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My Editing Style:

         Gwen Thompson moved slowly down the tree-lined street, taking in the fragrances of the place. They were(1) the fragrances of her childhood. She was(2) stopped in her tracks when she saw Lisa Hall, her childhood best friend, in the road immediately before her. She(3)  was so taken aback by the sight of Lisa that(4) she jumped back with a start. Involuntarily.

         “Hi(5) Gwen. You didn’t tell me you were coming back to town.”

         “I didn’t know I was coming back, either, until just yesterday.” This was true. Gwen had driven back into her hometown, a three-state-long journey. She couldn’t even say yet what it was that called her back to her old stomping grounds. Her parents were both gone, so it wasn’t the coming holidays, the togetherness of family. If anything, she’d made a point over the past decade to stay away from Kernley Cove. She’d stayed away from Lisa Hall,(6) too.

         No reason to dredge up old, hurtful memories, she thought. Memories she guessed Lisa, their mutual friend(7)  Hailey Drummond,(8)  and Kernley Cove as a whole would prefer remained buried under so much dust, delusion, and(9) a town-wide tacit agreement never to speak of events that put The Cove, as it was called by locals, in a bad light.


1. Cut They were. Begin the sentence with The. This is a feel sort of thing, as writing often is. But anytime we can tighten the prose, I tend to be in favor of doing so.

2. Cut she (Do you see how was is not needed here?)

3.Replace She with Gwen (Some authors get enamored with the pronoun. You should repeat a character’s name at least once every two pages. I say once every page and a half.)

4. Cut that (Oftentimes, words like that, just, and had are what are called “filler

8. And this comma before the and is here because it is what’s called The Oxford Comma. When you have a list, as this sentence does, The Oxford Comma argues for a comma before all participants in the list. Even–and especially– the comma following the word and that signals the list’s end.

9. Do you see how this, too, is an Oxford Comma situation?

6. It is my practice to use a comma before the word too. I know not every author does it. When we discuss your project, I will ask you what you expect from me editing-wise. You will have a clear concept of what I will do for you, and I will have a clear idea of what you, as the author, want dome to better your story.

7. , This comma is here because the name, Haley Drummond, interrupts the flow of the sentence itself. As such, there’s a natural pause.

5. Insert Comma (This is called the “personal address” comma. It’s missing in our example because I purposely did not use it. To illustrate a point. Take, for example, this sentence.

A grandson has invited his grandmother to dinner. The food is now before them. They say grace, they do all their before-the-meal tasks that help them settle in. Then the grandson says, “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

Now, why is that comma so important? Take a look at the sentence without it.

“Let’s eat Grandma.”

Now the grandson has descended into cannibalism. Trust me: commas save lives!

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