Poetry Editing Tips

Besides being really freaking tiring, editing your manuscript alone isn't always the best idea. When you read your own work, your brain is already aware of what you wrote, so it will make up for mistakes by fixing errors in your head. That's why editors are important. But before you send your manuscript off to 10 poetry editors, you may want to scan for these common errors we see in poetry manuscripts.

Have a question about a line in your poem? Connect with us for thoughts

Check for lie vs. lay errors

This is probably the most common error we see in manuscripts. Why? Because it's freaking confusing. Even we get confused sometimes. That's why we have a handy cheatsheet printed out in front of us at all times. But we don't expect you to do that, so here are some quick tips for getting lie and lay right the first time. 

Lay means to put something down, and it always includes a direct object. Someone or something has to do the laying. 

Chickens lay eggs.
Yesterday, the poetry editor laid her keys down.
The poetry editor lay the book on the table.


Lie means to rest or recline, and it does not need a direct object.

The poetry editor lies on the floor.
The apple lies on the floor.

Lay can also be the past tense of lie.

Yesterday, the poetry editor lay on the floor.
Yesterday, the apple lay on the floor.

Do not put a comma after a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) when it starts a sentence

A comma is not needed after a coordinating conjunction when it starts a sentence. You should only place a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it joins two independent clauses.

Incorrect: So, we will go to the mall.

Correct: Mary and I need clothes, so we will go to the mall.


Remember to capitalize proper nouns

Always check that proper nouns (Frisbee, Dutch, etc.) are capitalized.

Remember to capitalize kinship names when they take the place of people’s names

Mom loves to dance.
My mom loves to dance.
It’s true that Mom loves to dance.

Remember to follow consistent capitalization in poem titles

However you choose to capitalize your poem titles (ALL CAPS, Title Case, or Sentence case) is totally cool, but you want to be consistent throughout. 

If you are choosing to capitalize the first word on every line regardless of whether it begins a new sentence, make sure you support that and carry it through.

If you are choosing to uncapitalize the first word on every line unless it’s a proper noun or begins a sentence, be careful to double check that this is occurring properly.

Ready to get your book edited? Connect with us to work with a poetry editor today


* All editing suggestions are based on The Chicago Manual of Style style guide

Poetry: Before and After Edits

So ya'll know that we offer poetry editing services, but do you know what an edit looks like before and after? I have a little sample that I received permission to share with you, and I wanted to give you a glimpse into the editing process.

Poetry Before Editing:


Poetry After Editing and Design


There are many ways to punctuate these sentences, but we based the edits on a few different factors:

  • Alicia's style of writing
  • The age group Alicia was targeting
  • A desire to improve readability

When we edit, we focus on clarity and industry standards, but we also make sure the edited work reflects the author's voice. That's why you might find sentence fragments or comma splices in the work still. Why? Because it's important that we keep the integrity of the work at hand. We believe that you could have a technically correct manuscript that is so overdone and over-edited that it loses its artistic merit, and you could have a poorly edited manuscript that is so riddled with errors no one would even focus on it long enough to see the merit in it. So we like to try to find that balance. Where is the line? Where can we push it? How can we collaborate to create something brilliant together? That's what we're after at Tell Tell Poetry and that is what we seek to do every day with your work. 

Like the book? It's available for purchase on Amazon Kindle. We worked closely with Alicia to edit her children's book, and she worked on the design and self-publishing process herself. Want to learn more about how Tell Tell can help you edit your poetry, children's books, or prose? Email us to tell us about your project, and get started today! 

Sample Copyright Pages

If you’re doing self-publishing alone, you’re going to want to set up a copyright page. This page is usually at the beginning of the book and it includes all of the important information that booksellers would want. It's not legally necessary for you to actually have your book copyrighted, though that’s the only way that you’re able to use the copyright symbol. Apply for copyright on the  copyright website (around $35) and then use one of our templates below to get your copyright page completed.

Have specific questions? Email me for more info! 

Keep in mind that we aren't lawyers, so if you have specific questions about legal ramifications of copyright pages, talk to your trusted neighborhood lawyer first. 

The only thing you absolutely need on your copyright page is the copyright symbol (if and only if you have applied for copyright) and a notice that the author retains all rights to the material. The rest is either decided based on style or publisher need.
— Tell Tell Poetry


Simple Copyright Template

Name of Collection
© Date of copyright
All rights reserved

Cover Image: Name of artist
Cover Design: Name of Cover designer
Layout: Name of layout designer

Printed in the U.S.A
First Edition: Date
ISBN: [Add ISBN Here]

Name of author
Address Line One
State, City ZIP

One sentence author bio.


Expanded Copyright Template

© Date, Name of Book Add Author Bio Here

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic methods without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author at the address below.

Name of author
Address Line One
State, City ZIP

ISBN: [Add ISBN Here]

Printed in the United States of America

First Printing, Date of Printing  


Where to Place this Text

Usually, a printed book will include the following matter:

1. Cover

2. Blank page

3. Blank page

4. Title page (with name of collection only) 

5. Blank page

6. Title page (with name of collection, author name, and name + place of printer)

7. Copyright page

8. Blank page

9. Blank page

10. Table of contents

11. Blank page

12. First page of collection

Check with your layout designer to see what they think is best. They may already have a great system in place.


A note about ISBNs:

You can get free ISBNs from most self-publishing platforms, but if you're publishing multiple versions of your book (one printed, one ePub version, one mobi version, etc.), you'll want separate ISBNs.

If you're publishing only a printed book and a Kindle version, you'll only need one ISBN (for the printed work), since Kindle doesn't require ISBNs for eBooks.

Amazon KDP Select will assign an ASIN if you don't have an ISBN, but make sure you check with your platform before you upload interior material. 

The takeaway: Make sure you're following industry practices when you publish! 




Marisa McGinnis's Debut Poetry Collection Is Live

When we first connected with Marisa, she had a version of her poetry book live on Kindle, but she wasn't in love with the design or the work. She wanted an updated index, she wanted a beautiful interior layout, and she wanted a fresh design for the cover based on her daughter's artwork. We were able to take her eBook and turn it into a new book that looks just as beautiful as the poems themselves. 

We are so excited to announce the publication birthday of UnBoyfriends, a debut poetry collection by Marisa McGinnis. We were able to help her edit her poems, get a new design and interior, and get everything live on Lulu. We can't wait to hear about all her success. 

Self-published book


Get your copy here. What are you waiting for? Let's get your book edited, designed, and published!