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Guest Blogger-Heather's Two Cents on How to Keep You and Your Editor Happy

Hello there my lovelies! This week we're hosting guest blogger Heather Hudec! Her guide to editing is so so informative, so buckle up for some really helpful tips!

About Heather:

Heather is a freelance editor living in the Pacific Northwest (but wishing she was in Narnia, Florin, or the Hundred Acre Woods depending on the day). She lives for editing fantasy, but she also loves editing thrillers, dystopians, and all novels with beautiful messages.

You can find her on social media:

Instagram: @simplyspellboundedits

And she's a professional editor, so check out her rates/services on her website:

Thanks for reading my lovelies! I hope you enjoy Heather’s piece and I'll be back next week!


-Rose Rayne Rivers


Author: Heather Hudec

Title: Heather's Two Cents on How to Keep You and Your Editor Happy

It’s no secret that editing is a big investment. So what can you do to make sure you get the most bang for your buck? Self-edit. Now believe me, I’m not telling you to skip an editor altogether. I think it is a travesty when books are listed for sale without ever having a professional editor’s eyes on it. Just because you have a good grasp of grammar doesn’t mean you can skip hiring an editor. Even editors who write a manuscript need to have another editor look at it. Why? Because our brains are both really smart and really dumb. Since we know what we mean when we are writing something, our brain fills in the gaps and corrects those sneaky mistakes without us ever realizing they existed. That’s why whenever you pull out that story you were so proud of from several years ago, you can usually find a LOT of mistakes you missed on your first multiple readings. Your brain needs time and space away from your writing to be able to find those mistakes. 

So, you need to hire an editor. Yes, it will be expensive. But, truly, you get what you pay for. A good editor will look at a sample of your writing to determine the level of editing required of the piece. If your writing is fairly polished, perhaps only a copyedit will be necessary, which costs a good deal less than a line edit. From a financial aspect, it’s really worth the time to edit your own work first.

OK, so you want to edit your manuscript before sending it off to an editor. What do you need to look for? The biggest/most common errors I’ve seen are with dialogue and dialogue tags; mixing up hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes; and over-capitalization. You should also be aware of your personal crutch words (mine is definitely), but it’s not generally a big deal for an editor to eliminate those. All of the information I am sharing I learned directly from The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition and Merriam-Webster, aka two of your editor’s best friends! 


Let’s start with dialogue and dialogue tags. Punctuating dialogue is tricky because there is so much room for variation. First, let’s break down the rules. If your dialogue tag is before the dialogue 

  • place a comma at the end of the tag 

  • capitalize the first word of the dialogue if it’s the start of a sentence 

  • end the dialogue with punctuation inside the quotation marks

For example: The witch said, “Who’s been tasting my potion?

If your dialogue tag is in the middle of your dialogue 

  • use a comma before the dialogue tag inside the quotation marks

  • don’t capitalize the tag unless it’s a proper noun

  • use a comma after the dialogue tag outside the quotation marks 

  • don’t capitalize the continuation of the dialogue unless it’s a proper noun

  • end the dialogue with the correct punctuation inside of the quotation marks

This is an effective way to indicate a pause or hesitation in the dialogue. 

For example: “Who’s been,said the witch, “tasting my potion?

If your dialogue tag is at the end of your dialogue

  • punctuation still goes inside the quotation marks

  • don’t capitalize the dialogue tag unless it’s a proper noun

  • end dialogue tag the correct punctuation

  • If your ending punctuation is a period, place a comma before the quotation marks and then the period after the dialogue tag.

For example: “Who’s been tasting my potion?said the witch.

I know we all learned in elementary school that “said is dead.” Just me? Anyway, that’s just not the case in the publishing industry. The current trend is to use said as often as possible (or rather to use an action tag in place of dialogue tag altogether) in order to make the dialogue tags disappear. Rather than relying on dialogue tags to tell your reader how to read the sentence, focus on making your actual dialogue clear enough to carry that information for you. That doesn’t mean you should only use said in the whole manuscript. The occasional “growled” (my favorite), “asked,” and “shouted” are perfectly fine, but they should be occasional.  


Do you know the difference between a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash? Hyphens are the shortest dash and they are generally only used between words. Make sure you don’t put spaces between the hyphen and the word you are hyphenating. You can also use hyphens if you are spelling out the word letter-by-letter or to avoid an awkward spelling (re-elect). The other common time for using hyphens is when you are indicating stuttering or halting speech, but only if its parts of the same word being stuttered (wh-wh-what). 

En dashes are the middle-length dash. They are half the length of an em dash, and are called en dash because they are about the same length as the capital letter N. En dashes are used between numbers, dates, and to mean “up to and including.” 

Em dashes (one of my favorite punctuation marks) are the longest dash, the length of a capital letter M, and used the most frequently. They are also the most versatile. Em dashes are used to show an abrupt change of direction, to indicate an interrupted sentence or hesitation, in place of commas or parentheses to add information, to introduce lists, and in place of a semicolon or colon.


Most manuscripts I have edited have had many unnecessary words capitalized. This is another one of those mistakes I am guilty of in my own writing. Capitalization is a big topic, so I’m only going to address the mistake I have seen made most frequently: capitalizing titles and offices. The general rule is that civil, military, religious, and professional titles only need to be capitalized when they are directly before the person’s name. So for example, “Sheeve Palpatine became the chancellor,” but “Chancellor Palpatine corrupted Anakin,” and “Sheeve Palpatine, chancellor, corrupted Anakin.” We often think important titles like president always need to be capitalized, but they only need to be capitalized if they are a part of the person’s name. 

Exceptions to this are honorific titles and respectful forms of address (such as Madam Speaker and Your Excellency) and epithets as names of characters (like Mad Hatter). The way I remember this rule is that any time the title is being used as the character/person’s name it should be capitalized.

Now that I’ve made it through my big three tips for self-editing, I would like to remind you this book is your baby. If you decide you want to capitalize the word “president” every time it appears in your manuscript, that is entirely your decision. The beauty of editing fiction is that there is a lot of wiggle room for author’s preference; things that are technically wrong can still be right for your book.

Happy editing! 

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