The Third Reading: Subjective Changes

First – thank you to everyone who has contributed thoughts on my blog and in LinkedIn. I’ve enjoyed putting my process out there and improving it based on the new ideas I’ve received.

We’ve made it through two readings of a manuscript. During the third reading, we get to propose changes that are subjective, and even though, as an editor, I want all my suggestions included in the next version of the manuscript, I have to accept that the author gets to decide how to handle each idea I put forward.

The first three blogs in this series are: Proofreading Process (Part One)Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Two) and Copyediting Proofreading Process (Part Three).

So here we go . . . Things to check during the third reading:

PASSIVE versus ACTIVE

Point out passive clauses but don’t change them. Passive or active is the author’s choice, but what if the author slipped into passive without noticing? I comment and then move on.

TENSE

Keep an ear out for tense and check for consistency. Tense can change during the course of a novel. Linwood Barclay uses past tense and present tense in his new novel Trust Your Eyes, but he keeps the tense consistent in each scene. The result is a fast paced, exciting novel. My point: It’s important to understand the author’s intent for tense and then edit accordingly.

FIRST, SECOND or THIRD PERSON      

This can change throughout a novel, but is it consistent per scene? If switching person takes away from the story, mention it to the author, but again, the author gets to decide whether to change it or not.

THAT

Check every use of that and decide if it’s needed. If that is not needed for clarity, suggest its removal. Here’s an example of when you don’t need that:

I used to think that it was easy to use a comma.

I used to think it was easy to use a comma.

The meaning of the second sentence without that is clear. Now compare the following two sentences, and I think you’ll agree that is needed.

Ignoring the shadows that vaguely reminded him of his long dead relatives, . . .

Ignoring the shadows vaguely reminded him of his long dead relatives, . . .

The meaning changes in the second sentence. That is needed  for clarity. The first sentence tells us the shadows remind him of dead relatives. The second sentence tells us ignoring the shadows reminds him of dead relatives.

ADJECTIVES

Are there cases where more than one adjective describes a noun? Yes? Then I ask if the author could pick the most important one and delete the others.

REPEATED WORDS

If a word jumps out at you as overused, it probably is. It’s okay to suggest alternatives, but it’s the author’s job to come up with a new word (if he/she agrees the word is overused).

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ll post the final touches on Monday . . .

Thanks for reading :)

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3 thoughts on “The Third Reading: Subjective Changes

  1. I must have missed this one somewhere along the line. Very useful thoughts.
    I’m a huge fan of adjectives,and tend to sprinkle them liberally throughout my prose. I can see that might not be a good idea!

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