Dun Writin’—Now Whut? – 39 Editing Myths (A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing)


Editing Myths

I’m sure you’ve heard of these “rules” that need to be applied to your manuscript. Today we’re going to debunk them as myths!

  1. Never start a sentence with a conjunction (and, but, or), however, or because.

  2. Never end a sentence with a preposition.

  3. Passive voice is always wrong.

  4. You use “a” before words that start with consonants and “an” before words that start with vowels.

  5. Don’t use who when the rules call for whom.

  6. Don’t split an infinitive verb with an adverb.

  7. The only way to write a possessive is to add ’s to the word.

  8. Data and media are plural nouns and always take a plural verb.

  1. Because the English language is fluid and adjustable, there is no reason not to start a sentence with these words. And while you wouldn’t want to do it repeatedly, occasionally is fine.

  1. If reworking the sentence is going to mangle it, or make it so twistingly wordy that it’s ridiculous, then go ahead and end it with a preposition. Word will tell you it’s wrong; ignore it.

  1. Excessive use of the passive voice can be boring and less than exciting, but it’s not wrong and can be used judiciously.

  1. This one gets people all the time, because some words start with a vowel but use “a” before them and some constant words take “an.” It all depends on how the word is pronounced. If the sound is that of a vowel, use “an.” If the sound is that of a constant, use “a.” For example, a hotel, but an honorable man.

  1. In narrative or formal writing, use “whom.” But in dialogue, use “who” unless your character is very stuffy or exact. People don’t typically use “whom” in their speech.

  1. To boldly go where no one has gone before.” ’Nuff said. Don’t mess with Gene Roddenberry (or Captain Picard).

  1. The newest trend is to add ’s to everything to make a possessive regardless of the ending of the word, but the old style of simply adding an apostrophe to words that end in s is fine. So Kansas’ team or Kansas’s team—both are correct. Just be sure you’ve used one style consistently in your MS. Don’t mix the styles!

  1. The English language is always evolving and data and media are two examples of words that have crossed over into being singular at times. In formal writing, yes, technically they are plural nouns and should take a plural verb. But in more casual usage, including fiction writing and speech, they are now used as singular nouns.

We’re Dun for today, so keep on Writin’!


Susan Uttendorfsky

Owner, Adirondack Editing




21 thoughts on “Dun Writin’—Now Whut? – 39 Editing Myths (A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing)

  1. This is a fantastic series and I am enjoying every post. I had a few English teachers who are turning in their graves right now, especially over number one. I remember arguing with one teacher that it sounded better to start a particular sentence with ‘but’.

    Liked by 1 person


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