When I saw the title of Carol Saller’s post at The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Lingua Franca blog (Before You Submit: Some Tips for Self-Editing), I was almost afraid to read it. I’ve been doing a lot of submitting lately, and I know I am not immune to the common errors writers make. It might have been easier just to ignore the subject and hope that any editors reviewing my work wouldn’t notice whatever mistakes I’d made. Better not to know!
But I read it anyway, because I wanted to see what Carol came up with, and because I teach writing and want to pass along whatever tips my students will find helpful. Self-editing is hard, but as writers we need to get better at it. And the list is a good one–avoiding repetition and throat clearing, being aware of personal tics and overused constructions, rooting out non sequiturs. She also points out several areas in which writers tend to over correct–things like split infinitives, for example.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however. The list of common mistakes is a long one, but Carol’s post is a good place to start.