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Archive for March, 2012

Kitty Slattery is an author and contributing editor for Guideposts magazine, the inspirational publisher of magazines and books. Kitty did a series of interviews for Inspiring Voices, the self publishing service of Guideposts launched with Author Solutions In these clips Kitty offers some advice on writing that I think is helpful to hear for the first time or as a reminder. In the first video, she asks the question, Is Writing for Me?. In the second video she addresses the importance of rewriting. Hopefully, you will find them motivating.

In the second video she addresses the importance of rewriting. Hopefully, you will find them motivating.

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This is the last of the series I have been posting on the mistakes readers never miss when reading a book. My intent with this series was to point out how easy it can be to miss simple editing issues, which can greatly effect the way readers perceive the quality of the book. The last mistake I think readers never miss is Misplaced modifiers.

These are probably the trickiest error of them all. One simple example of a misplaced (or dangling) modifier was used is in this sentence describing a person shopping for a book

Walking down the aisles, many books draw her interest.

In this sentence the books, not Shelley, are walking down the aisle all because of the misplaced modifiers. You might wonder if a reader would notice that. In this circumstance some wouldn’t but others would. Generally the thing that makes misplaced modifiers quite problematic is their tendency to make sentences confusing.

What exactly is being communicated in the following sentence?

We could understand the book read by the man easily.

What was easy? Was it easy for us to understand or was it easy for him to read the book? This would be confusing to any reader. An editor might reword this in one of two ways, depending on the author’s meaning:

“We could easily understand the book read by the man” or

“We could understand the book read easily by the man.”

The following two sentences have very different meanings.

He has read nearly every book on the shelf.

He has nearly read every book on the shelf.

The first sentence states he has read almost every book, so he has read most of them cover to cover, but there are a few left that he hasn’t read. The second sentence states that he hasn’t read any book on the shelf. He has come close to reading them, but has never actually done so. He has nearly read them. Confused yet? Hopefully the explanation of this example makes sense, but keep in mind this is one of the simplest examples of a misplaced modifier.

Now the point to all this is not to frustrate you with how the nuances of the English language can make it difficult to create a flawless manuscript. My intent is to use examples like this to encourage you to have a good editor review your manuscript before you publish you book. It is one of the best investments you can make as an author.

….the thing that makes misplaced modifiers quite problematic is their tendency to make sentences confusing.

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Compound words can be very frustrating because it does not seem like there are any hard and fast rules for determining what should be a compound word and what should be two words.  Take these words for example. Lifetime and lifespan are compound words, but life form is not. You might think that pay phone and light bulb would each be one word, but they’re not. Many compound words are not well known and are mistakenly treated as two words quite often. It’s also quite common for authors to accidentally put spaces between words like someone, something, somewhere, sometime; anyone, anything, just to name a few.. (Remember Spell Check will not catch any of these as errors if they are two words.)

Take a look at the sentences below. The first one is written as many authors would likely write it. The second sentence in the pair shows how compound words should be used properly in the sentence.

  1. He stopped in the drug store to buy some ball point pens and a note pad.
  2. He stopped in the drugstore to buy some ballpoint pens and a notepad.
  1. The school teachers met the book club at the local book store on week days.
  2. The schoolteachers met the book club at the local bookstore on weekdays.
  1. She wrote everyday in her journal about everyday life.
  2. She wrote every day in her journal about everyday life.

What did you think? Are the mistakes in sentence one of the pairs above, mistakes you would likely make? Don’t be embarrassed if the answer is yes. Compound words are one of the most confusing things about the English language in my opinion. Again, that is why having an editor thoroughly review your manuscript is definitely worth the investment.

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