Bad writing habits you want to avoid!

Everybody has their own style when it comes to storytelling. However, I’ve learned a couple of good tips from successful editors that I’d like to share today. 

Again, style is very personal and every writer should stick to whatever makes them feel comfortable and fulfilled, but there’s no harm in reviewing to some editor’s advice 🙂

Dialogue:

Avoid abusing of dialogue tags such as “he said”, “she said”. Spend extra time crafting your characters. When characters are strong, a reader won’t get lost reading a dialogue with no tags, even if it’s a long dialogue. 

A good way of replacing repetitive tags is by adding description beats to your dialogue:

“I don’t like when you make fun of me in front of my friends,” she said.

“Everybody knows I’m joking. Where’s your sense of humor?,” he replied.

vs.

“I don’t like when you make fun of me in front of my friends.” She shook her hair back in exasperation.

He rolled his eyes and exhaled loudly. “Everybody knows I’m joking. Where’s your sense of humor?”

The objective is to bring the dialogue to life by helping the reader visualize what’s going on. Of course, description beats shouldn’t be abused either.

Overused words:

This topic relates a little with the above subject. One of the most overused words in writing is the preposition “as”:

“You look beautiful,” he said as he leaned toward her.

Try breaking the phrase in two sentences.

“You look beautiful.” He leaned toward her and swiftly brushed her cheek with his mustache. 

Another overused words are the verbs “laugh”, “smile”, “chuckle” as part of a dialogue. If the dialogue is funny, it’s implied that the characters laughed, or smiled. Don’t underestimate your readers and their ability to follow your story.

Again, instead of saying “he laughed” or “she smiled” as dialogue tags, expand the sentence by adding a bit of description to the situation. Your dialogue will sound more interesting and sophisticated.

The word “would” is another word that editors list as the most mentioned word in a manuscript.

“On Saturdays, we would always go to the movies.”

vs.

“On Saturdays, we always went to the movies”

Redundancies:

“Shrug his shoulders” (unless you can shrug another part of your body beside your shoulders) 

“Thought to himself” (you cannot think inside other people’s heads)

“Cried uncontrollably” (I cannot think of somebody crying controllably)

“Revert back” (where else?)

“Close proximity” (unless you want to leave no doubt that they are close and proximate)

“Personal opinion” (all opinions are personal, even this blog post)

“New innovation” 

“End result”

Adverbs:

I personally love adverbs but editors find them unnecessary in most of the cases. 

When editing your manuscript in Word, hit ctrl+f to open the “Find” feature. Type in “ly” and click Find. The system will find the adverbs. Read the sentences and see if you have committed adverb abuse. Replace or eliminate nonessential adverbs. 

 

Purple prose:

Purple prose is written prose that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. Have you ever read a sentence that is so long, by the end of the phrase you’re completely lost and have to re-read the entire paragraph? That’s probably purple prose. It’s better to break down the sentence in two and save your readers a migraine.

To finalize, editors recommend that after finishing your first draft of a manuscript, you let it rest for a few weeks and then re-read it. This should help you air your mind and come back with maybe a different perspective or editing approach.

Happy writing!! 🙂

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Virginia Victorio
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