Tips and Tricks:
When you write, THINK about how you speak. You can't just write with your eyes and fingers, you have to hear how it sounds, as well. If you don't speak like "As she traversed down the sidewalk, she traversed into the street to avoid the peculiar looking individual walking towards her", DON'T write like that. Here's one potential option to make that sentence more "reader friendly"...."As she walked down the street, she stepped into the road to avoid the strange man coming towards her". I didn't change the MEANING any, but it's clearer and a lot less stilted. Listen to what you are saying, as you write. A book I just finished had a line that read: "a face coming toward me, carrying flowers." A person carries flowers, not a face. One word, but it makes a huge difference.
Keep the "voice" constant. Are you writing in first person? Or third? Or what? Try to remember from whose eyes you are seeing the tale unfold. Several books I have read get this mixed up about halfway through, and they go from "I" to "name of protagonist", and it gets confusing. You want to keep the reader engrossed in your story, not trying to figure out who is telling it at the moment.
Incorrect foreign words.......This is an error I see in MANY books, where the author thinks they know the proper spelling of words outside of their native language. Please, use a decent foreign language dictionary, such as Berlitz, or at least try Google Translate.
"Viola!" (the musical instrument) is NOT the same as "Voila!" (for attention)
If you are speaking of a single woman in France, she is a "Mademoiselle". If married, "Madame"
In Spain, it's "Senorita" or "Senora".
The correct spelling of the tray of finger foods that are eaten at a party is "hors d'ouevres"
"See ya later" is "Hasta luego" in Spanish. (I just saw it in a book as "hasta leugo" and cringed.)
An "elevator" in the USA is a "lift" in British countries.
An apartment" in the USA is a "flat" in British countries. So, if your book is set in NYC, call the
dwelling an "apartment". If it's set in UK, Canada, or other British countries, it's a "flat."
"Soccer" in USA is "football" almost everywhere else.
When to use the correct pronoun-I, me, he, she, him, her. I, he, and she are stand-ins for proper names, as subject. You can substitute "I", "He" and "She" as the subject of a sentence, ie: "Tim went to the store." This is interchangeable with "He went to the store". Same thing with "She went to the store". However, me, him and her, are not subjects. You can't say "Him went to the store". See how it even sounds wrong? Substitute the word in the sentence and read it out loud. See how it sounds. If it sounds wrong, change it to the correct pronoun.
Homonyms: Words that sound alike but are spelled differently...The usual ones are "there/they're/their" (a location/ they are/ belongs to them) and "to/two/ too", (a direction/more than one/also), but there are others, such as "its" and "it"s", the first is possessive-"the kitten got its paw stuck in the jar", the other is short for "it is". Another misused one is "your" and "you're" the first is possessive-"Your car just got stolen!" and the other one is short for "you are": Example: "You're upset that your car just got stolen". Or, bark is the sound a dog makes, as well as the covering of a tree branch, but barque is a type of rowboat. Sounds the same, but is spelled differently.
Synonyms-words that mean the same, for example: happy and joyous, or dark and dreary.
KISS-"Keep it Simple, Stupid" rule: don't use more words than you have to. Instead of "at the present time", use "now". There are many more that I will add as they occur to me.
Know when to use "A" or "An". It's not always the rule of "An" in front of a word that starts with a vowel, as "an hors d'oeuvres tray" is correct. It just sounds like it starts with a vowel.
Oxford Commas-don't be afraid to use them! Many authors use them too sparingly.
"Then" or "than". If you are saying this happened, and something else happened after, use "then". Ex: "Sally went to the post office, and then she went to the shoe store."
"Than" is used as in a comparison. Ex: "Rather than going to the mall, they went to the beach".
Here's a good one: When to use "into" and when to use "in to". "Into" is a preposition that answers the question "where?" Example: "She put the cake into the oven to bake." On the other hand, "in" and "to", are just two words that happened to be near each other in a sentence. The same thing is with "onto" and "on to". Example: The bird flew onto the windowsill." Use of "on to" would be something like this: "He walked on to the entrance of the movie theater." (as in: further along the sidewalk.)
A very easy mistake to make, and overlook in your own editing, is using the plural, instead of singular, and vice-versa. I have seen "men/gentlemen" and "women" used when the subject is a singular person. Keep track of "man/men" and "woman/women".
Run-on sentences are not good, readers can get lost in the twists and turns of your thoughts. Be careful of that. By the same token, be mindful of using sentences that are too short and choppy. Here's an example of this: The reader will get tired. Of reading. Each short sentence. And will put the book down. See how it reads that way? Please try not to do that. If you do, your editor should make whatever necessary changes to level out the wording. A good way to do that is by adding commas, or just eliminating a period or two, creating a longer, more readable sentence. Sometimes, a change in sentence pattern is good, but not if you make your readers "seasick."
Another thought just came to me-especially for authors who write historicals-PLEASE make sure you check the vocabulary of the day-you don't want one of your characters to say "Wow, that carriage ride was awesome!" Neither "Wow" nor "awesome" are words that were used in the 1800s in England. I did see a book recently with "Wow" in it, as well as "awesome" and it really sounded odd. If it is a book set in England, the Cambridge dictionary (www.dictionary.cambridge.org) is a fabulous resource for American authors, to make sure they have the spelling and era correct. It gives American and British spelling of words we share: color/colour, etc. Also, make sure the names of the characters fit the era that the book takes place in.
This is a very informative and useful article on how to choose an editor to work with you. Please check it out. It should open in a separate window. How To Find An Independent Editor
Please feel free to check back, as there will be more added to this page, often.