Written by: Fajar binti Benjamin
Hello dear readers. If you’re familiar with our WordPress it’s quite likely that you’ve come across my name several times. That is because I play the role of chief editor to write-ups as well as a secondary editor to creative articles. My point being, I hold a lot of credits. Writing has always been my passion and editing other people’s writing seemed like a natural progression to make once I joined Echo. However, over the six months I’ve noticed a lot of habits from my writers that grind my gears and a lot more that make my day. So without further ado, how to hand in work that will make your editor (or lecturer or boss) happy.
#1 The past is in the paaaaast.
Getting your tenses right and consistent is super important. Why? Because no one wants to comb through your article five times trying to catch all the verbs that seem out of place in the narrative. It can be especially frustrating when a work starts out in present tense and then the editor can literally see the point where the writer gave up maintaining that and switched to the past tense. If an event happened in the past and you’re writing about it, then use the past tense. If you’re doing creative writing and want to build the suspense inside the moment, then use present tense and stick to it!
As a writer, you need to master your tenses because nothing can take a reader out of the moment faster than a verb that doesn’t quite fit.
#2 On all days we never wear red
Those red underlines you see in your unedited work? They should be at a minimum. I can assure you that acknowledging the words you spelled wrong and then retyping them right will do wonders for your spelling abilities long term. Nothing grinds an editor’s gears more than having to flip through 30 misspelled words in a single article. Even if you’re a purist and want to stick to the British spelling only, make sure you get that spelling right, or better yet, leave a little note like “all spelling errors are actually British spelling :P”. It’s sure to leave your editor so much happier that they can now concentrate on critiquing the actual work and its flow rather than basic stuff like spelling.
#3 These are for EMPHASIS
A good habit to get into is to read your own work out loud in a narrator’s voice, actually taking note of the different punctuation and emphasizers you’ve placed in there. Remember, that while you know exactly how your work should be read, everyone else is going in fresh and needs these indicators to dictate how their mind should interpret the emphasis on each word. If a certain sentence needs a change in tone when spoken out loud, then there is probably an indicator you can place in your writing to signify it.
#4 Keep it concise
One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever received in my life was on a fanfiction site after I posted my first ever fanfic. (It was in the Naruto fandom and never got more than 10 kudos if you’re curious). I was asked to cut my paragraph length down by half. “No one wants to read a body of text that’s more than 10 lines long”. They were right of course. In this age of 240 characters and 6 second videos, our attention spans just aren’t good enough to make it past the 10th line (unless the work is super good of course).
With practice, you’ll find that you don’t need the lengthy descriptors or second-by-second play on every “heaved breath she sighed”. A good story or article can convey all these things without ever sparing them a word at all. Don’t believe me? Go through your favourite fantasy novel and try to catch how many gaps you filled in with just the situational cues.
Make it easy for your audience (and editors!) to get through the work. If you find yourself with over ten lines of text in a single paragraph, go through it over and over until you find the perfect spot to split the paragraph into two. It’s amazing what a short gap between two bodies of text can do to refresh the mind.
#5 The secret ingredient is love.
Write what you love. Does Grandma’s cooking taste better than anything you’ve ever tasted anywhere else? That’s because she has a whole lifetime of love to pour into it. Just like with cooking, in writing, the love manifests in the enthusiasm, in the details and in the tone. And just like with cooking, if you’re writing with anger or resentment, your reader will be able to taste that.
Write about topics you care for. You may not always be given control of the topic at hand, but you can always be in control of how much it interests you and how deeply you want to share it with the world. The best pieces of writing are born from the writers experiencing the strongest emotions. Emotion pulls in readers and makes for a beautiful article that’s sure to make a true appreciator of the art of writing, smile.
So that is my list. Of course, there’s all the usual tips and the common sense ones too. For one, make sure you always double check your work before sending it in. That includes reading the entire article word-for-word to catch any missing words, spaces or letters. If possible, let your article sit for a day or two before reading it one final time. You may find that you suddenly have a fresh slew of ideas, or that a certain phrasing doesn’t seem right in hindsight. And finally, the Golden rule of literally everything: if you want to get good at writing, practise.
I hope these tips help you become a better writer and ease editors everywhere!