Righting Your Writing

Points to ponder about our changing language.


Don’t feel confident about your word choice? Steven Pinker’s book, The Sense of Style, provides writers with useful advice about language and punctuation choices now acceptable in modern English.

Unfortunately, his early chapters, on structure and grammar, are hard going and not that useful if your interest is in knowing what’s OK and what’s not in modern language use. These chapters provide the logic behind language choices. But it’s like expecting someone to memorise the whole grammatical structure of a language when all they want to do is order a cup of coffee.

He lightens up the text a little by adding cartoons about language and punctuation, plus comical examples to illustrate how writers may unintentionally mislead. What we write is not always what we mean:

  • I enthusiastically recommend this candidate with no qualifications whatsoever.
  • After the governor watched the lion perform, he was fed 25 pounds of raw meat.
  • Guilt, vengeance, and bitterness can be emotionally…

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Lyonizing Word: Shifting Styles

I admit that I don’t want to lose this MS Word advice, but many writers would find this useful information as well. Thanks to An American Editor.

An American Editor

Shifting Styles

by Jack Lyon

In its undying efforts to be “helpful,” Microsoft Word can cause no end of problems. Among the worst of these are what I call “shifting styles,” which can change the formatting of your document without your consent and sometimes without your knowledge. Yow! I know of five ways this can happen. Here’s how to identify and fix each one.

Automatically Update Document Styles

The Problem

You go through your document, fine-tuning its style formatting to the peak of perfection. Then you carefully save your document for posterity. A week later, you reopen your document. What the…? All of your styles have shifted back to their original formatting. You’ll have to do all of that work over again! And how can you be sure it will stick?

The Solution

  1. Open the document.
  2. Click the Developer tab. (If you don’t have such a tab, click File >…

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Guest blog on Self-Publishing tips — Dee Doanes

Self-Publishing Tips: Book Editing. Book Covers, and Research

So many writers keep asking me how to self-publish books that I wanted to share Four Steps that will helping new writers out there. I had interest in my book from a great literary agent. I decided to self-publish when I thought about the things I could on my own since I had a background in marketing.

These are the Four Detailed Steps I did, including the costs, to self-publish my book:


Step 1 Hire a Book Editor

After writing my book  the first thing I spent money on was hiring a professional book editor. Ann Kempner Fisher was my editor. She is absolutely the best!  She’s located in the U.S. It cost $1,300 and was well worth the money. Most good and experienced editors charge $4.00- $6.00 per page. If you’re located in the U.K. join a well-known writers group and get referrals from writers in the group. Spending  money on editing is a necessity and  not an option. Some self-published writers havn’t done this and say publicly that paying for a book editor is too expensive. They post on blogs that they wanted to publish books quickly on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).  Then I read complaints on Amazon reader forums and Good Reads forums, readers having to struggle to read books with bad grammar, misspellings, etc.  You only have one time to impress readers and won’t get another chance. Stephen King, James Patterson, and other professional writers always use editors. Self-published writers have to do the same thing to compete.


Step 2 Format Book for Publication

I formatted my book for Kindle. This was difficult to do myself so I went on  Fiverr.com to find someone to format my book per KDP requirements: set up the margins, table of contents, etc. This cost around $25. The people that do book formatting charge by the number of pages. Fiverr is a wonderful marketplace to find all sorts of inexpensive services for your book project including: website updates, social media marketing, book promotions, logo/ad design, graphics, etc. Just look for the highest rated vendor in the appropriate category and place your order via Paypal.


Step 3 Design Book Cover

I used 99 Designs to get a distinctive and low cost book cover illustration and design (for $299). This was a very good price since good illustration can  cost around $500-$1,000.  I heard about 99 designs from fellow writer Tim Ferriss. He’s written several best sellers: The Four Hour Work Week, The Four Hour Body, The Four Hour Chef. He really knows how to market books!  99 Designs is a crowd sourced marketplace where several designers and illustrators submit work based on your specifications. You set the price and choose the winner.

A book cover is an important tool in attracting and selling your book to readers, especially for my genre which is paranormal mystery. I have seen some outstanding book cover artwork for established paranormal writers. Then I have seen some poorly designed book covers in the market place from self-published authors. If you want to compete with mainstream published authors you can’t look like an amateur!

Please note:  Illustration is different than design. (My cover is an illustration).I have many artists friends and know a lot about different mediums of art. Without getting too technical, an illustrator typically does art by hand.  A designer typically assembles pre-existing graphics, photos, vectors, etc. An illustrator can design,  but not all designers can illustrate. For new writers, you probably should illustrate your book if it is: children’s, horror, paranormal, fantasy, or sci-fi.


Step 4 Research the Book Marketplace

I researched my genre to see what types of books were in the market place. I checked Amazon bestsellers lists, Wall Street Journal bestsellers lists, and went to Barnes and Noble bookstore. This helped me prepare my market campaign for when I started promoting my book. I will discuss this in another post about book marketing. Questions to ask yourself are: How many books out there are like your book? Are you writing a niche topic?

Any writers interested in learn any more self-publishing tips  please check out my blog: http://www.deedoanes.com and join my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/deedoanesauthor

I have come across many ‘atomic typos’ in my job.

Ruth Davies: centrEditing


Malapropisms, the topic of my last post, can occur in writing but most often you hear them in speech. As an editor, I am  usually correcting writing not speaking (although you’d be amazed at how many garrulous people become carefully articulate once I tell them my job), so I thought I should give some real-world examples of errors I see. Most of these are examples of typos, rather than malapropisms (where the person genuinely believes they’ve used the right word) or of spelling mistakes (where the person knows which word they want, they just don’t know which letters need to go in it).

This is a list of examples I’ve seen that the authors (and spell check) would have missed because they are actual words, just not the words that were wanted, and they are words that come up all the time in the corporate/academic writing that I’m working…

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The old Runic alphabet was common in early Norway but supplanted eventually with the Latin alphabet.

futhark - NorrøntThe word rune comes from the Norse rún which means mystery. No one knows exactly when, where or by whom the runes were invented. The only thing archaeologists can confirm is that the oldest runic inscriptions we know of are about 1700 years old found in Denmark and Norway.

The runic alphabet was used within Germanic languages – but primarily in the Nordic countries. It was a writing system where each character marked a certain sound. The alphabet is called Futhark after the first six runes. (An observant reader count seven letters in the name: The reason is that th is a diphthong – the same sound as the English sound th in thing). The original name is spelled fuþark.

Runes could be written in both directions from right to left or left to right. The runes could also be inverted or upside down.

The elder Futhark…

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What the!

I have a big blog post planned about the ‘Terrible Twins’ – those words that are pronounced the same or similarly, and can often confuse people. But in the meantime, and feeling rather poorly, I decided to say a few things about that often overused punctuation mark, the exclamation mark. How many writers have I seen who try to communicate their excitement about something by adding the exclamation mark – in fact, they sometimes add a plethora of them for good measure!!!!

Alas, it is a poor prop for lazy writing to do so (letter writing and some informal texts excluded). If you must resort to frequent use of exclamation marks, then that shows that the writing is not powerful enough on its own to show the reader its power on its own. However, the exclamation mark does have its place, particularly in dialogue where the force of the speaker cannot be shown any other way. For example: ‘Oh, shut up!’ he snapped. But a sentence like ‘There were as many as 300 wild horses on the property’ is powerful enough on its own without needing an exclamation mark.

Something to think about.

Our language roots

It can help you to understand English better when you are familiar with its roots and can pull  a word apart to find its meaning.  Take the word ensuite (or en suite) for example, it comes from the French meaning “in sequence” and in English has come to mean a bathroom attached to a bedroom, therefore following in sequence from one room to another. We gained the word melancholy from the Greeks. It breaks into two parts – melan (black), and cholia (bile) – relating to a mood that is likened to a thick black substance, hence a gloomy state of mind. You will also find the root melan in melanin, melanoma and Melanesia.

Our language is chock a block with Latin and Greek derivations, along with French and Germanic and a few others from other countries around the globe. A common Latin root is aqu- referring to water, from which we get aqua, aquarium, aquiduct, aquaculture and aquifer. We use the Latin root ann- or -enn- for words referring to year, such as annual, anniversary, biannual and millennium. The Greek amphi- for “both sides” is used in amphibian, amphitheatre and amphibolic. We get the words gastric and gastroenterologist from the Greek root gastr– (stomach).

The English language has an even longer history with the Germanic languages because of the early influences of invasions of Britain from Germanic invaders. Words such as hamburger, waltz, kindergarten and quartz are some of the survivors. Here are some references that will open your eyes to the rich language sources of our complex language that today continues to evolve and develop.