As the days turn darker and October draws to a close, it’s the time of year when many people find themselves in the mood for a scary story. Over my years of editing, I’ve seen quite a few things that made me want to scream, though usually from frustration, not fear. Nonetheless, in honor of this hair-raising holiday, I’ve decided to take a look at ways that writers have made me tremble. If you want to turn your editor from a helpful Dr. Jekyll into a maniacal Mr. Hyde, try these ideas:
- Don’t bother with reading the directions carefully. They’re probably the same as they usually are, and hey, whatever you turn in will probably be fine.
- Write in the passive voice. Nobody cares who or what did the thing you’re talking about; people only care that it was done.
- Always try to sound really smart by using long, complicated words, even if you don’t know exactly what they meant. Also, try using longer versions of words, like amongst and whilst, because they sound fancier.
- Don’t run your spell-checker. Sure, it’ll catch your obvious mistakes, but if it doesn’t catch everything, it’s not worth using at all.
- If you don’t know a lot about your topic, just fake it. You don’t need to look things up to verify that they’re actually true; just assume that you know everything, and if something’s incorrect, nobody will really care.
- Write like you’re being paid by the word. Bigger is always better, isn’t it? Ramble away on your freelance writing jobs, and put in as many excess words as possible to make what you write longer.
- Don’t worry about whether your modifiers are grammatical. As the fastest way to write, you should always plow ahead without bothering to read what you’ve written to make sure that it makes sense. (See what I did there? “You” are not “the fastest way to write.”)
- Use “on” for every preposition. I mean, we all go “online” these days, and that sounds cool, so “on” must be good for everything, like waiting “on” my friend to arrive, or standing “on” a line, or doing things “on” accident.
- Don’t bother to check with your employer to see whether or not they use the serial (or Oxford) comma before you start writing for them. That takes too much time, effort and motivation.
- If you have two complete thoughts, just string them together with commas, because commas are prettier than semicolons or periods.
- Every time you want to add a descriptive clause to a sentence, start it with “which.” It doesn’t matter what type of clause it is, and it doesn’t even matter whether you’re talking about a thing or a person. Whatever. “Which” is a cooler-sounding word.
- Cut your deadlines as close as possible, and consider it a triumph when you submit something with fewer than five minutes to spare. Better yet, blow off deadlines entirely: You’ll get it done when you’re good and ready.
- Believe in your own perfection. If your editor gives you constructive criticism, don’t try to learn from it for your future work. Instead, insist that you didn’t make any mistakes. You never make mistakes. Once you’ve finished something, it’s perfect just the way it is.
Of course, nobody reading this would ever do any of these things… right? It’s not nice to play these “tricks” on your editor, especially when you’re hoping to be “treated” to higher pay or more freelance writing jobs. Do the opposite of these things, though, and you’re sure to earn a visit from the Great Pumpkin!