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Judith Evicci, Technical, Creative Nonfiction and Content Writer

Line Editing - Non-Fiction

Sentence Construction Line Editing – Nonfiction

Line Editing Process:

1) Identify the sentence problem:
a. Passive Verbs vs. Action Word Replacements.
b. Static Passive Verbs (not a firm statement)
c. Poor construction

2) Decide what to correct. Passive Dialogue O.K.; Change Telling

3) Eliminate all that can be cut without altering the meaning or the author’s voice.

4) Simplify: Arrange or reconstruct the sentence for greater clarity.

Line Editing overview:

1) Use the line editing English rules to correct grammar and structure. Identify and correct each line.
2) Reconstruct the writing so the meaning remains.
3) Use the Author’s Voice techniques to make the edited material “sound like” the author wrote it.

Sentence Construction

1) Unnecessary passive voice
2) Static and awkward phrasings
3) Week and faulty constructions

Passive Voice:

Passive voice is an indirect ways to say things which may sound polite or “safe.” The following examples are correct:

1) Scholarly publishes hate any passive voice although it is hard to completely avoid passive voice structure.
2) Trade non-fiction experts expect tight but not intrusive editing with the use of well-crafted passive sentences. They prefer it. No excess words.
3) Literary works and creative nonfiction often contain a great deal of artistic passive prose.

a) “I was wrong; I’m sorry”. (Powerful)
b) “Apparently, the human body is designed to forage for food.” (Invisible)
c) “I am an acupuncturist.” (Simple declarative)
d) “His reputation was foreboding but unsavory.” (Artistic)

Used incorrectly, the passive voice can be obscure, awkward, boring or incomprehensible.

Passive Verbs vs Action Verbs:

Passive voice refers to a set of verbs that denote the “state of being.”

is am are be been can shall was were will would could should may might

Passive & Static Phrasing Verbs:

could may might should would (these verbs are also in the list above)

The above verbs constitute a unique passive/static situation which may occur

1) The author does not want to make a firm statement (weasel words);
2) The popular erroneous idea is that it is O.K. to be firm in speaking, but not in

Correct this structure problem by editing passive assertions into positive declarative statements or phrases, EXCEPT:

a) The statement is not a fact and cannot be written as one;

Example: “The wildfire might have been started by a careless smoker.” We can’t say it was when we don’t know.

b) Change this as it is a known fact:

Example: Losing your spouse in a wildfire might provoke a variety of emotional responses.” Should be rewritten as:

Losing your spouse in a wildfire provokes a variety …….

Possessing Verbs:

These verbs denote the state of possessing:
had has have

Attribution Verbs:

Called Passive Attributions: said say

In the scholarly world any passive verb makes a sentence passive.

In the commercial world of trade boos, passive verbs in simple declarative sentences are invisible and help move the material forward.

So, “said” can be preferable to an action work replacement.

Static Phrasing:

The use of unnecessary prepositions and articles. Legal writing is a good example. They are taught to use the “weasel” words.

Prepositional Phrases:

Static phrases and construction result from an excessive use of prepositions, especially prepositional phrases beginning with “of.”

Others are:

about as at by during from in of
on through to under until with without

Articles and Pronouns:

Superfluous articles and determiners (demonstrative or possessive pronouns),
such as “that.”

Others are:

a, an, my, our, that, the, these, this, those, which, your.

Weak and Faulty Constructions:

Internal Structure Corrections:

1) -ing Verb Forms:

Generally, weak construction when combined with a passive verb.  Only make the correction when it is “obviously” needed.

2) As:

Avoid opening a sentence with “as.”

3) Dangling Modifiers:

Very often hard to see. The subject of the sentence is incorrect or missing. A lamp can’t walk into a room.

Example: “Walking into the room, the lamp fell off the table.”

4) Clause Order:

Make the most important part or subject of the sentence come first:

Exception: Sometimes the first part of the sentence is a set up to the most important part.

5) Simple Compounds:

Writing as you speak can cause this problem. Smashing too many ideas together can make the sentence verbal and lifeless.

Correctly written, compound sentences can be eloquent and profound.

6) Fragments:

Fragments can be used correctly in an attempt to be powerful.

Fragments are an indicator of writing flaws such as verbal writing. Fragments
are ineffective, jarring and grammatically wrong.

Effective Fragments, aka Non-sentences:

Used for Special effect.

Ineffective Fragments:

Result from: lack of knowledge, verbal writing or simple error.



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