Tuesday’s Tutor: Four First Steps in Editing – Why Don’t You Trust Your Reader?

EASY AS A, B, C . . . from BB

What I call timeline words are those which indicate sequence like then, now, first, next, later, etc.  You may inadvertently insult your audience by seeming to distrust their ability to follow your thoughts unless you lead them by the hand.  Think about writing an article on how to bake a cake:

First, you take out the cake box.  Then you get the eggs and milk, plus any extra ingredients you want to add like fruit, spices or chocolate drops.  After that you’ll need to get your bowls and pans out.  Now you’re ready to ready to begin.  First, empty the mix into the mixing bowl.  Then stir in the eggs and milk.  Then, when your batter is smooth, add nuts, chocolate, or any other desired ingredients.  Before that, you should have pre-heated your oven.  Then, when it has reached the correct temperature…yadda, yadda, yadda…  (Notice we’ve used first twice—how can two different actions come “first?)

If you have only two or three steps in a process you are describing, you may legitimately refer to each by first, second, third; first, next, finally; a, b, c; or some such specific combination. Don’t assume the reader is too stupid to figure out in what order steps should be taken when you’ve written them in the correct sequence.

The other danger comes from allowing then, next, now and others to become some of your faves, when —really—you’re just thinking “Well…” or “Ummm…” while you make up your mind what to say or write next—never an auspicious beginning for a new sentence.

You’ll be surprised at how much your manuscript will be cleaned up by performing the four steps in these past four “Tuesday’s Tutor” blogs.  Now (yes, now!), you’ll be ready to tackle typos, spelling and grammar problems, convoluted sentences, confusing structure, outlandish language, major plot-line flaws, and all the rest of the editing process.  Good luck and good writing!

BIO: Brenda Bensch, M.A., is a teacher of many years’ experience, a writer, and a freelance editor.  After multiple decades teaching in Utah’s university, college, high school and community ed. classrooms (English, fiction and non-fiction writing, reading, study skills, drama, humanities, debate, math, and others), she invites you to “Ask The Teacher” at  http://BenschWensch.wordpress.com



Filed under Teacher

4 responses to “Tuesday’s Tutor: Four First Steps in Editing – Why Don’t You Trust Your Reader?

  1. Yay! You included the “Ask The Teacher” feature!! (SO not meant to be a poem…:0)

  2. Great post, Brenda. It was so good to meet you at LTUE last week!

  3. benschwensch

    Hope the “Ask The Teacher” bits are helpful. Would LOVE to have more questions from anyone!

  4. benschwensch

    Thanks, Diane—it was great getting to meet you too! I take it you had a safe ride home. See you again next year, if not before.

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