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Scott Pack @meandmybigmouth
, 23 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
I tweeted yesterday about the fact that lots of writers I edit don't punctuate direct speech properly. It got quite a response so I thought it might be useful to share some of the most common mistakes or problems I find when editing.

A thread.
I should point out before I start that I tend to work on developmental edits and editorial assessments. I am not a copy editor – my own grammar and punctuation skills are not good enough for that – but I do correct issues if I come across them. And these are some…
DIALOGUE TAGS. Most of the time, just putting 'she said' after some speech will do the job. When you are constantly mixing it up – she murmured, she argued, she added ­– it tends to stand out, and not in a good way.
Readers are programmed to sort of ignore 'said', which is a good thing as it means dialogue can flow when being read. Only put something else in its place if you really want the reader to notice it.
ADVERBS. Nothing wrong with a good adverb but the overuse of them can be seen by agents and publishers as the sign of a somewhat underdeveloped or unpolished writer.
I always recommend the adverb challenge. Read through your manuscript and every time you hit an adverb do ten sit ups. You'll either cut down on your adverbs or be super ripped. A win-win.
ADJECTIVES. Perhaps less clunky than adverbs but, again, overuse of them can really stand out. I often see opening pages with dozens of adjectives – hair colour, eye colour, size and shape of things, lots of double or triple adjective use. Be prepared to use more sparingly.
CAPITALS. The names of the seasons do not need initial capitals. It is summer, not Summer. Family relatives do not need capitals – aunt, mum, granddad – unless a proper noun, such as Aunt Jean, or when speaking to them directly, “I am so sorry, Mum.”
TELLING/SHOWING. An old chestnut but putting me in a character's shoes and showing me how they felt, thought, acted, reacted, spoke and how other people treated them or reacted to them is almost always more effective than an anonymous author-narrator summarising and telling me.
And definitely don't do both.

Scott was angry. He clenched his fists, grew red in the face, and shouted, 'Don't tell me something and then show me that exact same thing. Just show me, for fuck's sake!'
DIRECT SPEECH. A repeat of my point from yesterday, punctuation goes inside the inverted commas.

“Please use a comma here,” said Scott.

And the 'said Scott' bit is part of the same sentence, so the full stop does not come till after that.
As an editor, I hate dialogue written traditionally with inverted commas and the like because a) writers so often get it wrong and b) it is a fiddly pain in the arse to edit.
EXPOSITION IN DIALOGUE. Try to avoid having characters telling each other things they should already know. You are doing this because you need the reader to know something, not because the characters would actually say it.
Pretty much every piece of dialogue that begins with, 'As you know…' can be deleted.
NAME CALLING. Again, in real life, people very rarely use each other's names apart from in an initial address.

- Hey, Scott.

- Yes, Mary?

- Well, Scott, I was wondering how you feel about overuse of names in dialogue?

- Actually, Mary, it gets right on my tits.
LYRICS. Not actually an error as such but just a heads up that if you include song lyrics in your book you'll need the permission of the songwriter and/or the song's publishing company and this usually costs money. Sometimes lots of money.
HAIR. SO MUCH HAIR. A worrying percentage of manuscripts I am sent to edit have a character running her or his fingers through their long hair on the opening page. Stop this. Just for my sake.
ETHNICITY. If you only comment on or mention the ethnicity of non-white characters then you are assuming, consciously or not, that white characters are the norm, that your readers are all white and that they will assume the characters are all white unless told otherwise.
These are just some of the things that I notice that aren't always WRONG, as such, but your work will appear a lot more professional, and attractive to agents and publishers, if you can avoid this shit.
I pay the mortgage by reading unpublished manuscripts and helping authors make them better. Feel free to @ or DM me if you want me to work on yours.

But you don't have to. You can have all these nuggets of wisdom for free.
I also wrote this book for writers who are ready to submit their work in the hope that they'll avoid cocking it up. You're welcome.
And don't forget. If everyone wrote perfectly all the time editors would be out of a job.

So don't change too much, will you?
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