Line Edit Lessons #1
How to polish your manuscript at a sentence level
What do I mean by line editing?
To me, line editing is not just catching typos and correcting grammatical errors, although it’s certainly includes that. It’s about improving and tightening your prose. It’s about killing your darlings, cutting unnecessary words, and rewriting first draft sentences with stronger, more precise language.
So, as much as I want to, I’m not going to school you on proper comma usage. There are plenty of places to go on the Internet for that. And this article from Diana Urban does a great job explaining unnecessary words to delete: 43 Words to You Should Cut From Your Writing Immediately.
For example, this sentence contains several unnecessary words:
I just really think that he’s wrong.
Let’s improve it:
I think he’s wrong.
Ah, much better.
But, like I said, line editing goes deeper. There are so many ways to trim your prose and make it more effective.
Let’s start with a pre-test.
The sentences below are not grammatical incorrect. But they could be improved. How would you revise them?
She crept slowly down the hall.
On the sand lay a dead, bloated, gelatinous, pale grayish-purple jellyfish.
He walked aimlessly through the store, picking up random items from the shelves then putting them back in the totally wrong places.
“I can’t wait until Friday!” she exclaimed jubilantly, flapping her hands with excitement.
“So, hey, look, I’m…uh.. I’m just really sorry,” he said apologetically.
“I didn’t, like, actually want to break up with you,” he said, staring down at his shoes.
Walking down the sidewalk with their hands in their pockets, no words were said as they headed towards home.
Her cheeks were flushed with heat, and she was covered in sweat.
He extended out his hand and took the money from her hand.
I stepped into the room, which was cool from the air-conditioning, and walked over to the the table, which was covered in delicious food.
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