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A fine line: between style and correctness

My job is frequently portrayed as being about pedantry. The correct use of the comma, the correct use of subject, verb agreement, the correct spellings.

It’s true, there are some rules: sentences and proper nouns always begin with a capital letter; some words are always spelt the same way each time.

But that’s not always the case.

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There are times, when the rules need to be broken. A sentence without a subject would attract a pedant’s eye at fifty paces but if the narrative calls for it, if the author’s voice demands it, then there is no reason to correct it.

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And that skill, of finely balancing “correctness” with “style” is important for a fiction editor. Yes, your old grammar master might have demanded that certain words come in a certain order but why? Is the meaning clear? If so, why bother changing it?

I was inspired to write this post after completing a free sample edit for an author. As in the example above, rules and conventions were broken but it didn’t matter. It was that author’s voice.

It reminded me of another, hugely successful book: Normal People by Sally Rooney. I read this a few years ago but it has remained in my memory for one very simple reason: there isn’t a speech mark in sight!

The book is stuffed full of dialogue so it should be littered with quotation marks, right? Not one. And I love it. It shows that rules and conventions can easily be broken, the meaning remain clear and people can still love the book.

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And that’s the job of an editor. To understand when the rules need to be applied and when the author’s voice is more important. A sympathetic editor will recognise when that voice is more important to the book than a set of rules.

To find out how I can best support your writing, get in touch today!

Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.

To find out more and to work with Nick, use the buttons above.

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Your support helps!

Your Ko-fi donations help keep me blogging about writing and editing. They also ensure that I can create and provide free resources for editors and writers. Please consider buying me a cuppa!

Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.

To find out more and to work with Nick, use the buttons above.

Receive my newsletter!

Your support helps!

Your Ko-fi donations help keep me blogging about writing and editing. They also ensure that I can create and provide free resources for editors and writers. Please consider buying me a cuppa!

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