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Saturday, May 1, 2010

On Editing by MWSA Member

Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy
by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
HowToDoItFrugally Publishing,2010
ISBN: 1450507654

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

I'm firmly of the opinion that one of the main difference between a good book and a great book is the quality of the edit. Carolyn Howard-Johnson knows that and has provided a series of books designed specifically to help authors edit their books without having to spend a fortune. The latest one in the Frugal series is a handy list of tricky, “trip-you-up” words that every writer would do well to master. Some, like “advice / advise” are common problems that dog the writer from primary school onwards, and it's probably time to get these sorted out. Others, like “although / though” are more subtle, and Howard-Johnson doesn't shirk from pointing out why the use of one word is preferable over another. The explanations are always clear, with well written and original examples, and once you've read Howard-Johnson's words of wisdom, you won't make the mistake again. The book is just 50 pages, and is easy to carry around for reference, or check through quickly when you're unsure. You could also use it as a kind of course book, taking on a pair of words a day with the aim of improving your overall English skills. Even if your English is masterful already, you might be surprised at how often you misuse some of the more common sets, such as “bring / take” or “childlike / childish.” Howard-Johnson even provides ill-used phrases like “It is what it is.” or the difference between i.e. and e.g. (I'm afraid I've misused this one myself). The book ends with a list of other recommended editing books.

A few small errors in a manuscript or piece of writing may seem like a minor problem, but they mark the writer as an amateur and can be just what an overworked editor is looking for in order to move your unread manuscript over to the slush pile. At best, they make the writer look sloppy and uneducated. At worst, you may be conveying something quite different to what you had in mind. Not all of writing is this clear and straightforward, so ensuring that you understand and are able to easily use and distinguish commonly confused words correctly is more than just a good thing. It's essential. That so much helpful advice is couched in such light-hearted, easy to read and entertaining prose is due to Howard-Johnson's abilityities. This little book has a simplicity that belies the importance of what it's conveying. Do yourself, and your readers, a favour and make sure that you choose the right word every time you write.

About the Reviewer:
Magdalena Ball runs the review site The Compulsive Reader ( .An Australian poet, she blogs at and her Web site is .

About the author:
The New Book Review is blogged by UCLA Extension Writers' Program instructor Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've loved. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by author names, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the index handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.
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1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you Carolyn about the differences between a good vs. great book- editing. I was disappointed with my editor's job on my first novel, Unwritten. Consequently, this sequel, Unbecoming, will be utilizing a new editorial crew.



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