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Great Editing Is Great Marketing

Your First Marketing Offense: Write and Edit Great Query Letters

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Editors Make a Living from What Some Consider Aggravating!

I just started reading Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation. I am gleaning tidbits from it for my ESL tutoring students and recommending it for anyone who loves English, loves how we borrow phrases and words, and generally gets a kick of what some find aggravating.  Or make a living from it--and that would include editors.
 
Hammacher and Schlemmer calls it “the history of English idiosyncrasies. http://bit.ly/AggravationEnglish. It should make a great gift for writerly types. You’ll also want to follow my Smart, Frugal, and Tuned-In Editing blog for help and reminders with things like wordiness, wordtrippers, and politically correct constructions (which you may or may not want to avoid!).

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Grammar Lovers! So What Exactly Is a Flat Adverb?

Just a quick tip for visitors and subscribers to this newsletter. It's originally from my SharingwithWriters newsletter, but those who love words, grammar, and editing, it's a tip that may surprise you! 

"Many folks (including authors) aren’t aware—unless they’ve read my The Frugal Editor—that many grammar “rules” aren’t rules at all. Take the word slow. Sure you can “go slowly.” But dictionaries define slow as an adverb and as a synonym of slowly. You’ve all seen lists of adverbs that don’t end in ly, right? These adverbs are called flat adverbs. Some grammarians place slow into that category and even on those lists. So you go right ahead and use slow as an adverb secure in the knowledge that picky grammar cops get things wrong. . .mmm. . .quite often!"
 
PS: To subscribe to SharingwithWriters newsletter and get a free e-booklet on wordtrippers, go to http://howtodoitfrugally.com. There is a subscription book at the top right of almost every page.


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Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Friday, February 13, 2015

My Fave Tip from SharingwithWriters for Word-Lovers

Just a quick tip for visitors and subscribers to this newsletter. It's originally from my SharingwithWriters newsletter, but those who love words, grammar, and editing, it's a tip worth following through on. 

June Casagrande is my go-to grammar girl when stylebooks and dictionaries are all disagreeing. She is the author of several grammar books published by the likes of Penguin and Ten Speed and writes a syndicated column called A Word Please. In this article, she reiterates the cry you have often heard from me in this newsletter and in my The Frugal Editor, “Don’t trust the Internet for editing and grammar rules.” She even gives a list of articles from supposedly reliable sources the definitely miss the boat! (-: Here it is. Leave a comment for her and mention your book while you’re doing it.   http://www.glendalenewspress.com/opinion/tn-gnp-a-word-please-grammar-lists-often-forget-to-check-the-facts-20150116,0,5044084.story

PS: To subscribe to SharingwithWriters newsletter and get a free e-booklet on wordtrippers, go to http://howtodoitfrugally.com. There is a subscription book at the top right of almost every page.
 
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Editing Dialogue: Some May Be a Surprise


I'm doing some final editing before releasing the 2nd edition of my The Frugal Editor in paperback.  The ward-winning (Global Ebook Awards) e-book version (http://bit.ly/FrugalEditorKind)  is now available, but I keep getting requests for the paper, so I'm on it! Thanks Linda Ballou!
 Anyway, as I was working on it, I thought I'd share this little section on  writing professional dialogue.  There's more on punctuation, etc.--this is just a taste.
 
There’s a lot more to editing dialogue than reconsidering the tags. Here are ten easy ways to improve your dialogue without reading whole books or taking a seminar on the subject (though if you undertook one of those projects, you would probably be glad you did):

~Keep it simple. He said or she said will usually do. Your reader has been trained to accept this repetition.

~Forget you ever heard of strong verbs (just for the purpose of editing dialogue—then go back to your strong verb mode). Skip the he yelped and the she sighed. They slow your dialogue. If you feel you need them, look at the words—the actual dialogue—your character used when he was yelping. Maybe it doesn’t reflect the way someone would sound if he yelped. Maybe if you strengthen the dialogue, you could ditch the overblown tag without losing any meaning.

~When you can, reveal who is saying something by the voice or tone of the dialogue. That way you might be able to skip tags occasionally, especially when you have only two people speaking to one another. Your dialogue will ring truer, too.

~Having characters use other characters’ names to identify who is speaking is the lazy writer’s attempt at clarity. In real life, we tend to reserve using names for times when we are angry, disapproving, or we just met in a room full of people and we’re practicing our social skills. Overuse of names in dialogue might annoy a reader enough to distract her from your story.

~Avoid putting internal dialogue in italics or in quotation marks. When you write in a character’s point of view, your readers knows who is thinking the words. Point of view is a convention of literature and writers need to learn how to make it work for them instead of taking the easy way out. [There's also a section that will give you enough information on using italics fon internal dialogue to give you enough fodder to at least reconsider if you are already using them.]

~Be cautious about using dialogue to tell something that should be shown. It does not help to transfer the telling or exposition from the narrator to the dialogue. It does make the character who is speaking sound longwinded and negate one of  the things dialogue does well—that is, move the pace of the story forward quickly. Putting quotation marks around exposition is the lazy writer’s approach to revision.

~Don’t break up dialogue sequences with long or overly frequent blocks of narrative. That, too, keeps dialogue from moving the story along. If a writer inserts too much stage direction, it loses its forward motion along with the tension it is building.

~Avoid having every character answer a question directly. Some people do that (say a sensitive young girl who has been reared to obey her elders), but many don’t. Some veer off with an answer that doesn’t follow from the question asked. Some are silent. Some characters do any one of these things as a matter of course. Some do them purposefully, say to avoid fibbing or to change the subject or because they are passive aggressive.

~Avoid dull dialogue that doesn’t help draw better characters or move the action forward. Forcing a reader to hear people introduce themselves to one another without a very good reason to do so is cruel and unusual punishment.

Use dialogue to plant a seed of intrigue unobtrusively. When a character brings up a concern that is not solved immediately, the page-turning effect of your story is heightened. Just don’t forget to answer the question raised at another appropriate time in your story. 

For those who just can't wait or prefer e-reading, well, it's there waiting for you.


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Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ampersands and a Free Gift to Assuage the Feelings of Ampersand Lovers

I just updated the second edition of second edition of The Frugal Editor because I wanted to warn my readers against one other writers’ affectation similar to the ones already in that book (and in the first edition).That is overuse of ampersands. They are all affectations that keep literary agents, publishers and others in the publishing industry from taking you seriously. So here is an excerpt from that book and a little freebie balm to make those who love the looks of ampersands as much as I do.

The ampersand is a real pretty little dude, but it isn’t a letter nor even a word. It’s a logogram that represents a word. Its history goes back to classical antiquity, but interesting history and being cute are no reason to overuse it in the interest of trying to separate one’s writing from the pack. Better writers should concentrate on the techniques that make a difference rather than gimmicks that distract. Here are some legitimate uses and not-so-desirable uses for the ampersand.
  • The Writers Guild of America uses the ampersand to indicate a closer collaboration than and, in other words, to indicate a closer partnership rather than a situation in which one writer is brought in to rewrite or fix the screenplay of another. For those in the know it is a convenient way to subtly indicate that one writer has not been brought in to rewrite of fix the work of another.
  • Newspapers, journals, and others choose to use it when they are citing sources. That’s their style choice, not a grammar rule.
  • In similar citations, academia asks that the word and be spelled out.
  • Occasionally the term etc. is abbreviated to &c, though I can see no reason for confusing a reader with this. Etc. is already an abbreviation of et cetera and the ampersand version saves but one letter and isn’t commonly recognized.
  • Ampersands are sometimes used instead of the conjunction to which we’ve become accustomed when the and is part of a name or when naming a series of items, though here, too, it feels like a stretch and more confusing than helpful. Wikipedia gives this example: “Rock, pop, rhythm & blues and hip hop” as an acceptable use. But it, too, is an unnecessary affectation when we could clarify our intent with the traditional serial comma like this: “Rock, pop, rhythm and blues, and hip hop.”
For a little style guide from the point of view of academia go to https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/03/. To see a graphic artist’s creative use of the ampersand, one based on the authenticity of its simply being visually attractive, go to http://amperart.com. Chaz DeSimone, the cover artist for my Frugal Editor and Frugal Book Promoter, offers you a poster featuring ampersands every month with a subscription to his monthly letter which is also free.

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 Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I flunked the initialism test!

Sometimes it’s the littlest things that become our epiphanies. The one I got today is—at least in part—the epiphany that not all epiphanies are grand or even all that useful. Or even necessarily something we weren’t aware of before So maybe I didn’t experience epiphany at all; maybe it was more like hearing Sinatra sing, “As the gentlemen said, ain’t that a kick in the head.”

Whatever it was, it came in the form of a little quiz in Time magazine based on the Oxford book of slang and it came because maybe—just maybe—my idea of learning computer stuff on a need-to-know basis has left me with some really huge knowledge gaps. Or maybe it was because I hate initialism (and, by extension acronyms) so bad that I have a mental block. 

Readers were supposed to “unpack these abbreviations:”
  1. ICMI
  2. SMH
  3. WDYT
  4. YOLO

In spite of the verb “unpack” which seems slightly inaccurate, I correctly realized that Time wanted me to recognize what the initials stand for. They gave no hints. Like, “Beware: If you don’t text, you may find this extra difficult.” Or “Watch it! If you hate initialism and acronyms , you’ll be annoyed by this.”  It just presented me with these four tests that looked like the old scrambled word game I knew as a child.

I didn’t know any of them. Score, a big fat zero. In case you want to see if you can best me (hint, you are certain to tie or do better!), here are the answers.

1.   ICMI: In case you missed it . . .
2.   SMH: Shaking my head . . .
3.   WDYT: What do you think . . .
4.   YOLO: You only live once . . .

The only positive thing I can say about this lowest test score of all time is that my as-needed-philosophy may need some exposure to younger folk. I mean, I was beginning to find LOL clich├ęd.


Happy writing, editing and promoting,
Carolyn

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 Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June Casagrande on Prefixes--and Chicago Stylebook for Authors

Thinking the authors who follow this blog will want to know June Casagrande better, but especially this column which makes that fine distinction I love--the one between the AP style book and Chicago. Here is her latest column. Enjoy. Read through to the end where she mentions that difference!

http://www.burbankleader.com/opinion/tn-blr-a-word-please-a-certain-prefix-is-driving-her-coconuts-20140627,0,6730817.story

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Query Letter Booboos Straight from the Lips of Literary Agents

It's been a while since I popped in. I am reformatting the second edition of the  The Frugal Editor from e-book formatting to paper and ran across this paragraph. I really like it and thought you would, too.  The topic here is the editing of your query letters, but most of the information could apply to any writing you do.


Stay away from words based in Latin with lots of syllables. It isn’t only the long ones that can make you sound as if you have no personality, never took a writing class, or are not a publishing professional. So your book is titled, not entitled. You live somewhere, you don’t reside. You buy a book when you’re talking to your neighbor. Why suddenly flaunt the word purchase? In a TV interview, Meg Ryan was asked what word she loved. She screwed up her face as only she knows how and turned the question around. She said she hated the word enjoy. “What’s wrong with liked or loved?” she said. Who would have guessed? This anecdote shows that we can’t avoid everything that makes every editor (or actor) peevish, but we can try.


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  Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Primer (or Reminder!) of Tricky Homonyms to Watch For

Thanks to freelancer Sarah Brooks for this primer on some oft-needed homonyms. You'll find more even trickier ones in the second edition  of The Frugal Editor (e-book only for the time being), and in the free e-booklet offered by Barbara McNichols.  You can also get a free e-book on editing tips and lots of homonyms when you subscribe to my SharingwithWriters newsletter on any page of my Web site, upper right corner.

Ten Tricky Homonyms 

By Sarah Brooks

Homonyms challenge writers to use the proper spelling and context to accurately convey their ideas.  In the English language, homonyms are those words that sound the same when pronounced, but have very different meanings.  In addition to their potential for muddle meanings, homonyms can be confusing to readers striving to understand language rules.

One of the reasons homonyms get in the way is because they are hard to distill into easy-to-follow rules for writers to abide by.  Each use of homonyms requires active reflection, so they can be tricky to integrate without due consideration. And it isn't always the longest, most complex words that cause trouble.  These ten homonyms commonly confuse and frustrate writers:

Ad/Add - It is hard to image confusion surrounding a two-letter word, but ad presents problems for some writers failing to recognize its very specific meaning.  Ad is short for advertisement, which is its only English meaning.  Add; on the other hand, refers to the action of performing addition.  One way for writers to master this relatively easy homonym is to use advertisement in its full form, until usage becomes more routine.

Affect/Effect - Perhaps the most daunting of all homonyms, this pair of words confounds advanced writers, as well as novices. Effect is the strongest of the pair, which should be used when the meaning is 'to cause'. It is also appropriate when expressing 'the result of'.  Affect, on the other hand, is best used when the intended meaning involves 'influence', rather than 'cause'.  Effect is used following certain words too, like 'an', 'the', 'into', and so forth.

Accept/Except - Accept means to receive or approve of, making it the more commonly used of the two words.  Except, on the other hand, is often used like 'but', to acknowledge an exception.

Their/They're/There - This trio of similar words is particularly vexing for those learning English, as the meanings intersect commonly in everyday use.  The contraction, 'they are' is an easy one, because they're means only that.  'Their' is a possessive pronoun, and 'There' is used appropriately when it designates a location.

Peace/Piece - Context helps writers master spelling and usage, so pairs like 'piece' and 'peace' are relatively easy to distinguish from one another. Piece is a portion, while 'peace is a feeling or state of being.

Pallet/Palette/Palate - Infrequently used homonyms can be the most difficult to master, because repetition helps language rules sink in.  Palette, a range of colors, for example, is seldom used outside certain niches, so it can be confusing when it pop-up.  Likewise with 'pallet', which generally refers to a shipping platform.  Even the most commonly used of the three; palate, has a dual meaning.  It refers to the roof of your mouth as well as your ability to recognize a variety of flavors.
Merry/Marry - Christmas salutations have helped distinguish these homonym meanings, but they are both tied to celebrations, so correct usage can be challenging.  Marry is what brides and grooms do at weddings, while 'merry' means cheerful or happy.

Mettle/Metal - Sometimes their definitions make homonyms even more confusing. 'Metal' refers to elements, while 'mettle' identifies a trait that is bold or determined.  Because both definitions conjure images of lasting durability, their meanings intertwine.
Hangar/Hanger - Most of us have 'hangers' in our closets, but few of us have a need for an airplane 'hangar'.

Discrete/Discreet - Commonly, writers intending to express 'cautious' or 'wary', write 'discreet', which actually means distinct or individual.  Whether they are misspelling the word, or have a muddled understanding of its meaning, 'discrete' is the proper usage when conveying a sense of confidentiality.

Managing homonyms comes naturally for some writers, while others struggle to use words correctly.  Practice and consistency are the keys to success, which is in-reach for writers committed to the details.


Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from Freepeoplesearch.org. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

LA Times Gets "Scrutiny" for Too-Long Verbs

It's been so long since I posted, I think it's time I took the advice I gave small businesses in my book Your Blog, Your Business. That is, posts don't have to be long. Post as you have something that will be of interest or help your audience. Soooo....here goes.

Every once in a while I'm reading and something that's ungrammatical, wordy, or just cries out for an edit calls to me (or grabs me by the throat!).  Here's s subhead (or "deck") I saw recently in the LA Times:

"The health director came under scrutiny after agreeing to speak at PCC's graduation."

Now, I get that headlines and subheads and cutlines under pictures are tricky because the editors have to kinda, sorta make them fit the width of the column or columns.  But really.  I was in my wordiness mode, so I would have red-lined it like this:

"Health director scrutinized after agreeing to speak (or speaking) at PCC's graduation."

Keep in mind that articles etc can often be left out of headline and verbs should be strong.  I mean, "came under scrutiny?"  The same editor (presumably) used the same phrase in a front page headline only days later. Apparently that phrase fits one-column needs for length and brevity be damned. 

So, advice:  As you edit, check your verbs.  It's easy for them to get both passive and too long. 


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Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-: