Friday, April 25, 2014

13 words that don't mean what they used to

I came across this fascinating article about words whose meaning had changed a lot since the old days.
We’re all aware of how terms such as “chip” and “gay” have evolved, but some of these ones might surprise you.
What do you think artificial, charisma, buxom, and myriad mean? And please note. It is never “a myriad of” It’s just “myriad”.


Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Advice from Stephen King

Author Stephen King is well known for his advice about hooking the reader with the opening line of a story. It’s one of the best pieces of wisdom out there. Readers are too busy nowadays to keep reading for long if the book doesn’t grip them right at the start.

In a recent interview he’s listed twenty pieces of advice for writers. Some of them are rather similar to each other, but they’re worth reading. Instructions such as write for yourself, keep reading, eliminate distractions and more are all worth absorbing.
The article is here:

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why editors hate adverbs

One reason editors get their red pens out and viciously delete adverbs from an author’s work is because they do nothing to aid the story. One of my pet hates is visibly.

She shook her head visibly.

Okay. Have you even seen anyone shake their head invisibly? No. So why add visibly here? Why not use a useful word: Violently? Slightly?

Modifying superlatives. The whole point of a superlative is that it’s the biggest and best word there is. Modifying it is just a waste of ink.

For example, unique. Unique means one of a kind. If it is a unique bowl and you want to tell us more about it, saying it is very unique or most unique tells us nothing. Tell us it’s green or big or something else.

And while I’m talking about just, very, nice, etc most of them can be deleted without changing the meaning at all. Try looking for a useful word that tells as more about the thing you’re describing.

Adverbs can actually be very quite helpful. Just make sure the ones you use are relevant.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Friday, April 11, 2014

11 Banned Books

People who know me well, also know that every now and again I rant about internet cafes that won’t permit me to access the dictionary. For an editor, a really good dictionary is the most essential tool available. I use, but most editors have their own favorite, and some publishing houses have a dictionary they insist on. Merriam-Webster is probably the most common choice.

I’m well aware that dictionaries have naughty words in them, but banning the dictionary is hardly a useful solution in my opinion.

Which brings me to today’s blog. Banned books. When the first Harry Potter book was published adults everywhere started screaming that it would cause “the destruction of a generation of children”. I wasn’t convinced then, and time has shown that the prophets of doom were wrong and actually those books had a positive effect, encouraging reluctant readers to attempt to read a full-length book.

So here’s a collection of eleven banned books that should have you scratching your head in confusion. Seven of them were set texts I had to read at school/university and only one of them I haven’t read. All the others I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage anyone to try. (I can’t comment on the one I haven’t read).

Most of them are on my bookshelves at home somewhere. Perhaps I’d better hide them before the grandkids find them. Or maybe not.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ten Grammar Errors Everyone Needs to Fix

Authors, writers, job applicants please pay attention!

I was reading a fascinating marketing article recently. Well fascinating to an editor, anyway.

Here is a direct quote from the opening paragraph of the article. “I may be a stickler, but if I get a cover letter or resume from an applicant for any kind of job, and I find a typo or one of the 10 big grammar errors you’ll see below, it all goes into the trash. Those kinds of mistakes tell me that the applicant didn’t put enough time and energy into that resume or cover letter to get it right, so they’re not likely to meet my company’s (and my personal) standards for attention to detail overall.”

Yes, people do need grammar nazis in their lives if they want to succeed in landing their dream job. So here are their top ten No-Nos. If they look rather familiar, it’s because I’ve told you about all of them before. But no need to listen to me, just listen to the person handing out the jobs.

The same is true for authors wanting to sell a book, or to attract the attention of a publishers, agent or editor.

1. It’s vs. its. It’s is short for it is. Possessive is its. Its pen. It’s hot today.

2. Your vs. you’re. You’re is short for you are. Your is possessive. Your pen.

3. Affect vs. effect. You Affect an Effect. (RAVEN: Remember, Affect Verb, Effect Noun).

4. The dangling participle. A lot of people struggle with this one. The front of your sentence has to be connected to the back of your sentence.

5. There, their, they’re. There is a place. Let’s go over there. Their is possessive. Their pens. They’re is short for they are.

6. Could of vs. could have. There is no such thing as could of, would of, or should of. It’s always have.

7. Me, myself and I. Take out all the middle bits of your sentence and it’ll be easy to see which word is correct. Grandma had a box of chocolates and she gave them all to Bobby and … (I or me?) She gave them to ME.

8. Then vs. than. Mostly it should be then. Than is used to compare things.

9. Under/Overuse of commas. The Oxford comma is dead and buried. Only use commas when the sentence might be confusing without them, or before a vocative. If the sentence is long and you need commas for breathing spaces, it’s too long. Cut it into two sentences instead of adding commas. (vocative = Let’s eat, Grandma. Otherwise you might end up eating Grandma.)

10. Improper use of the apostrophe. An apostrophe is used when a letter has been left out (we’re = we are) or for possession. Bobby’s chocolates.

The original article about applying for a job is here:

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.