Edit or Regret It

T-Shirt demonstrating common grammar errors

Many a writer of children’s literature has felt that since their story is just 800 words, self-editing is fine.

However, my view is that a second set of eyes never hurts. And if just one errant comma, or apostrophe, or typo is caught before publication, well, hallelujah.

Bad punctuation can break hearts…
“I’m sorry I love you.” versus “I’m sorry. I love you.”

Text exchange photo with grammar errors

Many teachers, parents, and librarians who purchase books for kids will ditch a book for a single typo, or a grammatical error. After all, little knowledge-sponges that they are, their children are learning to read. So let’s start them off on the right foot.

Oftentimes, grammar checking software like Grammarly can come in handy to catch any commonly used but incorrect vernacular, that has slipped into your story. These include words such as irregardless instead of regardless, drug instead of dragged, I could care less instead of I couldn’t care less.

When it comes to spelling however, there are many oversights as this poem illustrates. Read the whole thing here.

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.
A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

T-Shirt reads "Let's eat Kids. Let's eat, kids." demonstrating punctuation errors.

However, since spell check only goes so far, for my books, I hire two or three beta readers who act as regular readers and write a report, picking out timeline, characterization, consistency, and plot problems. Then, after accepting or rejecting their recommendations, I hire two editors who have never met me or each other. These editors do a thorough linebyline edit with notes (in review pane on Word). Once I have reviewed and accepted or rejected their suggestions, I send my manuscript to two different proofreaders who catch all my dangling adjectives and bad comma splices. After that my publisher has their own set of editors who also put it through the editorial wringer.

Editing can be a painful process and as Faulkners saying goes, You must murder your darlings. It can be upsetting to see your seemingly perfect words struck down, and you dont have to accept the recommendations of the editor. However, it is best to keep an open mind. If an editor objects to something I always look closely to see if Im making myself clear.

What most editors are watching for is redundancy, purple prose, too many characters, confusion, and in children’s literature there are many marketing considerations, such as whether the writer understands and relates to kids. Social mores about children change constantly. The type of violence depicted in some nursery rhymes of yore is unacceptable today—The Scissor Man comes to mind. Also, no weapons please, or physical aggression as was depicted in The Three Stooges and Popeye. Plus, inclusion and diversity have become of primary importance. It’s preferable for your editor to have a specialty in children’s literature, not essential, but preferable. Often, your editor will bring more to the manuscript than spelling and grammar. They may offer insightful advice on many elements of your story.

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The opinions expressed in this blog are mine alone

Hi! I'm Sheila McGraw. Welcome, and thank you for visiting. I began my career toiling in the “sequin-mines” of advertising and fashion houses as an illustrator and copywriter. Then, in 1986, Firefly Books approached me to illustrate a little book titled, Love You Forever.

Welcome hyper-typers and paint-slingers to my blog about writing, illustrating, and publishing books for kids and adults; art, crafting, and whatever else tickles my fancy.