Tag Archive | proofreading

Grammar Attacks!

Just in time for link day appears this blog post. Even though it’s freshly pressed, it is so funny  I must share, just in case you missed it. (And you might, with how wordpress is looking these days. Why did they have to move that column? It’s quite annoying.)

Anyway, Grammar Lolcatz.

Follow the rules… or not. Whatever.

As part of a critiquing website that I occasionally take part in, we are told to make recommendations. Dont’ slam the person in the critique  and realize that grammar rules are meant to be broken. They are more guidelines .

That is all fine and good, until I critiqued  a story for a guy who could not get his quotations right. It drove me insane. He sometimes had the punctuation on the inside, sometimes on the outside, sometimes he didn’t even close it.

Because of time, I edited one chapter, sent that to him, and then edited the other two later on in the week. In the between time, he made a comment that caused me to think he is still maybe late highschool or early college. He writes a lot–yes!–but I think I misjudged his age.

As such, at the end of my critique, I sent him a quick summary of quotation rules, and phrased it as, If you didn’t know these, well, here go.  Soon afterwards, I wrote a post about quotations as an FYI.

This may seem like a side note, but my brother is going to school for graphic design. He is so good at what he does that he is making things like videos and ecards for the school.  He gets frustrated though with video tutorials that say something along the lines of, “Here’s the rule of thirds. But you know what? This is art. Be creative.”

This is his opinion, and as such, I think it very much applies to writing.

Follow the rules of grammar, unless you can give me a good reason why you aren’t.

So I’m not saying that you can’t be creative with how you present information. Writing is creativity. But make sure you have a good reason why you don’t follow that rule before you decide to break it.

Why OCCPD is okay.

I used to suffer from OCCPD. What is OCCPD? Obsessive compulsive comma-placing disorder. I put commas all over the place, anywhere and everywhere that I pleased.

Then I started “maturing” and I started restricting my comma use and being careful with where I place them. I also learned about other puncutation marks, such as colons and m-dashes.

However, I’m now questioning this mindset of needing to overcome OCCPD. I have three reasons why it’s okay to have OCCPD.

1) Commas are easier to spot than no-commas. Basically, if no comma exists where a comma should go, you have to realize you need to put something where there’s nothing. If there is a comma, well, then your mind registers that you have placed punctuation there in the first place.

2) Commas are easier to remove than insert. Now you’ve noticed a comma. Does it belong? If it doesn’t, you just need to remove it. In order to insert a comma, you need to realize the need for the comma in the first place.

3) Reading something with commas is generally easier than reading it without. I proofread people’s papers as a job. Sometimes I’ll see sentences that are five lines long, and yet the writer maybe used only two commas. In that case, I first need to seperate the sentence down, and analyze each part, before I realize where the commas must actually be placed.

If a sentence is five lines long, and chopped into a bunch of little sections, it’s a lot easier to see what doesn’t belong.

Keep in mind that this is all based on the fact that comma rules aren’t always easy to remember. Nor are they set in stone. Even my english teacher admitted that sometimes in very short instances, it’s okay.

So now I think I’ll not restrict my comma use as much, but I’m still going to use my newer friends of m-dashes and, more rarely, colons, just because it’s fun to spice things up too.

Let’s remove passive sentences.

We all have them. They sneak into your writing and are evil little things that make the writing boring and dull. Passive sentences, namely ones that contain the words was and were.

The problem is that we don’t see them. They are invisible as well as evil. So how do we get the removed?

My technique is different than most. I propose that you do a find and replace for all your wases as 1234567890. Change were to 0987654321. This way it is an obvious thing to your eyes. However, once you go through all of your rewriting, you can immediately change them back to was and were that showed up in dialog.

That’s just how I do it. Maybe you can try it and tell me what happens.

Ease of the Write.

Some things concerning the challenge of writing a good book.

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. ~ Samuel Johnson

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. ~ Enrique Jardiel Poncela

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that’s read by persons who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves. Don Marquis

Commonly confused words

Words, either through typos or through not understand actual meanings, can often be mistake through spell check. Now, oftentimes we don’t know that we made a mistake, and usually it is easier to look it up in the dictionary. However, just in case you were wondering, this is my non-comprehensive  list of all similar words and homophones that I could find.

Just in case you were wondering, I have a total of 452 words.

As a note, for those using safari or firefox, you can press either cmd+down arrow or spacebar to get to the bottom and tell me how impressed you are with me. :)

That being said, here is my list of commonly confused words.

  1. a lot / allot
  2. accent / ascent / assent
  3. accept / except
  4. acts / ax
  5. ad / add
  6. ado/adieu
  7. ads / adds / adz
  8. adverse / averse
  9. advice / advise
  10. affect / effect
  11. aide / aid
  12. ail / ale
  13. air / heir / err
  14. aisle / isle / I’ll
  15. all / awl
  16. all ready / already
  17. all together / altogether
  18. allowed / aloud
  19. allude / elude
  20. allusion / illusion
  21. already / all ready
  22. altar / alter
  23. angel / angle
  24. ant / aunt
  25. arc / ark
  26. are / our
  27. assay / essay
  28. assent / ascent
  29. assistance / assistants
  30. ate / eight
  31. aural / oral
  32. away / aweigh
  33. axil / axle
  34. aye / eye
  35. bail / bale
  36. bait / bate
  37. ball / bawl
  38. band / banned
  39. bard / barred
  40. bare / bear
  41. baron / barren
  42. base / bass
  43. bases / basis
  44. bazaar / bizarre
  45. be / bee
  46. beach / beech
  47. beat / beet
  48. beau / bow
  49. bell / belle
  50. berry / bury
  51. berth / birth
  52. billed / build
  53. bit / bite
  54. bite / byte
  55. blew / blue
  56. bloc / block
  57. boar / bore
  58. board / bored
  59. boarder / border
  60. bode / bowed
  61. bolder / boulder
  62. born / borne
  63. bough / bow
  64. bouillon / bullion
  65. boy / buoy
  66. braid/brayed
  67. braise/brays
  68. brake / break
  69. bread / bred
  70. breath / breathe / breadth
  71. brewed / brood
  72. brews / bruise
  73. bridle / bridal
  74. broach / brooch
  75. browse / brows
  76. bus/buss
  77. bussed/bust
  78. but / butt
  79. buy / by / bye
  80. cache / cash
  81. callous / callus
  82. cannon / canon
  83. canvas / canvass
  84. capital / capitol
  85. carat / carrot / caret / karat
  86. carol / carrel
  87. cast / caste
  88. cede / seed
  89. ceiling / sealing
  90. cell / sell
  91. cellar / seller
  92. censor / sensor
  93. cent / scent / sent
  94. cents / scents / sense
  95. cereal / serial
  96. cession / session
  97. chance / chants
  98. chased / chaste
  99. cheap / cheep
  100. chews / choose
  101. chic / sheik
  102. chilly / chili
  103. choir / quire
  104. choose / chose / choice
  105. choral / coral
  106. chord / cord
  107. chute / shoot
  108. cite / sight / site
  109. clause / claws
  110. click / clique
  111. close / clothes / cloze
  112. clothes / cloths
  113. coal / cole
  114. coarse / course
  115. colonel / kernel
  116. complement / compliment
  117. conscience / conscious
  118. coo / coup
  119. coop / coupe
  120. core / corps
  121. corps / corpse
  122. correspondence / correspondents
  123. council / counsel
  124. creak / creek
  125. crews / cruise
  126. cruel / crewel
  127. cue / queue
  128. currant / current
  129. curser / cursor
  130. cymbal / symbol
  131. dairy / diary
  132. dam / damn
  133. days / daze
  134. dear / deer
  135. definitely / defiantly
  136. defused / diffused
  137. descent / dissent
  138. dessert / desert
  139. device / devise
  140. dew / do / due
  141. die / dye
  142. disburse / disperse
  143. discreet / discrete
  144. do / dew / due
  145. doe / dough
  146. dominant / dominate
  147. done / dun
  148. draft / draught
  149. dual / duel
  150. dyeing / dying
  151. earn / urn
  152. eight / ate
  153. elicit / illicit
  154. eminent / imminent
  155. envelop / envelope
  156. everyday / every day
  157. ewe / you / yew
  158. eye / I
  159. facts / fax
  160. faint / feint
  161. fair / fare
  162. farther / further
  163. faun / fawn
  164. faze / phase
  165. feat / feet
  166. find / fined
  167. fir / fur
  168. fist / first
  169. flair / flare
  170. flair / flare
  171. flea / flee
  172. flex/flecks
  173. flew / flu / flue
  174. flocks / phlox
  175. flour / flower
  176. for / four / fore
  177. foreword / forward
  178. formally / formerly
  179. fort / forte
  180. forth / fourth
  181. foul / fowl
  182. friar / fryer
  183. fur / fir
  184. gait / gate
  185. gene / jean
  186. gild / guild
  187. gilt / guilt
  188. gnu / knew / new
  189. gored / gourd
  190. gorilla / guerrilla
  191. grayed/grade
  192. grease / Greece
  193. great / grate
  194. groan / grown
  195. guessed / guest
  196. hail / hale
  197. hair / hare
  198. hall / haul
  199. halve / have
  200. half / have
  201. hangar / hanger
  202. hart / heart
  203. hay / hey
  204. heal / heel / he’ll
  205. hear / here
  206. heard / herd
  207. heed / he’d
  208. hertz / hurts
  209. hew / hue / Hugh
  210. hi / high
  211. higher / hire
  212. him / hymn
  213. hoar / whore
  214. hoard / horde
  215. hoarse / horse
  216. hoes / hose
  217. hold / holed
  218. hole / whole
  219. holey / holy / wholly
  220. hostel / hostile
  221. hour / our
  222. human / humane
  223. idle / idol
  224. illicit / elicit
  225. in / inn
  226. insight / incite
  227. instance / instants
  228. intense / intents
  229. iron / ion
  230. its / it’s
  231. jail / gel / jell
  232. jam / jamb
  233. jeans / genes
  234. knap / nap
  235. knead / kneed / need
  236. knew / new
  237. knight / night
  238. knit / nit
  239. knot / not
  240. know / no
  241. know / now
  242. knows / nose
  243. laid / lade
  244. lain / lane
  245. later / latter
  246. lay / lei
  247. leach / leech
  248. lead / led
  249. leak / leek
  250. lean / lien
  251. leased / least
  252. lee / lea
  253. lessen / lesson
  254. levee / levy
  255. liar / lier / lyre
  256. lichen / liken
  257. lie / lye
  258. lieu / Lou
  259. lightning / lightening
  260. links / lynx
  261. load / lode
  262. loan / lone
  263. locks / lox
  264. loins / lions
  265. loop/loupe
  266. loose / lose
  267. loot / lute
  268. low / lo
  269. made / maid
  270. mail / male
  271. main / mane / Maine
  272. maize / maze
  273. male / mail
  274. mall / maul
  275. manner / manor
  276. mantel / mantle
  277. marry / merry / Mary
  278. marshal / martial
  279. massed / mast
  280. material / materiel
  281. maybe / may be
  282. meat / meet / mete
  283. medal / metal / mettle / meddle
  284. might / mite
  285. mince / mints
  286. mind / mined
  287. miner / minor
  288. missed / mist
  289. moan / mown
  290. mode / mowed
  291. moose / mousse
  292. moral / morale
  293. morn / mourn
  294. mourning / morning
  295. muscle / mussel
  296. must/mussed
  297. mustard / mustered
  298. naval / navel
  299. nay / neigh
  300. nix/nicks
  301. none / nun
  302. ode / owed
  303. oh / owe
  304. one / won
  305. or / ore / oar
  306. overdo / overdue
  307. overseas / oversees
  308. pail / pale
  309. pain / pane
  310. pair / pare / pear
  311. palate / palette / pallet
  312. passed / past
  313. patience / patients
  314. pause / paws
  315. pea / pee
  316. peace / piece
  317. peak / peek / pique
  318. peal / peel
  319. pear / pair
  320. pearl / purl
  321. pedal / peddle / petal
  322. peer / pier
  323. per / purr
  324. personal / personnel
  325. phrase/frays
  326. pie / pi
  327. pier / peer
  328. place/ plaice
  329. plain / plane
  330. plait / plate
  331. pleas / please
  332. plum / plumb
  333. pole / poll
  334. poor / pour / paw / pore
  335. praise/prays/preys
  336. pray / prey
  337. precede / proceed
  338. presence / presents
  339. prince / prints
  340. principal / principle
  341. profit / prophet
  342. quiet / quite
  343. rack / wrack
  344. rain / reign / rein
  345. raise / rays / raze
  346. rap / wrap
  347. rapped / rapt / wrapped
  348. rational / rationale
  349. raw / roar
  350. read / red
  351. read / reed
  352. real / reel
  353. reek / wreak
  354. respectfully / respectively
  355. rest / wrest
  356. retch / wretch
  357. reverend / reverent
  358. review / revue
  359. right / rite / write
  360. ring / wring
  361. road / rode / rowed
  362. roam / Rome
  363. roe / row
  364. role / roll
  365. root / route / rout
  366. rose / rows
  367. rote / wrote
  368. rough / ruff
  369. rung / wrung
  370. rye / wry
  371. sail / sale
  372. scared / scarred
  373. scene / seen
  374. scull / skull
  375. sea / see
  376. seam / seem
  377. seas / sees / seize
  378. sense / since
  379. serf / surf
  380. sew / so / sow
  381. shear / sheer
  382. shoe / shoo
  383. shone / shown
  384. shore / sure
  385. side / sighed
  386. sighs / size
  387. sight / site / cite
  388. slay / sleigh
  389. sleight / slight
  390. slew / slue / slough
  391. soar / sore
  392. soared / sword
  393. sole / soul
  394. some / sum
  395. son / sun
  396. staid / stayed
  397. stair / stare
  398. stake / steak
  399. stationary / stationery
  400. steal / steel
  401. step / steppe
  402. stile / style
  403. straight / strait
  404. suite / sweet
  405. summary / summery
  406. surge / serge
  407. tacks / tax
  408. tail / tale
  409. taught / taut
  410. tea / tee
  411. team / teem
  412. tear / tier
  413. tern / turn
  414. than / then
  415. their / there / they’re
  416. theirs / there’s
  417. therefore / therefor
  418. threw / through
  419. through / thorough / thought
  420. thrown / throne
  421. thyme / time
  422. tic / tick
  423. tide / tied
  424. to / too / two
  425. toad / towed
  426. toe / tow
  427. told / tolled
  428. track / tract
  429. trail / trial
  430. trussed / trust
  431. vain / vane / vein
  432. vale / veil
  433. vary / very
  434. vial / vile
  435. vice / vise
  436. wade / weighed
  437. wail / whale
  438. waist / waste
  439. wait / weight
  440. waive / wave
  441. wale / whale / wail
  442. want / wont
  443. ware / wear / where
  444. way / weigh / whey
  445. ways / weighs
  446. we / wee
  447. we’d / weed
  448. we’ll / wheel
  449. we’ve / weave
  450. weak / week
  451. weal / wheel
  452. wear / where
  453. weather / whether / wether
  454. wet / whet
  455. where / were
  456. which / witch
  457. while / wile
  458. whine / wine
  459. whirled/world
  460. whirred/word
  461. whose / who’s
  462. won / wan
  463. wood / would
  464. worn/warn
  465. write / right
  466. yoke / yolk
  467. yore / your / you’re
  468. you’ll / yole / yule

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed.

Why to use a dictionary.

You know what a dictionary is, right? That big, 3000 page, dust-covered book at the top shelf of your bookshelve. The one you never dared to look at because you knew the font would be maybe -20 and you didn’t want to have to squint and find the right word, only to discover you’re spelling it wrong and need to try again.

Good news! That’s not the case anymore.

First of all, many computers have built in dictionaries. If they don’t, google has a good dictionary. There are also dictionaries available for your touch, so you can have one wherever you go.

So why don’t you dare use it? Or why would you even want to use it? They’re only for when you’re really stuck, right?

Not exactly. I use a dictionary all the time and it’s not because I don’t always know the meaning of a word, but because I want to find a better word.

1) Dictionaries are great to know the meaning of words. Sometimes we think we know the meaning of words that we really don’t know fully. Case in point: I talked with someone this past week about the word vehemently. I said I generally think of the world vehemently as angry and tense. But if you look it up, it means “Showing strong feeling, forceful, passionate, or intense.” In the way this person wanted to use it, it worked and it worked well. but I wouldn’t known that if I didn’t look it up in the dictionary. My perception of the word was not accurate with what the word really meant, and oftentimes, I find that to be true.

2) Dictionaries almost always contain a thesaurus. As a writer, this is a very useful tool. Say I’m writing a paper and I use the same word ten times on one page. Even if I have it spread out over the whole page, ten times is quite a lot. So I look up my word and find another word that replaces it, one that on occasion will sound better than the original word, or mean something better.

Case in point: I wanted to point a one-sentence summary of my story. I came up with:

A youngnaive pirate questions everything after her ship accepts a new passenger.

I didn’t like “young, naive” at all. It sounded too repetitive and vague. It didn’t fully capture the attitude I was trying to find in this young girl. So I began looking words up and I eventually came up with:

An ingenuous pirate begins to question everything about her life after befriending a desperate brother.

(more on this process and the sentence development  here. Why to do one-sentence summaries coming next week.)

Ingenuous means, “(of a person or action) innocent and unsuspecting.”  with a futher note here:

Most people would rather be thought of as ingenuous, meaning straightforward and sincere (: an ingenuous confession of the truth), because it implies the simplicity of a child without the negative overtones.

(From the Apple dictionary.)

This word worked out very well for what I wanted to imply, which was exactly the innocence, unsuspicious, carefree nature of this girl.

3) You need to replace like forms with like forms. Say I have my sentence:

The oscillate of conservatism in America came suddenly after the election of Barack Obama.

I decide that I’ve used swing to much and I need to replace it. So I look it up.



1 the sign swung in the wind oscillate, sway, move back and forth, move to and fro, wave, wag, rock, flutter, flap.

2 Helen swung the bottle brandish, wave, flourish, wield, shake, wag, twirl.

3 this road swings off to the north curve, bend, veer, turn, bear, wind, twist, deviate, slew, skew, drift, head.

4 the balance swung from one party to the other change, fluctuate, shift, alter, oscillate, waver, alternate, seesaw, yo-yo, vary.

5 informal : if we keep trying, we can swing this deal accomplish, achieve, obtain, acquire, get, secure, net, win, attain, bag, hook; informal wangle, land.


1 a swing of the pendulum oscillation, sway, wave.

2 a swing to the New Democrats in this constituency change, move; turnaround, turnabout, reversal, about face, volte face, change of heart, U-turn, sea change.

3 a swing toward plain food trend, tendency, drift, movement.

4 a mood swing fluctuation, change, shift, variation, oscillation.

I pick the first word I see: oscillate. I decide that’s good and insert it into my sentence.

The oscillate of conservatism in America came suddenly after the election of Barack Obama.

Did that work? No. Because I used a verb in place of a noun. I didn’t look to make sure it looked correct.

4) To confirm the type of word you are using. I do this often in my job as a writing assistant. If a person comes to me with a paper and I’m reading it, I might see a word that I’m wondering if they can even use it. Oftentimes, I can identify what the word is suppose to be functioning as, so I look it up. If the word is really a noun, when it should be a verb, I can then give my person a concrete reason why they cannot do it.

5) To confirm the meaning of similar sounding words: My sister wrote on her facebook wall today:

warmth=happiness therefor I’m not happy.

I’m not going to focus on her puncuation. Instead, I want to focus on the word “therefor.”

Therefor is a word; when I write it now, there’s no red line. However, I look up the meaning and I find:

adverb archaic

for that object or purpose.

She did not mean that. She meant:


for that reason; consequently : he was injured and therefore unable to play.

Yes, therefore probably came from therefor, but a) it’s archaic, so she doesn’t really want to use it, and b) “[For that purpose] I am not happy,” does not work.

Keep this in mind with all words that sound alike, but don’t quite look like. Words like summary and summery, and others like that.

Three Tools of Proofreading

(Abigail Side Note: I’m sorry about the nothingness of last week. I”m trying to juggle a new semester and about five new responsibilities. Hopefully things will start to balance out soon.)

Proofreading, which is basically just like editing, is something that everyone needs to do. No one should bang out ten pages of some random paper and call it a day. I have discussed elsewhere the benefits of editing but I think that the tools of the trade must be understood.

1) Spell checker. I will admit, I love spell checker. I am a horrible speller. I just learned last year how to spell “necessary”. Before that, spell check picked it up for me. One of the first things I do after I’m done writing is run a spell check on it. That clears up all the obvious errors.

That being understood,

You cannot rely on spell checker.

Seriously. There are so many similar words, like dug and drug, rely and relay, defiantly and definitely, summery and summary. None of these words mean the same thing, but they will show up as correct on spell check.

Also, a spell checker can’t distinguish between  parts of grammar. If I drop an -ly from a word, it won’t know. It just looks at what you wrote, and compares it to what it finds in the dictionary.

That being said, we move on to tool number two.

2) Eyes. Imagine the horror of actually having to do something  manually. </sarcasm> Seriously though, you do need to actually read though what you wrote slowly, looking for all those little errors that spell check missed, and typos you made. Usually, when you do this, something that made sense before might not actually make sense anymore. Understand: That’s Okay! That means you found a place that you’ll have to edit anyway later.

3) The Pen: This is going to seem like a nuisance, but, having a pen handy to mark where your mistakes are is a very valuable tool. Wait–I can’t mark with a pen on my computer. That would ruin it! Well, then that means you probably want to print it out.

See, I know that it may seem like a waste of trees. And for a long time I thought that printing things out to edit hem was, in fact, a waste of money. But after I have seen how many errors I missed when I didn’t print it out, I learned my lesson. Waste the trees! Your project will love you.

So that’s it. The three basic tools of proofreading. Yes, you can use one without the other, but it isn’t very advisable. You need all three to make sure that your manuscript is as good as it can possibly be.

Annoying Talkers

By the vary nature of being writers, we need to be aware of grammar and how thing should be said properly. Once, when I was younger, I submitted a story into a writing contest that “would of” and “could of” instead of “would’ve” and “could’ve”. Or would have and could have as I would do it most of the time now. That error, in part,  gave me only honorable mention.

My reasoning with grammar is that if we speak as we should write, then our writing with be better the first time around and we can focus on more serious problems with our manuscripts instead of handling grammatical errors we should have fixed the first time through. With that in mind, I often try to speak, shall we say, properly, even though I do fail quite often.

So, my question for you this week is:

What grammatical mistake that people will use often drives you insane or do you find yourself correctly?

For myself, it’s good versus well. If someone uses good instead of well, I’ll correct them (if polite) including radio DJs. (No, I don’t call them, but I do make nasty comments at the radio.) I’ve been doing it for a little over a year now and most everyone in my family is getting much better.

suffocating under all that info

Now, for some writers, this is a basic topic, and for others, this is something difficult to understand, and even more difficult to avoid.

We take all of our time working very carefully, building backgrounds of characters, histories of various places and objects, and general mannerisms people use in our current novel. Then, of course, we want to share all of our brilliant information.

What do we do? We decide to write it in. In general, writers put this information in the beginning of their story.

Now, most any writer who has read much of anything writing or studied it in school understands the concept of having a captivating beginning. So, what sometimes happens is we have a story like this:

Martie ran down the alley, dodging mud holes and rotting garbage alike. Her heart beat so strongly in her chest that it felt like she might die. She gasped for air in strangled gasps, barely able to get enough.  In her hand, she still carried the gun, clutching it like a lifeline. Something in the back of her mind told her that if anyone saw her, with the gun in her hand and the blood on her shirt, they would immediately call the police, but she could not seem to get rid of either. Instead, she ran, just like she always did.

Or maybe she hadn’t always run. As a child, she lived in the exact same apartment in the exact same area of town. She always went to the exact same school until she graduated one and could move up to the next. Even in college, she never jumped around from one to the next, or even one degree to the next, always sticking with what she had decided upon when she first began. It never seemed right to change.

She never was interested in running while in higshchool, opting for the more passive hobbies of drawing. Her dormroom was full of boxes upon boxes of sketchbooks full of everything she had scribbled down to pass the time. Many of them were good, some worth selling.  A few she had sold.

But all this came to an end five months ago….

Five pages later, we finally get back to Martie running through the alleys, losing the reader on page three, if we are lucky.

This, my friend, is called an infodump by most people. It may occur in any part of the book, at any period, describing anything. The biggest problem with them is that they are generally long, boring, and usually not needed.

Wait! What am I to do if I can’t do this? How am I suppose to tell my reader anything about the beautiful world I created?

It’s called bite-sized pieces. One little bite-sized piece at a time.

First of all, you need to learn to recognize what an info dump is. They do generally appear at the beginning of the story, so that is usually a good place to look.  This is very, very, very hard to do. I thought that this one novel I wrote had no real obvious info dump. When I let some other people read it, they suddenly said that, “Um, BTW, this part where you explain about how good of a pilot Shad is, that’s an infodump.” i honestly had no clue.

Secondly, you need to learn to evaluate logically if you need that infodump at that exact moment. Really, on page 1 with the above example, do I really need to go into the whole history of Martie’s life, hobbies, ect? Obviously, no. Do I really need to go into a whole history of Shad being main pilot by seventeen, when most people don’t even get their license until 23 or so on page 3? No.

The secret then is to share what you know in small snatches of information. This is sometimes difficult, sometimes easy. I tend to stick some of it in dialogue, but you don’t want to have Bob tell Mary what Bob and Mary have been going through for the last five months. Instead, you can have Bob run into one of his buddies from highschool and the buddy asks him how he’s doing and Bob can then explain everything, without it being obvious. (However, if this buddy does not play a role in the story, you don’t want to do that. Keep in mind that every scene needs a purpose.

I also might slip a sentence or two here or there, just to explain an action.

In general, I tend to stay with one thought when sharing information. And one tiny thought at that. It might be as large as three paragraphs but if it’ll be much longer than a page, maybe you should avoid doing that whole thing in one sitting.

Two things to keep in mind about the reader. One is that, although the reader might like your book, if he/she finds an infodump, there is a 50/50 change he/she will merely skip over it to the more interesting parts.

Another thing to keep in mind is that,  you might not realize that the reader doesn’t know everything that you know. If you remove the infodump, the important information still has to be communicated to the reader, or else, you’ll leave the reader confused and frustrated. (I felt so confused when reading one book.) Keep this in mind.  In Shad, I have a lot of abbrivations because the sweepers would talk like that. I still need to be able to tell the reader what SSD is and what SCL is, ZT, SRIS, FSR, ect, without listing them all off. This is challenging.

However, if you do manage to complete it to that point, then you might actually have a pretty decent story.