Editing Your Manuscript
Tips for editing your manuscript submission for School Administrator magazine.
You can improve the likelihood that School Administrator will accept your article by using these guidelines to edit it yourself.
The tips may seem picky and insignificant, but you may be surprised at how they tighten and strengthen your writing.
Organize Your Article
- Make it flow logically and effortlessly. Make your points in sequence as if you were telling them to a friend or trying to convince a colleague. Remember your audience and strive to anticipate the reader's questions.
- Use plain English. Make your meaning clear to every reader. Be specific when you can. Avoid generalities or unsubstantiated assertions.
Keep sentences lean and short. A simple declarative sentence is a thing of beauty. When in doubt, leave it out.
Omit unnecessary phrases such as:
- in order to (say to)
- in the area of instruction (say in instruction)
- on an annual basis (say yearly)
- subsequently to (say after)
- Do not look for answers and solutions to problems and difficulties. One of each synonym will convey your thought.
- Do not show the skeleton of your article. Do not say "I am going to outline..." Just outline it.
- Do not say, "Finally, ..." The reader will know when the article has ended.
- Instead of writing "It is interesting to note that..." -- make it interesting.
- Never say, "I want to take this opportunity to thank..." Grab that opportunity and simply thank!
- Avoid sentences that begin with "It is..." or "There are." It and there have no antecedents. These words are dead wood, a dull start for what can become a vibrant sentence if you use active voice and a vivid verb.
- Do not begin sentences with And or But.
- Avoid stilted construction. Use before instead of prior to.
- Do not use jargon, educationese or cliches.
Use Active Voice
Active voice is strong, direct and lively. It tells who did what. Passive voice is longer and "fuzzifies" and avoids specifics. When Nixon, referring to Watergate, said "Mistakes were made," we did not learn a lot.
Use Vivid Verbs
Dull sentences rely on forms of to be: is, are, were, will be, etc. Vivid verbs such as construct, pursue, elevate, undermine and motivate build strong sentences and convey exciting visual images.
- Use concrete language that conjures up images. Readers understand and remember situations they can visualize.
- Use examples to help the reader understand your point.
- Do not smother verbs by turning them into nouns. Development is a bastardized noun derived from the verb develop. Use to help develop instead of the ten-syllable phrase to assist in the development of.... Do not turn working verbs into dull nouns, as in transmit/transmittal, concede/concession, neglect/negligence.
- Rely on nouns and verbs, not adjectives or adverbs. Omit very, quite, meaningful and thankfully. Use nouns and verbs that relate to the senses of seeing, hearing and touching.
- Do not turn nouns and adjectives into verbs, as in to optimize, to interface, to maximize and to target. Author and impact are nouns, not verbs.
Watch Out for Participial Phrases
The phrase must refer to the grammatical subject. A modifier that is not placed next to the word or phrase that it modifies may bring unexpected results, as in these cited by Strunk and White:
As a mother of five, with another on the way, my ironing board is always up.
Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house at a very reasonable price.
- Watch for ambiguous meanings, especially pronoun references. Ensure that singular pronouns match their singular nouns. Say "The board ended its meeting," not "The board ended their meeting."
- Use plain words, not those with many syllables. Use about instead of approximately.
- Avoid redundant words and phrases such as necessary prerequisites, absolutely essential, past experience, final outcome, future plans, new initiatives, serious crisis, untimely death and enclosed herewith.
Adhere to Grammatical Rules
- Make noun and verb tenses agree.
- None and nobody are singular pronouns: None of the students has gone.
- Data takes a plural verb: Data show that...
- Do not split infinitives. Authorities advise against splitting infinitives but they permit it if the result is greater clarity.
Use Words Correctly
- Anxious and eager are not synonyms. You might be anxious about a test but should be eager to improve your writing skills.
- Learn the difference between that and which, who and whom,
fewer and less.
- That defines or restricts, which introduces a commenting clause. Most writers need to go on a "which" hunt and substitute that.
- Substitute he or who for him and whom to see which you should use.
- Fewer indicates number and refers to things you can count. Less indicates amount and refers to things in bulk. Say fewer apples, less sugar.
- Learn when to use whether or if, proven or proved, further or farther, than or from, like or as.
- Do not use and/or or he/she (try they)
Be Creative in Your Imagery and in Your Writing, But Not in Spelling or Punctuation
Proofread your article and use your computer's spell checker.
Ask a colleague or an English teacher to check your writing for accuracy and content. Articles filled with typos or other obvious errors are rarely accepted for publication.