Friday, September 12, 2014

Self Editing Tip: Catching Dialogue Punctuation Errors

Dialogue! Yikes, there is an awful lot of punctuation going on there. One of the first things I do if I have to proof read a manuscript is use the find feature in Track Changes and search for " (quotation mark)

The wonderful thing is, it highlights every quote mark and you can now page down checking each piece of dialogue one at a time. Tedious, yes. But so important.

First thing you will be able to check is pairing of the quote marks. All dialogue has an opening and closing mark (except when the same person is speaking and you start a new paragraph, yadda, yadda, you know what I mean.)

Second, look at the dialogue tag. Did you use the comma correctly, the ? or !, did you only capitalize when you should?

It is that easy, but it can be slow going. If you are paying an editor by the hour then this will cut their editing time down. You will be surprised at how many quote marks you use...I had one with over 7000!

Here is an example of what you will see:

While you are at it use that find feature to look up these words and get rid of them where you can: just, that, had, here, there.

Look for "to be" verbs and replace them with stronger verbs. "To be" verbs:  is, am, are, was, were, has, have, had, do, does, did, been, being.

Look, need, want are all weak and usually happen when you are telling not showing. ex. "He looked scared." Could be "His eyes darted from door to to door while his hands shook." (I'm obviously not a writer, but you get the idea)

Happy editing! Sharon


  1. I've never tried the tarck command. thanks, I'll give it a go.

    1. It is your best friend!! Use it to search for main character's names. It is surprising how often you will misspell those :)