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.

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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.

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