello again, my wonderful word wizards!
Today, I want to talk to you about semicolons. You know, those little misunderstood marks that sit
somewhere between a comma and a period; the ultimate middle child of punctuation.
It's just so versatile, isn't it?
When I was young and immature, I turned my nose up at them but as I gotten older I’ve learned to
love them and you should too!
How Should Semicolons be used?
It’s main uses are to:
(A clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a predicate.)
Examples of each:
And that’s all there is to it!
The semicolon tells your readers that the two clauses are related to the same idea.
It's like a period, but not as final.
It's like a comma, but with more significance.
Of course, it should only be used when absolutely necessary; otherwise, it can be pretty pretentious.
(Author note: I’m something of a semicolon aficionado; my household accounts for 42.6% all semicolon
usage on the East Coast. Therefore I do acknowledge that I may be a little bit biased.)
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So What's a Dangling, or Misplaced Modifier?
A dangling modifier occurs when the subject of an introductory phrase is not stated BEFORE the
introductory phrase. Modifiers describe, clarify, or give more detail about a subject.
Dangling modifiers are a great way to confuse your readers and leave them wondering
what the heck you were trying to say but not like in the good way when you metaphors or symbolism.
And we want to avoid that because a confused readers will probably leave bad reviews on your book.
The fix for this is to re-write the sentence to clearly specify WHO is completing the action
(aka the subject of the sentence). Let's look at some, unintentionally hilarious, examples and how to
Problem here is we don’t know what or who returned from the dead, the plants or my sister.
Assuming this book isn't titled “Night of the Living Dead Gardners, we can fix this two ways:
Example: After the plants returned from the dead, my sister took them outside.
Example: My sister took the plants outside after they returned from the dead.
Example: Numero Dos (that's number two)
Similar to the last one, we don’t know WHO finished the dinner here.
If it was my waitress, I wouldn't be leaving a tip (but they'd get a bad Yelp review).
Fix it like this: "After I finished my dinner, the waitress brought out the dessert tray."
And there you have it!
Self-editing your work for dangling modifiers will ensure that your writing is as crisp
as a freshly-ironed shirt. And you readers will appreciate it too!
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Passive Voice: The Grammar Mistake That's So Boring, It Puts Ambien Out of Business (Or Self-Edit Tips Pt 2)
What's the Passive Voice?
Passive voice is a writing style where the subject of the sentence is receiving the action, rather than
the subject actively performing the action. For example, "The ball was thrown by the boy" is passive
voice, while "The boy threw the ball" is active voice. Using passive voice in writing can be confusing
for readers and make your writing less engaging and interesting.
Additionally, passive voice can make your writing sound dull and flat, making it more difficult for
your readers to connect with your work. This can be especially damaging for authors who are writing
books for profit, as readers may be less inclined to purchase a book that is poorly written. Therefore, it
is generally a good idea to avoid using passive voice in your writing if you are looking to sell more of
Some Examples of Passive Voice
1) The cookies were devoured by the hungry children.
2) The book was read by the student in one night.
3) The thief was apprehended by the police.
*Yawn* I almost feel asleep while typing up those examples. They're flat and undynamic.
Best way to avoid this? Hire a proofreader or editor to go through your work for you.
Second-best way? Use the tips below when you self-edit your next story ⬇️
How to Avoid Passive Voice In Your Writing
When writing fiction, it is important to avoid using the passive voice.
*Confession time* In college I'd use the passive voice to pad my word count for essays.
But don't tell anyone 🤫
The passive voice can make for dull, wordy writing that does not capture the readers' attention.
Instead, you should focus on writing in the active voice, it is more direct and engaging for readers.
You do this by making sure the subject of each sentence is performing the action
and that the verbs used are strong and vivid. Additionally, you should make sure to avoid using long
verb phrases and keep your sentences concise.
Let's Fix the Examples from Earlier!
1) The hungry children devoured the cookies
2) The student read the book in one night.
3) The police apprehended the thief.
⏫ My actual reaction after re-reading the sentences re-written in the active voice.
See how much better and dynamic they sound when re-written? Don't you want you want
to write sentences that'll make you readers do the same?
By following these tips, you can ensure their writing is engaging and lively.
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I understand that the English language is a confusing and tricky beast, so I wrote this article to help
you navigate it with ease. Let me be your personal grammar sherpa, guiding you away from
the treacherous pitfalls of misplaced apostrophes and dangling modifiers.
Grammar mistakes are the best way to ensure your writing will never be taken seriously! So this
series of self-editing tips is designed to help you polish your writing. Let's dive in!
What is a Run-On Sentence?
A run-on sentence is when two or more independent clauses,
separated by either a comma or a semicolon, are combined without proper punctuation.
An independent clause is a group of words that makes a complete sentence.
It has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as its own sentence.
It doesn't need any other words to make sense.
Plus, if you want to sell lots of books, run-ons just won't cut it!
1. I love to eat ice cream it's my favorite dessert.
2. I wanted to go to the store but it was closed.
3. She was so tired she couldn't keep her eyes open.
I bet a lot of you think that run-on sentences are just really long sentences that keep going and going
like the Energizer bunny. Eh, not always. Run-on sentences are sentences that don't have ANY
punctuation so length isn't really how we determine if a sentence is running on (like our examples
How to Avoid
1) Use punctuation, periods, commas, and semicolons as necessary to separate your clauses.
2) Use a period to separate the two clauses into separate sentences.
3) Avoid using conjunctions to join two closely related, but still separate, ideas.
4) Break up lengthy sentences into two or more concise, distinct sentences
5) Use a conjunctive adverb: A conjunctive adverb is a type of adverb that
is used to connect two independent clauses in a sentence. It is used to provide additional information
or to indicate a relationship between ideas. Common conjunctive adverbs include therefore, however,
moreover, nevertheless, and furthermore.
Now, Let's Fix The Examples from Earlier!
1. I love to eat ice cream, it's my favorite dessert.
2. I wanted to go to the store, however, it was closed.
3. She was so tired; she couldn't keep her eyes open.
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Number One: Choose the Right Platforms
You don't have to be on every social media site out there, that's just crazy.
Instead, focus on the ones where your target audience hangs out the most.
If you're writing young adult fiction, then Instagram and TikTok are your jam.
If you're writing political thrillers, then Twitter is where you need to be.
And if you're writing romance novels, then Facebook groups are the way to go.
Numero Dos: Create Engaging Content
Now, this might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many writers just post boring-ass
stuff on their social media.
You don't have to be a graphic designer or a professional photographer to create content
that people will love.
Just make sure it's visually appealing, entertaining, and relevant to your audience.
Share teasers of your upcoming book, behind-the-scenes looks at your writing process,
or even funny memes or reels related to your genre.
Number Three: Build a Following
This is where consistency comes into play.
You can't just post once a month and expect to gain a massive following.
You need to be consistent with your posting schedule, and engage with your audience
on a regular basis.
Respond to comments, ask questions, and make connections with other writers and readers in your
genre. And for the love of all that is holy, don't buy followers: it's a waste of money
and it makes you look like a fraud.
Number 4: Interact With Your Audience
Social media is called social for a reason.
You need to be social with your audience if you want to build a loyal following.
Don't just post and ghost 👻
Take the time to respond to comments, ask questions, and start conversations with your followers.
You never know who might be interested in your work, or who might recommend you to their friends.
Number 5: Be Authentic
This is a big one. Don't try to be someone you're not on social media.
People can smell fakeness from a mile away.
Be yourself, share your personal stories, and let your audience get to know the real you.
You'll be surprised at how many people will relate to your struggles and triumphs as a writer.
Number 6: Measure Your Progress Regularly
You can't improve what you don't measure.
Keep track of your social media metrics, such as engagement rate,
follower growth, and website traffic(at least on a weekly basis).
This will give you insight into what's working and what's not, and help you
adjust your social media strategy accordingly.
Number 7: Have Fun 🥳
Social media can be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be.
Remember, you're a writer, and you're sharing your passion with the world.
Have fun with it, experiment with new content, and don't be afraid to make mistakes.
It's all part of the learning process.
Alright, folks, there you have it.
Seven essential tips for social media marketing success as an author.
Now go out there, and start promoting your stories like a boss.
And if all else fails, just remember the immortal words of William Shakespeare:
"To post, or not to post, that is the question."