By Deborah S. Nelson, Author-Speaker-Publishing Coach
Contractions: Delete contracted words such as don’t, won’t, can’t, it’ll, it’s, and so on. These not only look awkward “in print,” but make for a bumpy ride in the reader’s mind. The best time to use contracted words is for conversation when trying to represent how a character speaks—or directly quoting someone. Nevertheless, these words are fine when used in speaking, but when written, they scream amateur writer and must be removed at all costs.
It is easy to do a clean sweep. Do a search in your document for Apostrophe n’t and apostrophe ‘ll and apostrophe ‘ve. Then delete and replace by spelling both words completely. If you never use contractions, you are “off the hook” on this one! Sometimes it will seem awkward to not use a contraction. If that is the case, throw one in on purpose, now and then again, but do it sparingly, for effect! There now, your writing’s already 10% better.
Spaces: Remove spaces after periods. Before computers, we were all taught in school that proper writing included two blank spaces at the end of every sentence after the period. We may have even found our writing pieces marked down for that. However, since we started writing blogs, magazines, and e-books online, the standard is only one space after the period. When publishing a book for print, our standard is to remove the space, as well, since most of the information in the book will also find its way to online in the form of e-books, Kindle books, or blogs. Be consistent and remove one space after the period in sentences. The writing looks much neater both online and in print with one space after the period at the end of sentences. It is easy. Search for a period followed by two spaces. The replace it with a period followed by one space.
Exclamation Points: Limit your use of exclamation points. Exclamation points on the page visually create an unattractive look and feel; and tend to appear a bit aggressive. Limit your use of exclamation points to one per page, or one per every two pages. Besides cluttering the look of the page, too much use of exclamation points tends to diminish their effect. For the same reason, limit your use of all capitals.
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