Once I was editing a novel set in World War Two. When the author referred to an ‘MP’, I thought she meant ‘Member of Parliament’ – which, in the context, didn’t make sense. I queried it and discovered that by ‘MP’ she meant ‘Military Policeman’.
Watch out for jargon and acronyms and anything else that might be second nature to you but not, perhaps, to a reader who lacks your knowledge of the subject. And while you’re at it, watch out for plot holes. You know your story so well that sometimes you won’t notice it when some vital facts haven’t made it from your head to the page.
This is a surprisingly common mistake. I’m guilty of it myself; once I wrote a scene in which my character was on a verandah, but in the next breath he was at the bottom of the stairs. I’d seen him tumble down the stairs in my head, but I hadn’t written it down. Luckily, my editor picked it up. (Note: this is one of many good reasons to hire an editor!)
Don’t leave your readers scratching their heads!
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About this blog
Through my experience as an editor, a reader and a book reviewer, I’ve noticed that some writing faults keep just popping up again and again. As an author, I’m especially aware of those writing crimes that I’m frequently tempted to commit myself. This series of brief tips addresses the common writing problems that I’ve encountered. Following them will help make your writing clear, accurate and stylish.