The Principles of Good Book Editing

Published: 17th August 2010
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Book editing can be a grueling process. If you are not used to critiquing your own work, then you may pass over errors without realizing it. Editing is important to produce quality work. Learning the basic principles on how to organize and condense your manuscript can save your book's reputation -- not to mention your own.

Tip 1: Be Concise as Much as Possible

A common mistake is including unnecessary content in your book without realizing it. When editing your work, make sure you eliminate clutter.

Clutter may appear in your work through useless and repetitive words in the same sentences. For example, this sentence, "The hasty brisk way that she talks," leaves the impression that the extra descriptive words add drama, but the words "hasty" and "brisk" mean the same thing.

Tip 2: Vary Sentence Structure

Your readers might find your writing style dull and choppy if you always write your sentences with the main subject followed by the verb. This brings us to the second principle: learn to vary the structure of your sentences.

For example, saying, "Because I ate too much, I gained a lot of weight," sounds better than saying, "I ate too much. I gained a lot of weight." The first phrase not only sounds better and less monotonous, but it is also easier to understand.

By varying the length and structure of your sentences, you can achieve a smoother and more conversational tone, instead of sounding like a robot. Thus, your readers can relate to your book more and understand it better.

Tip 3: Use Active Voice

By replacing "to be" verbs with active verbs, you can change your statement from a passive voice into an active voice. For example, it's better to write, "Anna ate the apple, " rather than "The apple was eaten by Anna." You avoid confusing your readers on who the "doer" of the action is in your statements.

Using active voice is an important editing principle. Active voice holds your readers' interests; unlike passive voice of writing, active voice does not drag out your point.

Tip 4: Clarity, Cohesion and Coherence

The three C's in writing, otherwise known as clarity, cohesion and coherence, are useful editing techniques. For your book to truly speak to readers, you must evoke a response so your readers connect with what you are trying to say. Use clear, connected and coherent words to achieve this result.

For your work to become clear, avoid using too much jargon or unnecessary words. As mentioned previously, keep your book concise and simple so readers understand your point better.

Make sure sentences and paragraphs clearly stick together. One trick is to use transitional words and phrases like, therefore, or, and so. These can show the relationship between your phrases and drive your point across.

To achieve coherence, follow basic principles of writing and editing as the ones mentioned above. Sometimes it's not your fault if readers don't fully understand your work. However, you can make things easier by using correct grammar and cohesive sentences.

Editing is essential to improve the quality of your work. If you are not used to finding errors on your own, then you may find self-editing too taxing. As long as you use these basic principles, then you will see how this process improves your writing style in many ways.


Brian Scott is founder of, a free website that teaches you about freelance writing and finding freelance writing jobs.

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