Category Archives: Writing Tips

See Above

Okay, it’s time for me to share my pet peeves with you, take notes because I read a lot of books, and once I’m annoyed your book no longer means anything to me.

  1. The most annoying thing that I have ever seen in a book (yes, more annoying than typos), is when authors use the ‘above’. “See the above photo” or “as mentioned above”, while there is nothing inherently wrong with those statements in and of themselves, there is when the above mentioned photos or statements AREN’T above, but actually 6 pages back. Yes, when we write a book everything is above to us, but when the book is printed it simply isn’t one long document anymore (well, maybe on Kindle). There are pages, and unless you are 100% sure that what you are referring to is going to be printed on the same page, you need to use a different phrase. “Previously mentioned,” “Photo 1A,” “the photo on page 86,” “see chapter 2” there are just tons of things that you can put that do not misuse the preposition above. Because I’m pretty sure that all of us learned in our toddler years that above does not equal previous, it is in fact in the upward direction in relation to another object.
  2. Typos. Yes, typos annoy me. Not in blogs, or even so much in self-published books. But if I get a book from a traditional publisher and it spells the word do with only a ‘d’ (true story) I will never get over it. If your book is published traditionally, it has to go through like 3 different editors, somebody really ought to catch something as serious as that!
  3. Alright, the two mentioned above (note the correct usage of above) are really the biggest two. However, if you are writing Christian non-fiction, it’s key to use a reliable translation. I don’t want to spend the entire book looking up the Scriptures you used because you used a paraphrase instead of an actual translation. I don’t care if the Message uses your favorite wording, I want to know what God actually said, not what one man thinks God meant. There is a time and a place for that, and it isn’t in non-fiction books where you are trying to support your theory.

I’m sure that there are more, however those are the main ones. What about you? Do you have any pet peeves that we should avoid in our writing? Please help us out and share!

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Guest Blogging Etiquette

During November I have been hosting guest bloggers on Fridays. I have learned quite a few things during this time, and I wanted to share a few things with you.

If you are ever asked to be a guest blogger:

1. Stay on topic – If they ask you to write about something (no matter how broad or narrow the category) stay on topic! Don’t agree if you can’t write about what they are asking. It’s that simple.

2. Know your definitions – If you are asked to be a guest blogger, know what they want from you. A guest blogger writes a post to be posted on someone elses blog. A blog interview is where you answer questions to be posted on someones blog, and a feature is when they blog about you. Know the differences!

3. Mind the details – If they ask for a 500 word post, get as close as possible without being insanely shorter or longer. If they don’t specify, you may want to check if it matters. If they ask for a picture, be sure to send one. If they ask for an author bio, include one. If you want to be invited back, following instructions is key!

4. Be on time – No one likes a no-show! If you commit to getting them a blog, do so. If something does comes up where you wont be able to meet the deadline, be courteous enough to let them know and offer an apology.

If you are hosting guest bloggers:

1. Be specific – Let them know what you want. Topic, length, author bios, photos vs. no photos, language restrictions, anything that you can do to make it easier for there not to be problems later on is great! Then if the guidelines aren’t followed you will have a leg to stand on when you ask for a re-write or decide not to post what they have sent you.

2. Follow up – If your setting up a schedule, give them a deadline and follow-up if it isn’t met. You may even want to send them a reminder a week in advance. After the blog is posted, send them the link incase they want to share it with friends or see how it turned out.

For more great tips on helping you be a successful guest blogger, check out “A Step-by-Step Guide to Guest Blogging” by Shelley Hitz.

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Self-editing

I am in the process of putting together a writing submission for a website. I believe one of the most important parts of submitting writing, is the editing. While they aren’t looking for a polished master piece, self-editing work is extremely important. As an editor, I know that most writers will never catch all of their own mistakes. Because we know what we meant to say, we often read it the way we wanted to write it, and not the way we actually wrote it. Nobody is perfect, everyone does it (sorry if I burst your bubble). So, as I am going through this process, I thought that I would share a bit of what I’m learning.

~The number one thing that I have found is that you should take a break between writing and editing. Whether you wait 5 minutes or 5 days, you need to take a break. Separate yourself from what you have just written. You can write about something else, read a book, run to the grocery store, whatever, just put some space between you and that piece of writing for a bit.

~Run the spell check. Seriously. Before you start exhausting yourself over little details, just run the spell check and get the little stuff out of the way. This is not the end all, but don’t skip the simple stuff.

~The next thing, and I believe that this is HUGE, is to read it out loud. You will catch so many more mistakes that way, and ironically, I have thought that my writing needed thrown out before, and read it to my husband to show him just exactly why I needed to start over, and it was actually pretty good. There is something about hearing the words that really helps you to get a feel for what you wrote.

~Print your work. Having the paper in your hand vs. looking at the computer screen can help you look at your writing differently. I always see more mistakes on paper, and I would rather that paper be my rough draft then a final printed copy later on…

~When editing it’s important to look at your work from the intended audiences point of view. You didn’t write this for yourself (or maybe you did), try to picture yourself as your reader, and decide if what you have written is really something that they will want to read.

~Don’t be redundant. Check for words that you might use to frequently. When possible, try not to use the same noun, verb, or adjective twice in the same paragraph. How many times it is acceptable to use it in your document varies with the length of your document. You should be able to tell if you are favoring a word and over using it.

~Be your own spell check. Go back through and look for typos. Check your spelling, grammar, formatting,  details, and other things that are just little mistakes that can make a huge difference.

~Last, but not least, whenever possible ask someone else to read your writing, or listen to you read it. Even a little, unprofessional feedback is better than none. I do recommend doing this last, because you don’t want to waste their time. However, if you need to go back through the process, then do so.

What about you? Do you have any self-editing tips?

If you want to read some other great posts about self-editing, check these out:

Three Simple Stages of Self-Editing by Author, Jody Hedlund

Proofreading at Purdue Online Writing Lab

10 Steps for Editing Your Own Writing at Daily Writing Tips

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Who, that, which?

Wait, do I use who or that in this sentence? And in the next sentence, is it that or which??? Do you ever get confused with these three little words? You are not alone! Here are some simple rules to help you out:

Who/that: 
Generally ‘who’ refers to people or personifications and ‘that’ refers to groups or things. Here are a few examples:
Amazon is an organization that sells books.
Amazon, who loves selling books for great prices, is just one of many places to buy books online.

That/which:
‘That’ is primarily used in the main part of the sentence. It is used in places where you are referring to something; e.g., Elizabeth was the one that won the prize. ‘Which’ is used in the secondary part of the sentence; e.g., Elizabeth won the prize, which was awarded on Sunday, for the best photograph. Basically, ‘that’ is used when the part of the sentence it’s in can’t be removed. Where as ‘which’ is used in an optional part of the sentence.
*The only exception to this rule is if you open the sentence with ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘those’ or ‘these’, you would then use ‘which’ in the main part of the sentence.

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Precede vs. proceed

Do you ever proceed to get the words proceed and precede confused?

Proceed is when you proceed with a plan. You can proceed to write a book or proceed to climb a tree.Proceed would mean the same thing as ‘go ahead’ or ‘move forward’.

Precede is when something comes before something else. The band preceded the horses in the parade. A mans words precede his actions.

If you use proceed or precede in your writing, I suggest you proceed with caution to ensure that you use them correctly…

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Word formatting

Is formatting your absolute favorite part of writing? No? Mine either, however I have been re-formatting a few books recently and I must say that the more I do it, the less I loath it. Half the battle with formatting is knowing how to do it, and not just how to do it, but all the short cuts that make it work with as little effort as possible. I personally use Microsoft Office, and while I love this program, it defiantly takes some know how to go from standard knowhow to proficient at using it.

I think my number one tip to formatting is to utilize the “Style Gallery”. When I first started using Microsoft Word, this tool was so foreign to me. I thought that it was predetermined by Microsoft and we had no say in the matter. That is just entirely not true. You can update, rename, and/or remove the default settings to match each document that you work on, and then create any other quick styles that you might need or want. This makes formatting changes as simple as 1 click. When you are using the quick styles, you no longer have to highlight the section that you want to change, then choose your font, size, spacing, and/or text style. All you have to do is highlight the text and click your quick style.

The style gallery is probably my number one formatting friend. When utilizing the style gallery you can also do automatic tables of contents which is a beast of it’s own burden. While I can (and do) use those, I am not proficient with them as of yet.) Do you have a favorite formatting tool that you can share with us? Or any tips on using one?

Here are a few more helpful tips on the quick style gallery:
Word 2007 Style Tricks
Quick Style Gallery
How to apply a style in Microsoft Word

Note: I use Office 2007, and most of the links provided cover that as well.

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I.e. and e.g.

While I was working today I learned that people often miss use i.e. and e.g. in their writing. I was actually looking for the correct way to write i.e. (caps vs. no caps, periods vs. no punctuation, ect.), however I ended up learning so much more!

I.e. stands for the Latin words “id est”. In English that would translate to “that is” or “in other words”, an easy way to remember it’s meaning would be to think of it as saying “in effect” or “in essence”. You would use this abbreviation if you were modeling what something should be like or what it is; i.e., when you want to clarify something.

E.g. on the other hand, stands for the Latin words “exempli gratia”, or in English “For example”. An easy way to remember this abbreviation would be to remember e.g. means “example(s) given”. You would use e.g. when you wanted to give one or more examples of something; e.g., My kids like to play boardgames; e.g., Battleship, Risk, and Chess.

Other tips:
*I.e and e.g. do not need to be put in italics, but they should be separated by periods.
*In the U.S. they should be followed by commas, but in Europe they would consider that double punctuation and the comma should be left off. I know several people that follow them with a colon, but can find no references of that being correct (or incorrect for that matter).
*Most people believe that putting i.e. or e.g. inside of parentheses is redundant, but there are a few who say it is okay. If the abbreviation follows a complete sentence it is better to use a semicolon after the sentence then add the abbreviation and added comment, ending with a period. If the abbreviation is given mid-sentence, you would just separate it by commas.
*Many people believe that you should not use “etc.” when using i.e. or e.g. as they both indicate incomplete lists. However, I do not believe this is a solid rule (more of an opinion really); i.e., if you were saying to someone, “Many animals swim in water, to name a few, fish, sharks, turtles, and so on and so forth.” you could shorten that to, “Many animals swim in water; i.e., fish, sharks, turtles, etc.”
*I.e. and e.g. should be in all lowercase letters, unless they start a new sentence.

This is just the information that I learned today, if anyone has any added information on this topic, I would love some more input!

Happy writing!

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