10 Things To Look Out For When Line Editing

by Adriana Bielkova ┬®.

You know the drill: revise the structure; look at plot flow; do more work on this or that character; check grammar and spelling; proofread. Hang on a second you forgot to line edit! Line editing makes your sentences the best they can be. That means removing all the unnecessary words; making sure the word usage is correct and that the writing flows seamlessly. A professional line editor will do this for you, but its a useful skill to master if you can. Below are ten things to look out for thatll make the most out of your line edit.

  1. Make sure your sentences make sense

Read your work as a reader with a fresh pair of eyes ÔÇô this might mean putting the work aside for a few weeks and doing something else. Look out for clunky wordings, wrong tenses and misused metaphors.

  1. Syntax should be easy to follow and understand

Look at the following sentence: ÔÇ£by agreement he called me up, and though it was very foul, windy, and rainy morning, yet down to the waterside we went, but no boat could go, the storm continued so.ÔÇØ The order of words and clauses is hard to follow. LetÔÇÖs simplify it by rephrasing and dividing it up into several shorter sentences: ÔÇ£He called me up as promised. Although it was a foul, windy, and rainy morning, we went down to the waterside. The storm continued as we watched the boats unable to leave.ÔÇØ Punctuation is your best friend, use it well!

  1. Eliminate any words that lessen the impact

A lot of line editing involves thinking about whether the composition of words in a sentence is the best possible one. To do this, try changing the way the sentence is constructed. Often youÔÇÖll have to get rid of words which we tend to use often, but are unnecessary. For example: ÔÇ£my offer should actually really be considered.ÔÇØ A simple line edit makes this sentence more straightforward and effective: ÔÇ£you should consider my offer.ÔÇØ

  1. Hold your readerÔÇÖs attention

If youÔÇÖre having trouble with the previous point, try asking yourself this question: ÔÇ£does this sentence or paragraph hold my attention?ÔÇØ. If a sentence or a paragraph is long-winded and unnecessary, however much time you spent over it and however much you like it, it has to go.

  1. Get rid of any terms or phrases that convey an unintended meaning

ItÔÇÖs good practice to think about your work with your readers in mind. Of course, itÔÇÖs not possible to please everyone, but you should be aware of projecting bias or prejudice through the choice of words, even if they are unintentional. For example, instead of saying ÔÇ£physical handicapÔÇØ, itÔÇÖs better to talk about ÔÇ£physical impairmentÔÇØ.

  1. Use a thesaurus

Do away with your scruples (if you have any) and get friendly with a thesaurus. I donÔÇÖt mean change every word to an obscure one, but itÔÇÖs a useful tool to avoid repeating words. For example, if you find youÔÇÖre talking about your heroÔÇÖs ÔÇÿsparkling blue eyesÔÇÖ too often, use a thesaurus to change some of these to glinting or glittering.

  1. DonÔÇÖt edit out your voice

Be careful not to over-edit and lose your tone in the process. If youÔÇÖre paying a professional line editor, make sure they understand your voice. If you are line editing yourself, itÔÇÖs sometimes helpful to take a break between editing stages and remind yourself of the main attributes of your voice that makes it unique. DonÔÇÖt lose it.

  1. Eliminate Cliches

Pick any phrases youÔÇÖve heard and read too many times and get rid of them. If conveying the meaning is crucial to your text, there are other ways of doing so. Come up with your own metaphor or nail a new phrase. Consider the following sentence: ÔÇ£needless to say, he wasnÔÇÖt up for joining a vicious circle of ÔÇÿeat, work and sleepÔÇÖ.ÔÇØ Make your writing your own: ÔÇ£he loved life. He couldnÔÇÖt sacrifice it for toiling away at a job that didnÔÇÖt satisfy him.ÔÇØ

┬á9.┬áDouble check the words and facts you arenÔÇÖt sure about

It never hurts to double check. ItÔÇÖs common to use a word or a fact youÔÇÖre not too sure about and then forget about it. Always, always check for its meaning ÔÇô if not when you are writing, at least when you are line editing.

10.  Get help online

My last tip is optional, but may work for those of you who are still in the ÔÇÿtraining stageÔÇÖ of line editing. Hemingway is an online app ÔÇô you paste in the text and Hemingway automatically highlights problems in your writing. Alternatively, thereÔÇÖs the online editing course Get Your Book Fit on Udemy which contains plenty of useful tips on all stages of editing.

Lastly, donÔÇÖt let line editing overwhelm you. ItÔÇÖs an important skill that helps you tighten the screws with your writing, and doesnÔÇÖt have to be a chore. Get your pen at the ready, cut yourself a slice of cake and make it fun anyway you can.

(c) Adriana Bielkova


Adriana Bielkova is part of the Communications team at CompletelyNovel, a friendly publishing platform and author community specialising in print-on-demand. You can find more about editing in our Get Your Book Fit course, featuring advice from top editors, agents and authors.