Day 18: New Oxford Style Manual


I bought this book to add to my collection of style manuals that now take up an entire shelf in my office. I edited a manuscript for submission to a UK publisher and so it had to follow UK style. And it worked! John Hockney’s memoir is to be published later this year by Legend Press in the UK, who are also publishing Mark Brandi‘s new novel, and have just released Into the River (Wimmera in Australia.)

Why would an editor want more than one style manual? Surely good style is just that? Not really. There are so many variations that are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but rather are choices. Your publisher and your reader want to see consistency. When it comes to word endings, for example, -ise and -ize are both correct, and both are used in UK English (although generally not in Australia). The Australian Style Manual will direct you use -ise;  Oxford stipulates -ize.

Two guides in one

You get two guides in this lovely chunky book: a style guide and a dictionary. The Oxford Style Manual is based on Hart’s Rules for Compositors and Readers at the University Press, Oxford, first published in 1893. New Hart’s Rules makes up the first half of the book, and is aimed at writers, editors, self-publishers, digital publishers and anybody who has to present professional-looking papers, reports, essays and the like. Want to know how to handle footnotes and endnotes? There’s an entire chapter to guide you to getting it absolutely right. Wondering how the US and UK spellings differ and which you should use? Your answer is in the first section of this easy-to use reference.

Part II

Part II of the book is the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. It’s specifically designed for those who work with words and generally guides you on anything tricky. ‘Driftwood’ is one word, but ‘drift ice’ and ‘drift net’ are preferred. Per cent or percent, or just %: which to use? I can check this in the dictionary in seconds.

The Appendices are a useful bonus, covering the Greek alphabet, mathematical symbols, diacritics and accents and chemical elements, as well as Presidents of the USA and Prime Ministers of Great Britain and of the UK.

Find it online

There’s even an online version of New Hart’s Rules that you can access for free, along with a thesaurus and bilingual dictionaries, writing help, grammar tips and a whole lot more.

Day 16: Maths in Minutes

200 Key concepts explained in an instant

By Paul Glendinning


I don’t think I’m unique among writers and editors in being pretty average when it comes to numbers and all things mathematical. I like this chunky little book because it has entries on Monstrous Moonshine (surely a terrible drink from the prohibition era?) and the barber paradox (which exposes the flaws in elementary set theory). Also because for the first time I have an inkling what trigonometry is.

This is a handy reference for brushing up on the basics and checking that mathematical terms in anything I’m editing are correct. It’s arranged starting from the basics (numbers, sets, geometry) and moves on to the more mind-blowing (matrices, topology). So a systematic working through would allow you to nod knowingly at a mathematicians’ convention morning tea.

The author pours cold water on my sense of enlightenment. ‘Only a lunatic would pretend that all mathematics could be presented in 200 bite-sized chunks’, he says. Be that as it may, Maths in Minutes is enough for most of us.

Day 6: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

How to write it, sell it and market it…successfully!

By Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry



This expert guide to getting your book out there is packed with helpful information for new writers, would-be writers and those who have already published. The authors are simultaneously editors, literary agents and published writers. The first edition was published in 2005. This one, updated in 2015, takes the huge shifts that happened in the industry in those 10 years into account and includes ebooks and how to deal with social media. Although it’s written for the American market, most of it applies to publishing in Australia too.

The guide pinpoints what I aim to do for my writer clients to help them to get their work into shape to submit to publishers or for self-publishing. Read about the levels of edit most professional editors offer here.

“Outside editors, a.k.a. book doctors, diagnose, treat and help you fix your book.”

One of the book’s strengths – and there are many – is that it has sound advice no matter what you want to publish, from cookbook to potboiler, business manual to poetry volume. It’s not a writing manual (I’ll deal with those next week), but a practical (and pragmatic) how-to.

Publishing success comes from four basic principles:

  1. Research. Not just your subject matter, but what else is out there and who might publish your book. Do this and … your odds of getting published will go from nearly nil to extremely decent
  2. Network. Use your people skills to find the right publisher, create buzz, reach your readers and sell books. I believe this has become critical for successful publishing. The days of the cloistered author are well and truly over.
  3. Write. While this seems obvious, the authors say it’s the one thing published writers told them over and over. Get your ideas down on paper and keep at it.
  4. Persevere. You will have to deal with rejection. Probably a lot of rejection. As the authors say, ‘please, don’t quit five minutes before the miracle’.

Great news – John Hockney’s memoir to be published in 2019

I’m delighted that an author with whom I have worked this year has been signed up by publisher Legend Press. John Hockney’s memoir is to be published in mid-2019. I was honoured to edit it before submission. It’s a very satisfying aspect of my work to help writers  get their book published.  Legend Press includes top Australian writers Mark Brandi and Alice Pung on its list.

John is a professional storyteller and helps others to write their life stories. I met him at a wonderful workshop he ran in the Blue Mountains and went on to work with him on his book before he submitted it for publication. That it took only a couple of months before it was snapped up is testament to what  a great story he has told.

John Hockney: storyteller

Before I did his workshop ‘Your Life – Your Story’,  I heard John talk about life with his brother, world-renowned artist David Hockney. David’s exhibition Words & Pictures opened at Blue Mountains City Art Gallery in October 2017. I remember thinking, ‘He should write a book’.

John Hockney tells his story going back two generations. His grandfather was a founding member of the Salvation Army in Bradford in England’s industrial north. His grandmother would made him a cup of cocoa with whole milk – not the watered-down variety he had at home – after he had dragged home her shopping in his billycart.

You would expect that the world-famous artist David might dominate the book, but John gives every member of his brilliant and eccentric family their due.  His father, who liked to wear brightly coloured stick-on dots on his bow tie, was always true to his moral compass. His sister Margaret produced an art work of a squid squashed on her scanner. It was accepted in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The theme that they never worried what the neighbours think runs thorough the book.

With his closely observed detail and exceptional storytelling,  John Hockney combines the two essentials of memoir or autobiography: have a great story to tell and write it well. It’s often funny and always honest and true. My understanding of what life was like in  post-war Britain was so enriched,. My appreciation of what it means to be part of a family – in all its crazy complexity – was deepened immeasurably.

Watch this space for more closer to the publication date.

Editing, learning and reading

Editing has taken a back seat for a few months, but now I’m up and running again.

What I’m editing

I’m editing two memoirs: one about grief and loss, and one about a journalist’s experiences of the world at some crucial moments of change. I’ll keep you posted!

I’ve also been doing some legal editing; something I enjoy for it’s technical precision and (to me) always interesting subject matter.

What I’m learning

I’ve almost completed six weeks of the workshop Write your Story with John Hockney at the Mid-Mountains Neighbourhood Centre in Lawson. John is a writer, storyteller and facilitator, and is writing his very interesting life story. One of his brothers is acclaimed artist David Hockney, and his ancestors were some of the founders of the Salvation Army. I’ve learned so much from both him and the group, Perhaps the most important insight is that  EVERYBODY  has an interesting story to tell, and it’s all in the telling. as Dr Seuss said, ‘There is no one alive  who is Youer than you’. It’s been great to reach back into the past and grasp the stories of growing up in apartheid South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, which I’ll use as background to my novel one day.

quote from Dr Seuss

Wise words from Dr Seuss

What I’m reading

Cooktown by Andreas Heger: ‘It is a brutal and tender tale exploring male identity and toxic masculinity seen through a lens of sexuality, desire and abuse.’  – Thuy On

The Thin Time by Lisa Finn Powell . (To be honest I haven’t started this yet. I went to a fabulous workshop she gave about journalling grief, which will be very useful to me in my editing work. Lisa is an experienced journalist (among so many other things) and  it will be great to see how she tackled her own (rather devastating) story.

A world without ‘whom’?

 

Confession: using ‘whom’ correctly has always foxed me and sent me rummaging for the grammar primer.  So as soon as I saw this title on the bottom shelf in my local bookshop, I had to buy it. My  language Utopia was clearly on the horizon.

Emmy Favilla, BuzzFeed copy chief,  was responsible for its style guide, which caused an uproar in editorial circles (okay, four or five people were a little perplexed) when it was published in 2014. In the Introduction, Favilla writes, ‘Communication is an art, not a science or a machine, and artistic licence is especially constructive when the internet is the medium.’ I agree wholeheartedly.

Two chapters in, I’m like, yaaass! I’ll let you know how the rest goes.

Style guides for you

P.S. You can find the BuzzFeed Style Guide here.

My own short style guide for small businesses is here.

Think your writing doesn’t need editing? Think again!

 

Authors often pour more than their heart and soul into a book or an article. They may put their own money into a project too, especially if they self-publish or enter a partnership publishing arrangement. That’s why it’s so frustrating to see glaring  and embarrassing typos, incorrect word use and clumsy sentence structures in published books. Using a good copy editor and proofreading thoroughly are sensible investments in an author’s work, and not optional extras.

Not all editing oversights are as catastrophic as Penguin’s 2010 proofing error which left a recipe calling for ‘salt and freshly ground black people’.  The entire print run had to be pulped, at a cost of about $20,000.

And you thought spellcheck or editing software would do the job…

CBCA judges’ comments on editing

I read the judges’ comments on the 2017  Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year for older readers. This is what they had to say:

‘… many of the books are flawed by the inclusion of the kinds of grammatical errors that are in common oral currency… There are also occasional misuses of words… all solecisms that could have been eliminated with more attentive editing.’

These are published works submitted for a prestigious award.

The judges also said, ‘… a few novels that were otherwise excellent lost their place on the Notables list through flaws in their internal logic and character consistency; these issues should be attended to by close editing…’

Use a comprehensive editing service

copy editing

Proofreading is vital

If you’re planning to submit your manuscript to a publisher, enter a competition or self-publish, it makes sense to use a professional editor. At the very least, use an experienced proofreader. If your budget can possibly extend to a copy editor, it’s a wise investment. Better still, use an editor who provides a comprehensive editing service so that your structure, content, language, style and presentation are the best they can be for your readers.

YA novel Freefalling wins CBCA award for best unpublished manuscript

Maura Pierlot is this year’s Charlotte Waring Barton Award winner

Maura was announced as the winner of this award from the Children’s Book Council of Australia (NSW Branch), which is given annually for an unpublished manuscript. Maura wins a mentorship with  a well-known children’s writer. I was at the award ceremony in Sydney, and I think I might have let out a little shout when Maura’s name was read out as the winner – she had told me she definitely wasn’t going to win.

Maura Pierlot wins award

Maura Pierlot (centre) wins the CBCA NSW award for best unpublished manuscript.

I was lucky enough to copy edit the manuscript and I’m confident that it will be snapped up by a publisher.  It’s the contemporary story of Harley:  year 10 student, friend, sister, daughter and granddaughter, and her struggles with self-image, friendship, love and acceptance. Maura writes with great insight and sensitivity about eating disorders, disloyalty and grieving in a compulsively readable way.

Last year’s winner, Danika Hall, discussed her mentorship with Jen Storer as part of a great night at the offices of HarperCollins, whose children’s division sponsors the award.

Charlotte Waring  Barton was the writer of the first published children’s book in 1841, published anonymously as A Mother’s Offering to her Children: By a Lady, Long Resident in New South Wales. But more on that later, as it’s a story in itself.

Maura has also recently published the lovely children’s picture book The Trouble in Tune Town. It would be a great Christmas present for the music loving kids in your life.

 

The time-saving magic of an editorial style guide

style guides

How a style guide saves you time and money and helps you communicate your brand

When I edit material for different clients, I could spend a lot of time deciding whether to use Oxford commas, capitalise job titles, or start a sentence with ‘And’. Fortunately, I am usually given an editorial style guide to follow. I add a style sheet, where I record all the decisions I make as I go along. Using a style guide means I don’t confuse different clients’ house styles, and I don’t have to check back through the document to check what I did the last time I made a change. It’s all there in the editorial style guide.

Why use an editorial style guide?

An editorial style guide saves time

An editorial style guide is essential when you are trying to write clear, consistent, professional content that communicates your brand. Using a style guide cuts time spent on the mechanics of writing, freeing you up to concentrate on your great ideas. Multi-author documents will have a coherent tone and style, because you share the style guide with anybody who creates content for your organisation. That means less time spent briefing contributors and editing reports or newsletters.

Media organisations, publishers, universities and governments have style guides hundreds of pages long. Most small businesses don’t need that level of detail. A simple style guide that covers the most important points is enough. As you grow, you can add to the guide as needed. Remember, it’s not a grammar manual, but a record of the preferred usage in your organisation.

An editorial style guide is a live document

Language changes – sometimes quite fast. Writing ‘e-mail’ seems antiquated now, but that hyphen was considered correct not that long ago. Don’t be afraid to update your style, and use the style sheet to record your changes. Make sure everybody has the up-to-date version.

The style sheet is also useful for recording any industry-specific terms and abbreviations you use. I use mine to keep track of the spellings and usages I constantly stumble over. I edit with the style sheet for a particular client to hand, so I have a ready list of their specific usages. A style sheet in use may look like this.

Using a simple style sheet helps you track your editing decisions

Please download a copy of my editorial style guide, and feel free to add as needed.


Download  your editorial style guide here


An editorial style guide will help you to:

  • Establish the ‘voice’ of your brand
  • Collaborate effectively with other authors
  • Be consistent in communicating with your clients
  • Save time when creating content

Do you have a style questions? Please contact me and I will help .

How can an editor help you to create standout documents?

‘What does an editor do, exactly?’

I’m often asked what my role as an editor involves, and why anybody with a reasonable standard of language proficiency would need to use one.

Because we understand different things by the term ‘edit’ in various areas of publishing, I thought it would be useful to outline them here.  My job as a freelance editor involves working at three levels.

1. Substantive editing 

This is a big-picture edit.  I will look at the structure of your document,  its suitability for your audience, overall clarity and completeness, and assess whether your writing style is the best one for engaging your readers. A substantive edit can also involve checking copyright issues, such as whether permission is needed to use quotes and images. A substantive edit can also  identify other possible legal issues, such as  defamation.

2. Copy editing

At the copy editing stage, I focus on the mechanics of the writing. I take a more detailed look at clarity, completeness and style. I work to make sure the piece is consistent in its use of spelling, punctuation, headings, captions, tables and other features. I check sentence structure, spelling, headings, hyperlinks, continuity and all the inner workings of a piece of writing. I make sure that your document is consistent with your organisation’s house style as set out in your editorial style guide. (If  you don’t have one, I can create a style guide for you to use.)

3. Proofreading

We’ve all seen those (sometimes cringeworthy) errors in final documents. When you have read something many times over, it’s hard to see them. Proofreading is a final read-through for typos, spelling and punctuation errors, style mistakes, working links, sensible page breaks and the like. Sometimes the final version is checked against an earlier version. A thorough proofread weeds out any  errors so that they don’t make it into the final version of a print or online document.

 

You may need all three levels of edit, or just one or two.

Contact me about your structural editing, copy editing and proofreading needs.