Editing Pet Peeves

We all have them.  Things that make us crazy, whether we’re reading a novel for pleasure or critiquing a colleague’s work.  We’re readers first, and I believe these peeves are forged by what we’ve read – like Chinese water torture they fall, drop by drop, until you notice them and continuing until you can’t see anything else and want to throw the book across the room.

Mine?  I only have two.  But they’re so prevalent in genre fiction that they make me crazy!

First – adverbs.  Sadly, happily, quickly, slowly, hardly, completely – please, just stop!

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes in the middle of a quick-paced action scene, it’s all you can do.  But I’ve read published works that use at least one adverb per sentence, and that’s just lazy.

You don’t agree?  Let’s look at it.  I’ll use my own words as an example.

“She quickly hopped into the bed of the truck as the cattle trotted up, curious.”

First, you can’t physically quickly hop.  Hopping takes as long as it does – you’re in the air most of the time, right?  Try the sentence without the adverb.  Does it lose anything?  I don’t think so.

Do a “find” in one of your chapters for “ly” and highlight them all.  You’ll be stunned by how many there are.  Go through them one by one.  Is the adverb needed?  If so, consider rewriting the sentence to convey the meaning some other way – perhaps with body language.  It’s much more compelling.

My second peeve is dialog tags.  The ONLY time a tag is needed is when more than two people are present, and the reader wouldn’t be able to tell who is speaking without the tag.  Many times, your character has such a distinctive voice that the reader will know from his dialog who is saying the line.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out in your writing.  You may be surprised.

I know – the pundits say, “he/she said” is invisible to the reader.  But if so, why put it in?

Please, please, don’t get me started on adverbs in dialog tags!

“Can we leave now?” she asked hopefully.

Do not go there.  I’m a big girl – I can take you out.

What are your pet peeves?  I’d love to hear your rant.


  1. […] After the drafting comes the editing. Leslie Vedder reveals 3 tips for cutting your word count without giving your whole story the ax, Terry Odell deals with mixed up words, and Laura Drake shares her editing pet peeves. […]

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