Editing Tip #2: Keep Punctuation Simple

Editing Tip 2 punctuation.png

I am so excited about this tip!! I just love punctuation!!! Don’t you??!!

Did you read that paragraph and the thoughts “amateur” or “overkill” come to mind? They should have because that is what editors, agents, and publishing houses will think if they find that amount of punctuation in your manuscript.

We all know the basics of punctuation rules, yet sometimes there is an urge to show your character’s excitement or anger with more than one exclamation point. Many beginning writers think it is necessary to truly convey the character’s feelings or the urgency of what is being said, but the result is one that will turn off not only editors but also readers.

Instead of showing a character’s anger with three exclamation points, show your character clenching his fists, throwing a punch, or using snarky dialogue toward people, whether they deserve it or not.

To show your character is shocked by a statement, end their question with only one question mark and show their wide eyes, have them gasp, feel faint and need to sit down, or any other reaction that is unique to your character.

Keep your punctuation simple. Don’t underestimate the power of your character’s words and actions, and don’t underestimate your need for both.

Action Steps:

  1. Search for repeated punctuation marks in your manuscript using the find and replace feature and simply them to one.

  2. Strengthen your dialogue with words that convey emotion (without stating the name of the emotion).

  3. Include the actions of your character that would express his/her and the reactions of those around him/her.


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