Monday Motivation: Read This Cool Stuff VI

Well, I’m not gonna lie: this Monday is particularly rough since I’m working early and got just a few hours of restless sleep last night. But sometimes, that’s how it goes. I could definitely use some motivation today to get me through the week, and I’m sure you’re in a similar boat. Therefore, I bring you three great articles to check out:

1. How to Write Better: 7 Simple Ways to Declutter Your Writing by Jodie Renner on The Write Life

This is a GREAT article. It explains how to simplify your writing in order to have a greater impact on readers. All the tips given are ones I stand by, especially as an editor. In fact, most, if not all, of the tips sound exactly like what I would tell my own clients. Even if you don’t think you’re struggling with consolidating your writing, give it a read. How to declutter your writing is never a bad thing to study, no matter your level of expertise on the matter.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 15.55.50

2. 45 Tweetable Quotes About Creativity to Inspire Your Next Big Idea by Lindsay Kolowich at HubSpot

The title says it all: quotes that will help inspire your next big idea. I often write down quotes I find inspirating in my journal, and when I have a blah kind of day, I look back over the quotes and feel much better after. Check out these quotes and see if you can find a few that speak to you.

7K0A0014-2

3. 5 Top Social Media Dashboard Tools to Manage Your Social Accounts by Pooja Lohana on JeffBullas.com

Again, it’s all in the title for this article. Not only does this post provide a list of the top 5 tools, but it also gives readers a breakdown of the benefits of using such tools. As your small business, freelancing gig, or author platform grows, I guarantee that you will get to a point where you need such tools. Social Media is everything nowadays, whether we like it or not. So, I highly recommend you checking out this article to see if any of these tools will work for you. 

IMG_1246

That’s all for now, folks. Hope you have a great week. And, remember: if you’re in need of an editor, make sure you contact me! 🙂

Self-Editing in 9 Easy Steps

(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)

I write EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even if it’s texting, I consider that a form of writing. Most of the time, however, I write at least an e-mail and blog post each day. Culturally, many of us have become lazy in regards to self-editing/proofreading what we write. In a world where our version of shorthand is “TTYL” or “U” for “You,” abbreviations are the gateway to lazy writing and lazy editing.

Let’s change that.

Since the age of 12, I’ve taken self-editing very seriously. I’m nowhere near perfect, but my “editing detective eyes” have become better and better as time has progressed. Taking your own communications seriously will prompt others to take you seriously, too. Trust me on this one.

I’ve created some resources to help you out with self-editing. These resources don’t replace another set of eyes (or a professional editor), but they will help immensely, especially if you’re helter skelter when it comes to your own writing.

IMG_0766

This checklist is simple and straightforward:

1. Check spelling—don’t rely on spell check for everything, either!

2. Check grammar—ditto to the above ^

3. Proofread your article, e-mail, blog, etc. at least 3xs—don’t be lazy!

4. Review the context/meaning of your wording
-Did you use the right words? (See the common grammar mistakes info graphic below)
-Do you have misplaced/dangling modifiers? http://www.writingcentre.uottawa.ca/hypergrammar/msplmod.html
-Is your message clear and concise?
-Did you cut/edit unnecessary wording?

5. Check your dates & times (if applicable)

6. Check your sources (if applicable)

7. Check your links (if applicable) NO ONE appreciates a broken/incorrect link

8. If you are sending an e-mail, double check your recipient list (and if it’s not an inter-office communication, best practice is to BCC recipients to protect privacy)

9. If working in a Word/Pages document, save often

You can find my checklist on Evernote (I’ve shared it publicly) by clicking HERE. Feel free to copy it to your own Evernote notebook so you can actually use the check boxes that are not shown in this post.

I’ve also made an infographic (my first!) about common grammar mistakes. Check it out by clicking HERE.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 1.45.10 PM

There are, of course, so many more elements to editing, but this is a great start. The resources here can definitely get you through your next e-mail or blog post. However, if you find yourself in need of a professional editor, well…you know where to find me. Happy editing!

The Importance of Brevity (In Exactly 500 Words)

As a writer, it will probably be my life-long struggle to pare down my words and get to the points that really matter. Even in fiction, there’s a line you shouldn’t cross when it comes to the overuse of details. It’s more obvious in non-fiction, especially in journalism-type writings. No matter what the communication avenue, brevity plays a key role in successfully conveying a message.

“Good things, when short, are twice as good.”
—Gracián

As an editor, a key component of my services to my clients includes helping them to develop their projects while getting rid of the chaff. We’re not in high school anymore, so we shouldn’t write bullsh**. If we do, our credibility is apt to go down the toilet. With so much quality content just a Google search away, it is crucial to be clear and concise with our words.

Even editors need editors. My first novel, with notes from my editor. Which is also what I do for my clients.

Even editors need editors. My first novel, with notes from my editor. Which is also what I do for my clients.

Here are 5 simple rules to follow when constructing a communication piece:

  • Write it ALL (Similar to “free writing,” write with abandon, and get all your thoughts out of your brain.)
  • Re-read it while doing a simultaneous edit, at least 3xs (This is where you begin to make sense of everything and weed out the garbage.)
  • Read it aloud (Reading to yourself is one thing; hearing it spoken is a whole different bear.)
  • Ask someone to look over it (If it’s an important piece, another eye is always good. If that’s not an option for you, however, just go over it one more time by yourself; you’ll be surprised to find that it still needs tweaking.)
  • Send it, publish it, deliver it (Release your baby into the world!)

Sometimes, it’s necessary to write something not so brief. However, most of us are guilty of adding in too much fluff. Maybe it’s a culture thing, maybe it’s how we’ve been taught. Either way, in my personal and professional experience, the more clear our communication is, the more beneficial it is.

And, a well-expressed piece of communication is just damn good.

Try the above “rules” when you construct your next e-mail or blog post. You don’t have to be a professional writer; you simply need to take a few extra minutes to do some rewriting and self-editing. The more you practice, the more effective you’ll be with writing and communicating. You can become a better communicator if you put some effort into it.

“Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
—William Strunk, Jr.

Do YOU have tips to share about the importance of brevity? Leave a comment!

Click HERE to read an article from WebAIM about writing clearly and simply.

Looking for an editor? Contact me TODAY and get a free quote! Let’s work together.

5 Reasons Why You Should Hire A Professional Editor

So you got straight A’s in English class in high school, and passed English 1A in college. Now, you’ve written something—maybe a novel, an article, or even copy for a website. You think you’re pretty good at writing, so you’re probably a pretty good editor too, right? WRONG.

Contrary to popular belief, it is essential to hire a professional editor for many reasons, especially if you plan on making your work public. And no, your wife, your smart kid, and your best friend don’t make the cut as professional editors (unless, of course, they have the proper training). Also, Microsoft Word is not the final authority for the written word; though, using spell and grammar check does help a ton.

I’ve had my business for a few years now, but I’ve been editing for many, many years. And the more I work with my clients, the more I see the same mistakes over and over again. If I had a dollar for every time a client told me, “Well, I had so-and-so look over my manuscript, and they’ve been editing for a while, and they think my work is pretty good,” I’d be a very rich lady.

Even I have a professional editor who looks over my big stuff. It’s very important to present the best of yourself, and if you feel otherwise, you have no business writing content to share with the masses, much less put it up for sale.

To further support my argument, I’ve broken it down into 5 reasons why hiring a professional editor will do you a world of good, and prevent severe pain down the road.

Why should I hire a professional editor?

1. Because your work reflects you—and don’t you want to look good?

Look: image is everything. It’s cliché and it sucks, but that’s what makes the world go round. If you have something to say, say it with grace, dignity, and authority—and make sure it’s well edited. Looking the part goes a long way and lends credibility to your image.

7K0A0079

2. Because it saves you time to devote to writing and building your brand.

Many of us already feel pressed for time. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to solely focus on your writing and your brand? With a professional editor in your arsenal, you can do just that.

7K0A0108

3. Because you probably haven’t been properly trained.

Like I mentioned before, Microsoft Word and other word processing programs are not a catchall—nor are your friends or family. And chances are that you have not been trained as an editor, either. When I needed knee surgery, I didn’t attempt to do it myself; I went to an orthopedic surgeon. And though that’s an extreme example, it’s a good visual to continue the argument.

IMG_0766

4. Because there are always mistakes.

Here’s further perspective for you: I have edited many manuscripts after they have been on the market. Sadly, my clients paid for “professional” services that were a load of crap. I could not believe how many errors I found!

In one novel, I made 1,750 changes in total! In another, I made 2,631! And those weren’t even the worst. This, folks, is just one of the many reasons to hire a professional who has actually been trained and has also been editing for a number of years.

IMG_0804

5. Because even editors need an editor!

Hey, just because I’m a professional editor doesn’t mean that my stuff comes out perfect every time. I have my own professional editor, who is worth every penny. It’s important for me to have an outside/objective opinion when it comes to my writing. It not only helps to catch all the mistakes I make, but also improves my writing and gives me confidence to continue to pursue my literary endeavors.

IMG_3310

Here are two grammar quizzes you can take, just for fun. You may be able to get a better sense of your grammar knowledge:

 http://syntaxis.com/grammar-quiz

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationquestions/9987757/Good-grammar-test-can-you-pass.html

Now, after all that, you may be asking: Tamar, how can I find a good editor? I’m glad you asked!

A good editor has a good track record. A good editor is not someone who edits just to make extra money; he or she is passionate about what he or she does, and has been in the industry for a while. A good editor may offer to give you a sample edit, or may post some examples of his or her prior work on his or her website. A good editor is typically easy to find on the Internet and has a professional website. And, he or she has a substantial portfolio that is constantly updated. Also, good editors are not very cheap! A good editor is worth his or her weight in gold, and will charge a reasonable rate for his or her time.

If you’re at a loss for where to even start looking, you can always hire me 😉 Yes, shameless plug, but hey—you’re here already, right? I’d love to work with you on your project, contact me for a quote.

 

Arguments for Using Synonyms

A few weeks ago, I hosted a good friend, author Robin Woods, on my blog. She provided us all with a very helpful, organized chart of synonyms for “said” and “walk.” Click HERE to read the post and download the cool chart.

For the most part, many people received the FREE guide with high levels of gratitude. In fact, it has been my most viewed post this year. But there were also a surprising number of naysayers and I feel the need to provide a rebuttal.

In all the informal and formal training I’ve had in the English language (heck, Spanish, too!), I have been taught to avoid word repetition. Hence, the writing exercises we love to hate: exercises with synonyms.

Of course there are exceptions—there always are, right? But in the past two decades, as my writing grew from something I was “good at” to my passionate pursuit and career, I’ve noticed that I appropriately edit out repeats in my writing or become annoyed as a reader when I spot word repetition.

One of the best writing teachers I ever had was my twelfth grade English teacher. Not only was he snarky and witty, but he was a damn good teacher. I remember a particular assignment for a book report. We had just finished reading C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce (an all-time favorite), and were told to write a two page, analytical paper. The length made it sound all too easy.

Upon bringing the first draft back to class, our teacher announced that we would be editing the paper—tearing it apart would have been a better description—in order to identify any words that had been trampled to death through the horrible habit of replication. Being an eighteen-year-old-know-it-all, I thought Please…this’ll be easy. I’m a good writer. But that morning, I was devastated to see my own red pen at war with the crisp white paper and black letters in my “awesome” essay.

247486941993359037_qmzGczGP_cImage via Some eCards.

We weren’t even allowed to repeat the same verb! You have an “is” already? Well then cross out the one in the next sentence, because it’s not allowed. Not only did we use more dynamic verbs, but we also learned how to rearrange sentence structure in order to improve the flow of our prose. Once a few peer editors, and myself, combed through my paper, it was stellar. I mean…one of the best papers I had ever written in high school. And the language wasn’t “flowery” by any means. It simply read well and expressed my thoughts more succinctly than I could have imagined.

That ingenious assignment made me a better writer and editor. But it also cursed me with an eye that now catches repetition and becomes easily irritated. And I know…we ALL are guilty of this writing crime and sometimes I’m just lazy and don’t care. However, when writing something that you want to be great, be careful with what you repeat.

I will sheepishly admit that my most repeated word is “was.” Ugh. Still trying to work on that one.

IMG_0178

My mug shot for overuse of “was.”

Recently, I read a good, short article on Create Space about such practices. Click HERE to read it. I think the example she gives is awesome.

So what exactly did those Negative Nellies say about my blog post on synonyms? Oh, you know, things like…

“It’s inadvisable to use synonyms for said.”

“Why would it be necessary to say it in another way if a character ‘said’ it?”

They even quoted Elmore Leonard (God rest his soul) at me: “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character, the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. “

Les Edgerton, in his book Hooked: write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go, also has something to say about dialogue tags. He argues: “Especially avoid using adverbial qualifiers for dialogue tags; instead, stick to said for almost all of your tags.” (pg. 31)

And yeah, I get it. I really do.

But may I ask this: what if my character is about to face certain death if she is heard aloud? Wouldn’t the reader want to read this:

“I can’t do this without you, Geoffrey. You have to show me what to do,” she whispered as they crouched behind a couch, waiting for the sound of footsteps to dissolve.

Instead of:

“I can’t do this without you, Geoffrey. You have to show me what to do,” she said as they crouched behind a couch, waiting for the sound of footsteps to dissolve.

I don’t know…maybe I’m thinking too much like a screenwriter, eager to show my reader what is happening in every aspect that I can. I want you to know that my character is whispering—not just saying something—but whispering it. Or pleading something. Or replying to the question that was just asked. Maybe she’s even breathing a statement, indicating that she is so tired or anxious about something, she can barely speak.

This is NOT necessary in every case and can certainly deter from the story if overdone. But my argument is that using “said” every time should not be an absolute. There is creative freedom to be had by all of us crazy writers.

crazy workImage via Some eCards.

Personally, when I read fiction that draws me in, it typically doesn’t have “said” repeated often, and the writer uses feeling words that describe how something is being said. Everyone is different, but that’s what I like and what flows best—to me.

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Merlin, by Stephen R. Lawhead. Though “said” is used more often than not throughout the book’s conversations—in the proper way, of course—this passage contains other dialogue tags that are appropriate and do not deter from the story.

We rode on a pace or so, and then I reined up. “Pelleas, listen carefully to me now. You have found me and brought me back to the world of men, and I thank you for that. But it is in my mind that you will soon curse the day you begged my service. You will wish, perhaps, that you had never wasted a day in search for me.”

“Forgive me, my lord, but your own heart will prove traitor before I do,” he swore. And I knew he meant it with all that was in him.

“What I have to do will earn no man’s thanks,” I warned him. “It could be that before I am through I will be despised from one end of this island to the other, with every hand raised against me and those who stand with me.”

“Let others make their choice; I have made mine, my Lord Merlin.”

He was in earnest, and now that I knew he understood how hard it would be, I knew I could trust him with both our lives. “So be it,” I said. “May God reward your faith, my friend.”

See? Only ONE “said” in that and I think Lawhead’s writing is brilliant! Honestly, though, what kind of writer would I be if I weren’t willing to hear every side? I’m curious to know thoughts that you have about using synonyms for “said” and synonyms in general. Be nice, but speak your mind. Let’s have it!

Until next time…

Cheers!