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Great Editing Is Great Marketing

Your First Marketing Offense: Write and Edit Great Query Letters

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June Casagrande on Presfixes--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. (-:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Quick! It's an adjective. "Grammar" or "Grammatical.?"


When I was doing the final edit for the second edition of my The Frugal Editor (the e-book), I received some input suggesting I should use the adjective grammatical rather than the noun grammar when it was being used as an adjective. Makes sense.
 
Nevertheless, I decided to check with my grammar guru June Casagrande without telling her my preference for grammar. (I liked it better because it sounded less forced). Here’s what she said:

Just my opinion: ‘grammatical mistakes’ seems to call more attention to itself than ‘grammar mistakes.’ And because ‘grammar mistakes’ is no more vulnerable to criticism than ‘paint store’ or ‘vacation day,’ I think ‘grammar mistakes’ would be my preference.”
 
This little anecdote illustrates how flexible our language is. It also illustrates the difference between grammar rules and style choices. I think it should also serve as a warning that we should be very careful when we criticize someone else’s editing choices. This difference between grammar rules and editing and style choices is one of the rarely discussed things that my The Frugal Editor helps you with.
 
You may want to learn more about June--maybe even buy some of her books along with mine so you won't have to pay for shipping on Amazon. She is the author of the brand new Best Punctuation Book. Period.


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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, January 4, 2014

New Year's Help and Gift for Supporters


This little excerpt is from the second edition of The Frugal Editor now available as an e-book on Kindle. If you already have the paperback book or the old e-book version, let me know and I’ll send you an e-copy when in return for a little review (but only if you love it) on Amazon, B&N, or your blog or newsletter. It's a lovely way to begin the New Year by networking and passing it forward.  Here’s the tip:

"In On Writing Stephen King tells us that a dialogue tag can dictate the use of punctuation in the dialogue itself. For instance, if the tag uses a form of the word ask, avoid using a question mark at the end of what the character said (that part within the quotation marks.) That makes sense. We’re trying to avoid being redundant. Here are examples of ways to avoid question mark redundancy:  

·        Example: He asked, “How old are you.” (Note the period after the question.)

·       Example: He said, “How old are you?” (Note the tag uses the word said, not asked.)

·     Example:    “How old are you?” (No tags at all.)
 
The new edition of The Frugal Editor is expanded and the resources are updated. Further, the e-book was first published in the early days of Kindle. This new format is much easier to read. And I do want my former readers to benefit from it. We're on the honor system. You have the first edition in paperback or digital form, you tell me. I'll send you the new one--no questions asked. 


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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, December 29, 2013

Politically Correct Doesn't Always Work

Though I talk about the niceties of being poetically correct in the 2nd edition of The Frugal Editor (to be issued first for Kindle in mid-January), there are times when we carry it too far--sometimes to the weakening of the English language.  What will we use to replace the word foreigner, as an example.  Read on!


We writers need to be aware of PC trends so we can make conscious choices and avoid faux pas whenever possible. And there are lots of PC-isms we out there we need to know. But frankly, I think getting too PC (politically correct) can interfere with clear, concise English.

 

Here's an example of  what I consider just too, too PC: An academic at one of the universities that uses my husband's reference book, What Foreigners Need to Know About America From A to Z (http://amzn.to/ForeignersAmericaUS) objected to the word "Foreigners" in the title. My husband was aware of that difficulty when he chose that title. Some consider it pejorative. The thing is, there is not really a perfect substitute in the English language. "Aliens" calls up an image quite different (Martians, anyone?) than "Foreigners." These academics who used to call their students from other countries "foreign students" now call them "international students," but that term wasn't quite right for this book. Some people this book is written for may be emigrants. Second-generation citizens. Tourists. People who aren't Americans who conduct business with Americans both in the US and in their own countries. And on and on. Though not a perfect term, "foreigners" was the most inclusive word he could find.

 

Often attitudes about words tell more about the person who objects to them. When did it get to be a bad thing to be a "foreigner?" In America, even Native Americans were once from somewhere else. Or, more importantly, when are we going to get over the idea that being a foreigner is a bad thing.

 

Now the LA Times reports that the respected AP (Associated Press) has decided to discourage its reporters and editors from using the word "illegal immigrant." Some find the term offensive. The Times reports, "They prefer 'undocumented' arguing that 'illegal' is dehumanizing and lumps border crossers with serious criminals."

 

The venerable AP stylebook warns against the term, though they, too, couldn't find a suitable substitute for all cases. Instead they suggest a kind of "working around it" approach—which may be an adequate alternative in the body of a written piece but may be tough when coming up with a title or headline.

 

There are all kinds of phrases and words that we should be leery of. We know—instinctively or because we writers need to keep up on such things—most of them. But sometimes the style suggestions are just plain mealy mouthed. Meaning that they are diluting our language without offering anything that works as well.

Decisions. Decisions. Just remember. "Undocumented" isn't going to work. Some people have documents, just not the right ones.

But the part of all this—the part that I love—is the idea a senior manager at Associated Press put forth: "It's lazy to label people. It's better to describe them."

I have to agree with that. I was labeled all my life and hate putting labels on people. It's a little like putting them in a box, locking it, and throwing away the key.

 

Just so you know, LA Times and The New York Times will soon be weighing in on the "illegal" and "undocumented" issue. Can't wait to see what they come up with.

 

Note: In the 1970s, the LA Times style book preferred "illegal alien." Times do change…gradually. Thank goodness, mostly for the better. I'm going to accumulate style choices, possibly for a new book. If you have ideas for me, please let me know at HoJoNews@aol.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. (-:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On Editing: Wordiness Producers

I have to post these things for my dear Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor Blog when I think of them--which is usually while I'm editing. Here are a couple of phrases that contribute to wordiness.

 
“I find” and “taken the time to” aren’t awful phrases but they contribute to wordiness. They can usually be deleted from copy without losing meaning and what you say without them will be more direct, more forceful, more memorable and, well . . . cleaner.




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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, December 4, 2013

A New Kink for Better, More Natural Dialogue


The LA Times reports that researchers have found that when we say “Huh?” we do just what people in every language in the world do. Their “huh?” may not sound exactly like our odd little grunt, but similar. They're all  single syllables with a vowel sound and they often have a glottal stop. They call such utterances the “glue that holds a broken conversation together.” I thought you should know about it, because it is so pervasive, yet we rarely see it in dialogue.
Wouldn’t using it here and there make dialogue seem more natural—or at least serve a useful (and natural) purpose when a character doesn’t get it?
And wouldn't using it judiciously in our dialogue help our writing be more universally appreciated or understood. There are lots of English and Second Language readers out there.
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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, November 15, 2013

Edit/Format Idea for Overcrowded Docs


Borrowing Green Formatting from the Greats . . . ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Subscribers to this editing blog probably know how I feel about learning from the greats—in this case the Smithsonian magazine. You may also have figured out that I’m a greenie.


So, ta da! Introducing the paragraph icon. You know, the one that looks like a backward “P” with two heavy lines on the right. But instead of using it as an invisible formatting tool, Smithsonian can see its beauty and makes it a space-saving design element on the opening pages of their feature articles. That means the page has less white space (which costs money in print magazines), but it also may mean a little more space for nifty illustrations.

Smithsonian designers/formatters just stick one of these symbols into the copy anywhere there would normally be a new paragraph or the start of a new block of dialogue. That saves them lines between paragraphs and indent and end of paragraph space. 
 
 To make it ever-so-clear that this is intentional, they make the symbols a nice dark gray—a slight departure from the black used in their fonts. Here is information from Word how to make the paragraph symbol—one that can be seen—in your copy. http://www.ehow.com/how_6951039_insert-paragraph-sign-word-document.html.
 
I think this design element would be especially useful for authors’ sell sheets where every fraction of an inch counts. To make your paragraph icons gray, click on your Font Color icon in the ribbon in your Word program.

 

CHJ
 
PS: Subscribe to my free SharingwithWriters newsletter for more articles and tips like this and get a free e-copy of my Great Little Last-Minute Edits. Find subscription windows on the upper right corner of almost every page of my Web site http://howtodoitfrugally.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. (-: