Sunday, June 9, 2024

Litter-free Writing

by Martin Wiles @LinesFromGod

When my wife and I relocated to a new subdivision—and I began taking a daily walk to the entrance and back—I immediately noticed the litter. I have hated litter since I was a young boy and first understood what litter was. I’ve been guilty of littering a few times, but my conscience always bothered me. So, I made a pact with God not to litter.

After weeks of seeing litter spoil my view of the woods and the creek that ran through our subdivision, I told my wife, “I’m going to take a bag with me and start cleaning up the litter.” Soon, I could see a difference.

But some litter proved more stubborn. It was caught in briar patches and down hills in wooded areas. Since I was recovering from a broken femur, I didn’t dare be too risky. 

One day, we kept two of our grandchildren for a few hours. One of them loves the outdoors and loves to walk with me. After we had made one circle, I asked, “Would you like to help Pop pick up litter?” He jumped at the chance.

We went to work, with him snuggling into those hard-to-reach areas I couldn’t. Soon, we had collected a large garbage bag of cans and bottles. He wanted to know why we were doing this, and I explained how we were obeying God’s command to keep His earth clean. 

When God placed Adam and Eve in the newly created garden, he told them to tend it. “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15 NLT).

We pay the price in numerous ways when we don’t help keep God’s creation clean. After creating the first earth, God looked at what He had made and said, “It is good.” 

I also think God looks at what we Christian writers write and declares it good or in need of improvement. And since He gives us the wisdom and tools to make it the best we can, we should. Granted, editing—along with marketing—is the part of the writing process that many writers detest, procrastinate about, and fret over. But in these days of modern publishing, not doing it dooms our devotion, article, short story, or manuscript to a devil’s pit. 

Rarely do I send a devotion back to a writer for them to edit for grammar issues, but when I open a document and it lights up like a Christmas tree, I return it. Editors, agents, and publishers expect a clean manuscript. And we don’t have an excuse not to deliver. 

Like litter, typos, poor sentence structure, multiple verbitis (Denise Loock’s word), punctuation and capitalization errors, second-person POV, and repetitive words can dirty up our writing. Paying a professional editor to clean it up is wise, but not always necessary. Even if we do, we should clean it before we give it to them. 

Other than using what I know from being an English teacher for the past eleven years, my two go-to sources are The Chicago Manual of Style (the writer’s Bible) and the paid version of Grammarly. Of course, the CMOS is a large book. Asking the editing question to Google, followed by the words Chicago style, usually delivers the answer. But better yet is Kathy Ide’s Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. She answers the questions and references where they are in the CMOS.

We writers can’t create something perfect as God did with the earth. Everything we produce contains litter of some sort. But I’m glad we live in this age of technological marvels that help us clean up our writing. 

Don’t let writing errors litter the beauty of what God gives you to write. Think of ways you can litter up.


Martin Wiles is the founder of Love Lines from God (WWW.LOVELINESFROMGOD.COM) and serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and Directing Editor for VineWords. He has authored six books and has been published in numerous publications. His most recent book, DON'T JUST LIVE...REALLY LIVE, debuted in October of 2021. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, author, and pasto


  1. An informative post, but I must admit, my first thought was... what does cat litter have to do with writing. haha.

  2. I appreciate your commitment to clean writing -- and your encouragement for all of us to do the same.

  3. Love the analogy in your post, Martin. (Kathy Ide was the editor on my first novel, and I've been using her "Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors" ever since.)

  4. Agreed. All the best for building the Kingdom of God! My favorite book on style is EB White's Element of Style.