EDITING: General Tips

Word Choices

  1. Cut as many adverbs and adjectives as possible.
  2. Use specific word choices.
  3. Use strong verbs.
  4. Avoid using clichés.
  5. Watch using excessive dialogue tags.
  6. Watch word repetition and repeated phrases.
  7. Watch overused or misused words such as that, only, suddenly.
  8. Watch using passive voice words such as is, are, were.
  9. Check the antecedents on the pronouns.
  10. Check that which and that are correctly used.
  11. Eliminate using that as much as possible.
  12. Avoid using suddenly because it lessens the surprise to the reader.
  13. Take out as many weak modifiers as possible such as very, almost, practically.
  14. Remove as many overkill phrases as possible such as shrugged his shoulders, nodded in agreement, pulled the trigger on the gun.
  15. Watch using too many word filters such as he saw, he heard, he thought, he realized.
  16. Watch using too many –ing and –as phrases.


  1. Use short paragraphs to provide a quicker pace.
  2. Vary paragraph length.
  3. Watch using weak sentences at the beginning of a paragraph.
  4. Keep powerful sentences at the beginning or ending of a paragraph.


  1. Watch how many sentence fragments are used.
  2. Use metaphors and similes correctly.
  3. Vary sentence structure.
  4. Watch dialogue sentences over twenty words in length.
  5. Use shorter sentences with more action verbs.
  6. Watch starting too many sentences with the, he, or she.


  1. Have unnecessary actions been summarized?
  2. Is narrative summarized too often?
  3. Is there too much explanation about emotions or descriptions?
  4. Use the appropriate anachronisms for writing an historical piece.
  5. Check all of the facts (distances, historical details, description details, procedures) used.
  6. Use accurate descriptions.
  7. Make sure details are consistent throughout the story (eye color, hair color, scars, etc.).
  8. Avoid the wandering body parts (eyes dropped, a hand reached out, foot fell, etc.).
  9. Use Italics and exclamation points sparingly.
  10. Watch using flowery images.

The Smarts

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This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.