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The secret to original prose

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

A search for doing your own line editing will turn out pages and pages of blogs containing hard and fast rules. Don't be too wordy. Don't use adverbs. Only use said. Don't use said! Applying these without deliberate thought will make for bland prose.

If we all applied these rules to our writing, it would dilute the originality of our writing.

Scrabble tiles are lined up on a windowsill. They spell the word "Rules". It would get you 5 points.

The rules aren't helping you

Being hard and fast with the rules doesn't give you room to explore why you've chosen the words that you have. Any line editor you hire will know the ins and outs of the rules of writing. But even they aren't abiding by them on pain of death. They will get a sense for your voice in the manuscript and offer suggestions on where they can better conform and where rebelling will have a strong impact on your readers.

When you're self-editing, you do still need awareness of convention. If you want your rule breaking to have an impact, it has to be intentional. Adverbs all over the shop does look sloppy. But well-placed adverbs, adverbs that fit the voice of your narration hit hard.

Know the rules you're breaking

You need to learn the rules so you can decide when not to follow them. You can't consciously apply rules (or consciously break them) if you are not conscious of what those rules are. Before you launch into editing, take some time to learn about your craft.

With the power of knowledge and rebellion on your side, your writing will be dynamic. You will be making active decisions about what words you use, what sentence structures you implement and how you convey details.

Be smart, be original

Intentionality in your writing and editing will create prose that will be identifiably yours. All of us have a favourite writer who we can recognise from a single paragraph pulled out of context. That writer has made informed and intentional choices about how they use words.

Having a stronger foundational knowledge of writing craft will not only help you in self-editing, but will feed into your writing. You will innately emulate the rules you want to conform to and those that you want to break. The more you learn and write, the stronger your authorial voice will become.


Part of line editing is knowing whether the words your readers are catching the intended meaning in your words, whether you're conforming to or rebelling against the rules. All the learning in the world can't make up for the fact that you wrote the words and have the context in your head to know what you meant by them. If you've reached a point where you need an outside pair of eyes, get in touch today.


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