I’ve seen a lot of books, both published and unpublished, in which authors use what I call the “Webster cliché.” This is the bit where the author brings up some aspect of his topic, and then, assuming the element is unfamiliar to the reader, writes something like this:
Webster’s defines “element” as “one of the simple substances air, water, fire, and earth of which according to early natural philosophers the physical universe was composed.”
This is a problem, and not only because I picked a different definition of “element” than one would expect from the context of the first paragraph. Continue reading
Last time I shared the basics a writer needs to know to prepare a book manuscript for submission to an agent or editor. Here are some of the finer points. Continue reading
Writers and editors may be the only people who get into arguments about spelling. In fact, I think it could easily be said that if you’re inclined to argue about how things ought to be spelled, you’re an editor, at heart if not by title.
Illustration by 3d_kot – Fotolia.com
I’ve been inclined to spell OK with two letters for as long as I can remember. Maybe I read an article about its origins early on. There’s no telling. But that spelling became deeply ingrained when I worked in the newsroom, because it’s the one endorsed by the Associated Press Stylebook.
So I was surprised when not one, but two critique partners, on two different occasions, told me OK was “wrong” and that the only acceptable spelling is okay. Further shock ensued when they both cited The Chicago Manual of Style as the origin of this edict. Continue reading
English is a beautiful but complex language. Because it borrows words from pretty much every other language on the planet, it has a massive vocabulary. Syntax can be intricate. Word formation is often illogical; for example, flammable and inflammable both mean “easy to burn.”
Feodor Korolevsky • http://istockphoto
Rules for punctuation are almost inscrutable. The Chicago Manual of Style’s section on commas is 14 pages long. For a seminar handout, I condensed the bare minimum most writers need to know about commas, and it’s still almost a whole page. This kind of thing makes writers crazy and keeps copyeditors in business. Continue reading