Don’t Forget to Line Edit!


“Too wordy.”

“Paragraphs too long.”

“Sentences too long.”

These are the kinds of things I hear from agents and publishers at writers conferences and behind authors’ backs.

“Can’t figure out what it says.”

“Style/tone is too flat.”


No, you don’t need to rewrite or go back to school for more creative-writing or composition techniques.

You need to line edit.

Line editing is the vital but often overlooked pass that adds music, drive, energy, and rhythm to a finished manuscript.

It’s an intermediate edit, between your last rewrite and sending the manuscript to a copy editor. Line editing is all about internal-paragraph Slinky Flow.

  • It challenges every passive-voice line for power, invisibility, and convertibility.
  • It revises static and awkward phrasings.
  • It punches up the drives, smoothes out the pacing, and adds impact to the words already on the page.
  • It brings out the hidden rhythm and music in your writing.

Psst! Don’t Tell Anyone, but-

…you already have the editing skills you need to make this happen —  you just never thought to apply them! So here’s a fast tutorial for doing this essential tweak:

  1. Convert passive voice to active prose unless it’s powerful, invisible, or unavoidable.
  2. Eliminate static phrasings and extraneous articles whenever possible.
  3. Use one set of descriptors per incident. This may mean having to choose which is the most vibrant or effective modifer, but good writing is, after all, about making decisions.
  4. Break up long paragraph blocks for easier reading and visual esthetics.
  5. Brighten or “punch” important points with the judicious use of stand-alone non-sentences. I can’t emphasize this enough. Avoid diluting the impact of your ideas by burying it in excessive verbiage–like I just did!
  6. Let every speaker have their own paragraph.
  7. Reduce extraneous editorial wherever possible by “showing” or demonstrating what you want to say–but not so much that it obscures your point, confuses the reader, or disrupts the pacing.

Try it. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’ll boost your book’s appeal to both the industry and your reading audience.

Line editing can flip a “Nice Read” into “Wow! What a page turner!”

FYI, I’m holding two 4-week line-editing workshops this October, one for nonfiction and one for fiction. Check them out at

Happy editing!

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