Category: Grammar and the English language

A sign with the text "To edit is human"

When editors make (or miss) mistakes . . .

Editors make mistakes? What? Are you thinking, “Did I read that right?” Right off, let’s get one thing clear: editorial errors are inevitable. If that surprises you, it shouldn’t—we are only human, after all (I know that’s hard to believe). While many editors are perfectionists, most of us also know perfection is impossible to achieve. Let me tell you from firsthand experience that the quest for perfection in a world where perfection doesn’t exist is an issue that causes many of us a great deal of anguish and even sleepless nights. It’s just one of the hazards of the job.

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A woman sits behind a stack of books, holding an open book over her head

Part I: Steps to becoming a freelance book editor

During my thirteen years in the book editing business, I’ve regularly been asked how I became a freelance editor and what it takes to become a part of this fascinating business. In this post, I’ve pulled together all my tips and advice for those interested in taking the first steps toward a freelance editing career. Please note that these guidelines are specifically for those who are interested in a freelance career, not in-house. Although I’ve done some freelance work for Penguin Random House Canada, the bulk of my work has been as a freelance editor and proofreader for self-publishing authors.

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Two people sit in chairs facing each other with dialogue bubbles above them

Dialogue in fiction: Part II – The essentials

In this article, Part II of a five-part series on writing effective fiction dialogue, I’ll look at creating realism through artifice, dialogue’s four primary purposes (creating emotional tension and conflict, advancing the plot, providing information and backstory, and conveying character), and how to create distinction between characters. Writing effective dialogue for your fictional characters is just one of many important skills to master if you want to be a successful fiction writer, and often it’s not one that comes naturally or instinctively. It takes study and practice.

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Silhouettes of people with dialogue bubbles above

Dialogue in fiction: Part I – How to write authentic dialects and foreign accents

Of the many things to master when writing dialogue in fiction, creating authentic dialects and natural-sounding foreign accents for your characters is possibly the most challenging. If you don’t get the accent just right, you risk having your characters come off looking like caricatures. Worse, you alienate readers, who don’t like being slowed and confused by a lot of nonstandard spellings. And worst of all, you may appear to be discriminatory or even ignorant if you stereotype your characters through their accent alone. In this post, I’ll take a look at ways to make your characters’ English dialects and foreign accents as realistic as possible without reducing them to goofy stereotypes.

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A butterfly perches on a stem

Transitions: quiet links that help your writing’s logic, flow, and clarity

When I talk about writing a blog post, I often liken it to writing a term paper. For me, the length, process, and deadlines are all similar. After deciding on a topic, Step 1 is jotting down all my own original ideas about it (in a very stream-of-consciousness way), then doing a bunch of research and making notes on what I’ve learned. I then let it all simmer in my mind for a day or two. At this stage, it’s all very messy, scarily messy. Step 2 consists of examining my jumbled messes of ideas and trying to organize them into a coherent, logical whole—a piece that flows and makes sense, one idea leading organically into the next. And that’s where good transitions come in.

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A writer holds a crumpled piece of paper, with more crumpled paper on the desk

#$%&*!$ those bloody expletives!

Does an editor exist who doesn’t have a few pet peeves about the English language? I sometimes loftily like to think mine are better described as a passion for educating writers on how to improve their craft. But truthfully, they’re also eccentricities (and often mistakes) of the English language that annoy me—sometimes more, sometimes less. In this article I’ll focus on just one of mine: a certain type of expletive.

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