Weekend post from the sofa

All bloggers are writers. Some good, some mediocre, some bad, and some truly abysmal.

This weekend’s post from the sofa is inspired by a couple of authors whose blogs I’ve commented on this week.

Counting up the number of bloggers who regularly read on here I was surprised how many published authors there are. Whether it is fiction, technical writing, corporate publications, travel books, there are a lot of you out there. I’m including me in that list too, not as a journalist, but under corporate.

And then there are all those of you who do have a tale to tell but haven’t got round to it. I include my idle self in that category too.

The discussions I’ve had this week centred around two aspects of editing. Rules, and different types of editing, so this post is looking at everything from an editorial perspective, and, specifically mine.


What rules? Never end a sentence with a preposition? Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction? Or don’t dangle your modifiers?

I learned the first two at school. I learned to break them as a journalist.

I’d never heard of a dangled modifier until recently. We learned that anyway at school, it just wasn’t called that.

I got 20/20 or 19/20 for spelling tests. I got a Grade A for English Language O level. Writing English and spelling accurately came naturally.

But having learned to break the grammar rules as a journalist, I learned there was a lot more to writing than rules. Principally, style.

So, one of the key roles as an editor, is to conserve an author’s style.

That does not mean changing every sentence to fit with my personal view or whatever the latest trendy style guide/fashionable writers’ group/this week’s best-selling author says.

What is important, is – or – are (?!)

  • clarity
  • readability
  • consistency
  • spelling
  • punctuation
  • A good plot can help.

    There are far too many gurus in the literary world. Spend all your time reading them, and you will never finish your book. Worse, you will change it so much it will lose the essence.

    What does an editor really do?

    In a nutshell, they tidy up your book and make it presentable.

    The issue is, that within this, is a lot of gradation.

    You will read, at a minimum, about proofreading, copy editing, editing and developmental editing.

    Part of the problem with the terminology is that it comes from the days of hard copy. Hard copy is text written on paper.

    So back then, I would check galley proofs, whether for newspaper pages or corporate publications and mark them up with the relevant typographical symbols.

    But, and this is where the blur comes in, if I wanted to change text, I would do that too. So I was proofing and editing at the same time.

    Technically typesetters/compositors can’t change text of their own accord. They rely on marked-up text. But, I’ve known comps who will call over an editor/sub-editor, and say, this really isn’t right. It’s not the job of the comps to change something, but they read it and can’t let it go, so ask someone who has authority to make changes.

    With digital and self-publishing, the edges blur ever more. You don’t sit down with two copies of the same document and meticulously work your way through. Proofing and editing is now done on screen. Which is way harder.

    But how do I know what I need?

    Do I need an editor? Or a proofreader? Or beta-readers. Or best mates. Or …

    And believe me, there is confusion within the industry.

    Best mates and beta readers? Seriously, why bother? Yes, I’m sure loads of beta readers can justify their existence, but an author is wasting everyone’s time. Or maybe beta readers have time to waste.

    A good editor will spot literals, punctuation, plot inconsistencies, factual errors and will still charge you the same rate whether you have been beta-ed or not, because we have to check everything.

    Betas are one of the silliest aspects arising from self-publishing.

    What’s the difference between a proofreader and an editor?

    A proofreader doesn’t edit. An editor often proofreads. An editor suggests changes to your text. An editor makes her own decisions about changing text. An editor consults you about major changes, and notifies you about minor ones, eg some spelling, punctuation. But not everything. You don’t really want to know about the missing inserted full point.

    An editor who proofs will make early editorial changes to text, and then acts as proofreader for the final checks.

    I’ve read some interesting comments about how proofing and editing aren’t the same skills. They are both about checking. An editor’s job is to check and question.

    Moving onto a developmental editor. These are the ones who tell you, your story is crap, so are your characters, your plot, and your style needs to change. This is the critique you don’t want.

    A subtle editor would do that for you anyway. But if you want a developmental editor you need to make that clear.

    So, in a nutshell

    Proofers do not edit. Editors may or may not proof. Editors may include a variety of services or just be glorified proofreaders. Most people do not provide developmental editing aka telling you how to rewrite your book, unless you ask for it.

    There are a lot of people in publishing with no relevant skills at all. Would stet mean anything to them?

    And the most interesting part?

    A week or so ago, a blogger put together the cost of publication. Sorry. Can’t remember who, not on my list.

    While editing came in around a measly couple of hundred, as did developmental editing, proofing came in at a glorious one thousand smackers.

    That’s great, I’ll take twelve, thirteen hundred quid any time for doing editing and proofing. Or just the proofing.

    For an industry rate, let’s look at the NUJ. One of my favourite unions. Smoke-filled rooms of left-wing cabals of my youth.


    Sub-editing per day £210

    That is of course, for low-budget clients. Top end demands £320 or more.

    Press releases from £160 to £350

    Oh yes :)

    Brochures and annual reports – £450 a day

    I can live on that.

    The (UK) Society for Editors and Proofreaders

    Proofing – min hourly rate £22

    Copy-editing – min hourly rate £27.00

    Substantial editing, re-writing, development editing – min hourly rate £29.60

    Now who can afford that? Anyway I dislike hourly rates, but thought it was an interesting one for all poor struggling authors.

    To end with …

    I found sfep from some post or other. She proudly proclaimed her accreditation from them. And mis-spelled their name as Society OF Editors and Proofreaders. Not FOR. Idiot.

    We all make mistakes, especially on-line. But that wasn’t the cleverest one to make.

    I wouldn’t use accreditation that involves paid-for tests, which sfep does.

    My qualifications stand on their own.

    One of my snotty friends went to an interview and walked out when she was asked to take a test.

    ‘I have a qualification in museums.’ Take it or leave it.

    And, she was right to do so. How many times should professionals have to prove themselves?

    Check out qualifications. I qualified with the printing and publishing industry training board. I didn’t pay for it. Big difference.

    But to return full circle

    Your beta readers, your mates, your partner, whoever, are not enough.

    You need a fresh pair of objective eyes.

    You also need someone to question your writing.

    And, you need to understand what you are getting for your money. Make sure that is clear.

    Caveat emptor.

    (And the golden rule is never use Latin!)


    148 comments on “Weekend post from the sofa

    1. Any tips on how to attract readers. My first attempt at blogging was to describe my new life in plaster, but it seems to be of no interest to others. Because we are all just one misstep away from a similar fate I thought it would have fairly broad interest. Do you think it is because no one wants to read about the subject matter or because of the way I am writing it.


      • Too many answers!

        Nobody knows your old life, or anything apart from plaster. People need to know about you.

        Not what you eat for breakfast, but say, how much does health care cost? Work provided, or self-funded?

        What is happening apart from a leg in plaster? What did you do before?

        What are you doing now? How do you eat, what do you do when immobile, who helps you if anyone.

        Make it more personal.


    2. Just be yourself and write what you like and how you like to write it, its the other persons problem if they don’t like it :)

      Now please tell me were I went wrong above :)


    3. On tests in interviews, I would usually have one, and would not walk out. My knowledge was a great part of my value. The speed with which I could answer mattered. I would expect tests.

      Dangling modifier. Hmmm. I would not have called it that either, but I know it when I see it and I know it looks bad, even if anyone could work out what the author means.


      • I’m being hypocritical here. I actually have set tests for job candidates. Trouble is, people say they are skilled and they aren’t.

        In fact, the tests I set were irrelevant as the candidates I thought were good were the best anyway. Waste of time, but culture at the time.

        I’ve been on the receiving end of loads. But what was their worth? I was a great communicator according to one very fancy test. Did I get that particular PR job? No.

        I’m convinced a DM is an Americanism. And have you read about their diagram things? Weird, I tell you. People have their own style of writing. Doesn’t need to be tick-boxed.


    4. I hope your time spent on the sofa is becoming more comfortable and less painful now so that you can concentrate on entertaining we bloggers more with what we can/can’t get away with. I suspect senility has knocked out of my head most of the things I learned at school by now but luckily I did the world a favour by stopping writing.
      Heal well,


      • Bloggers can do whatever :) our own space, no need to market (we wish) and total control. Books are something else again though.

        So when did you stop writing? :D reminds me, Tariq had planted a wheelbarrow. Must finish reading.


    5. Watch it. People are going to say you should be crippled up more often. Sensible – down to realism post.
      Snorted and chortled of the “too many gurus” paragraph. Every writer should read that (but nothing to be gained from books and workshops, they gasp..yeah, lots of your money until you figure out writers mainly need to write. But don’t let me discourage anyone…)
      Ditto giggles over the “… OF Editors and Proofreaders. Not FOR. Idiot.” (and you don’t understand why people say your writing is hilarious?…but easily amused here)
      Interviews and tests? Sooner or later, you just say, here’s what I did/do. It’s sufficient. Today’s job market with so many applying/ the poor education level/ HR with insecurities or poor judgement wanting to have an easier time sorting out the “good ones” birthed these darn things.
      In any case, people can write as they wish in blogging – a freedom from working days’ rigid rule, but there are limits – and readers will just excuse so much and can wander else where. Your “what’s important list” still applies for many even in blogs.
      (Latin? old stuff…but maybe Chinese or Spanish instead these days? Giggles. Paw waves to all)


      • Not really. Just time to think, and observe.

        It is not difficult. I have a lot of time for new/indie authors.

        I have no time for so-called editors who don’t know their stet from their font from their del mark.

        Don’t start me!

        Blogs are good. I read great ones. I drop poor ones.

        Spanish, claro. I did start arábic.

        Chinese – the issue is why? They speak English. They need to, who needs to speak Spanish (I find it useful) or Chinese?


            • But which Chinese?
              Oh, just something weird. We never heard “you all” ever said by anyone. We did hear ‘yawl” spelled/written ya’ll – but it was rarely written since it was slang and not allowed in writing. Usage was considered showing ignorance/a poor education level.
              The y’all spelling always looks wrong to me. Language is weird, isn’t it?


            • Mandarin? A bit like asking which ‘Indian’? In that case I’d say Urdu or Punjabi but that’s based on when I lived in an area with a high immigrant population from the Indian sub-continent. Looking at the most spoken languages, like everything needs to be set in context. Or to be blunt, more people speak Chinese because a lot of people live there. Fat lot of use if you a) don’t live there b) aren’t planning a career as a diplomat c) aren’t an entrepreneur planning on setting up a cheap base there and using slave labour.

              If you look at the reach of different languages, ie countries where they are official or widely spoken, the map changes totally and is basically a reflection of old colonialism.

              I’m taking y’all (which I never use apart from that above instance) from the days when I was on a largely American forum, with quite a few deep southerners. I suppose it depends on the contraction. Is it from you all, hence y’all, or is you corrupted to ya, in which case ya’ll fits. I’ll leave that one to American linguistic experts, although I now have a burning urge to look it up.


            • I thought you’d find that intriguing. New Orleans says “ya” and “yat” (where you at) and this area is pretty close to people there historically. Guess the TX drawl also plays a part if you spell what you hear.
              FYI Urdu is the language spoken at home most frequently as L2 – language 2 (behind Spanish) among children in the large Houston school district. They do have dual language programs with Chinese taught in several schools.Apparently for several years, Houston sits in the #1 most selected spot chosen by new immigrant for resettlement. At one time the school kids spoke over 100 languages in their home.
              Would be wise for the US to establish English as the official language for government and business – and some schools/states have tried, but the lawsuits and short sighted people…


            • Wow! Just wow. Urdu in Texas? Just stunned me. And Partner. Who guessed Spanish and Chinese in quiz game.

              I did look up ‘y’all’ …

              Think I’ll stick to Hello, people, said in posh Brit voice.

              An official language is good. So are more than one. Gib manages English, official, Spanish and llanito, well.


    6. Surely if people are professionals they shouldn’t mind how many times they have to prove themselves – they know that they are on safe ground from the start. Or perhaps they doubt their own professionalism …


      • Well truth is, I find it a pain. I’ve asked candidates to prove they can write, but they had no writing qualifications anyway. Options:

        Please write a news report/press release

        Please write a management summary

        Please bore us to tears in ten minutes with a bland presentation.

        I think it is pretty much a waste of space. I’ve always known who I was going to employ based on skill. And exams. And quals.

        The only reason I set a test for PR managers was because I needed people who could write because I had contracts to fill.

        I had to know they could write. So all the radio/TV candidates couldn’t. I needed basic journo ones who could put together a story.

        But a few levels up. Asking me to prove I can write? Or know about management.

        People only ever want to employ in their own image, or whoever is fixed for the job.

        There is no way, I would take any test these days.


      • I think so too. All I did by setting silly tests was prove the people I favoured were the right candidates anyway. Hey but I was PC ish. Had to be non-discriminatory. Truth was, I needed journalists who could write. I didn’t need fire officers who had spoken to reporters saying, we had a fire and the ongoing incident is under investigation. But they thought they could do PR and the money was good.

        The people I had applying for PR posts was off the wall.

        Don’t use Latin or foreign languages is a classic rule. But I was talking about rules – and breaking them. I thought it was a neat fit.

        Caveat canem?


        • Or should have said that it shows that the organisation emplopying the recruiter don’t allow said recruiter to use his/her experience when selecting employees.

          I wouldn’t take a test. Would not like to work for organisations with that mindset…..they probably have mission statements and visions as well…


          • We always did in-house recruitment and that was bad enough. I remember going for a few interviews though where organisations pulled in external consultants. I was fairly young at one of these and one recruiter accused me of changing jobs too frequently (ie every two or three years) for my own advantage. I don’t know if it was a trick question or not. I felt as though I should have been offering to work for free instead of upping salary and responsibilities with each job move.

            Ah yes. Mission statements. Vision. Performance appraisal.

            I knew there was a reason I chucked work.


    7. K you mentioned something that reminded of the time I first started playing guitar and learning music. I taught myself guitar but had lessons in the music theory. After a year or so my tutor once said to me, ‘learn how to do things right, then you can break the rules. and break the rules properly.. And relating your words to my music, I believe people nowadays write how they see fit, and not concern themselves with all these conjunctions and prepositions and one I recently learnt foreshadows.. It seem most write what they know, as I do. Quality or not, like my music I put chords and melodies I like together, and if it is wrong so be it…
      Saying all that I do like to learn and this I have done, especially in the past year, and a great deal from you… I think most of my story lines and ideas are good, it is writing them down that is difficult… Thank you.


    8. Finally! Thanks for doing this post, Kate. I didn’t know half of that stuff.. proofing editing etc. The half I did know was… iffy at best. You’ve cleared a lot up for me. This is the kind of information we authors need. The kind that no-one wants to share with us. :)


      • Trouble is, it’s basic and obvious to me, but I realise for authors it isn’t quite so clear. I could have said, proofers proof, editors edit, and teacher will muck about with your story. The grey area really is in the editing which is why it is critical to determine what an editor will do for you. Will they proof? Will they question your whole novel?

        For me, I think it is incumbent on me to say, this is what I will do, this is what you as the author need to do. If the author doesn’t like that, we part company.

        Online editing has very much changed the way of working, but not the theory. If I need to elaborate more, happy to do another sofa-bound post :D


        • Don’t know about proof… question my whole novel… mine bloody does! You ought to hear some of the things she comes up with. She’s a bloody nightmare sometimes, honestly… oops… almost forgot who I was talking to…

          Like I was saying, my editor is the most wonderful… :D

          See ya! :D Oh hang on. Yea, I liked it… we’re good. :)

          And I’ll be happy to read it. :)


            • Right… work tomorrow… nighty night sweetpea.
              That’s what I like to hear. :D

              PS: Excellent post btw. I’ll be re-reading it tomorrow. :)


            • It’s like I always said, I can see right through you… watch it!
              Can’t we precious? Oh yes… see right through nassty gibetses we do. Gollum!


            • There isn’t much to see through :D

              And according to my nassty consultant, Gibbit is falling apart anyway with her fragile bones, fragile skin, fragile goodness know what.

              Not worth eating, precious. Oh no.

              Oh and I did put that pesky button up.


            • Not much meat on skinny boney gibitses? Poor gibitses. Bah, more meat on tasty fisssh!

              Sorry, missed the button. Oh well…you were at top of all my pages anyway…facebook, twitter, google+ and LinkedIn :D


            • That’s not a reblog button, that’s a pingback button… but nevermind… similar difference. I’ve done a pingback! :)


            • No… I was referring to the press button… I didn’t see the reblog one until you explained where it was. :)


            • Men. I ask you.

              I’m not fond of reblogs. I did a few early on, but I’ve seen too many blogs made up of nothing else. Including mine. None of which applies to you!

              Now if you’ve finished re blogging or not I’ll take down the button. Now that you have found it. :D


            • Use it as you choose. I think it merits some sort of intro, but a pingback from a thoughtful blog post can b better. Either way I’m not sure of the added bonus.

              I just dislike blogs made up of reblogs. I’ve had that, I’ve had my photo’s nicked, I’ve had photos on Pinterest … do get anything from them? Of course not. Enough! But thanks anyway for linking, if not re blogging :D


            • That’s why I try to avoid it. I don’t like blogs that are full of reblogs and pingbacks. It’s as if they can’t do their own posts.

              There are some that do both equally, but I still think that’s too much. A couple of my favs do, but they’re my favs because when they do their own posts they are really good.

              I’ve only reblogged those of yours that would be useful to other authors and most of my community are. Of course I reblogged Miseries Mishap as well. But in all seriousness, Kate, if you don’t really like it and are just tolerating it because it’s me, I’ll stop. It won’t bother me. The last thing I want to do is make you feel uncomfortable. :)


            • Silly. Of course I don’t mind. If it’s you. Let me know and I’ll put up the silly button. But being reblogged in the middle of nowhere racks me off. Not amigos, no decent blog, nada de nada. Anyway, whatever you want, with my regular commenters I have no problem.

              You were entitled to reblog mis mis,you did write it after all.


    9. Does it make me a bad person to be pleased you are in-situ and attending to your blogs, well, at least roughseas? You lead me to think about things in ways no-one else does… I never learned, or if I did, retained information re prepositions, conjunctions or modifiers to use them, or not.
      I did a couple of free-favour beta reading gigs, and decided I’m terrible at it. I pick up the odd typo’s but I either love the story I’m so focused on reading, engaged by the narrative and the characters, or I hate it and can’t do anything. I’m also terrible at long discussive book reviews but I was the same with essays, I can only write what I think needs to be said; the art of embellishment evades me. I might have a tale to tell but I doubt it would attain novel-length, and for that the reading world should be grateful.


      • Does it make me a bad person to be pleased to see a comment from my fave Aussie first thing in the morning? Half my other draft material is on the laptop (photos, pre-written posts) and the iPad is so much easier to use on the sofa.

        Incidentally I broke loads of ‘rules’ with this post, partly intentionally. Nobody’s mentioned them though. And that’s the issue about style. My subject matter may be serious, sometimes heavy, or controversial, but usually I try and keep to a light informal style, deliberately so. I could write in very precise correct English – and bore the pants off anyone who got past the first par.

        Betas are usually free are they not? Sometimes, better value comes from paying. Not excessively so, but paying for a service. I think you summed up the negs of beta reading well. For a professional editor, their reputation is on the line with every book that gets published. Plus their name is usually in there somewhere too. Very different to playing at editing for fun. And, then, you get into the ‘this story doesn’t hang together’ position where you have to gently criticise an author. How many betas genuinely take on that role, or even worse, say, ‘I didn’t like this book.’

        Doing some research (as usual) before I finished this post, I chanced on an interesting piece about betas v editors. I say interesting which really means it supported my view.

        An author had finished his novel and was discussing that very issue. His colleague or whatever asked which road he was choosing. He was leaning towards going straight for the edit, but felt the other person would disagree. So he turned the question round and asked what they would do. Much to his surprise, they were in agreement about choosing the professional edit.

        I find long reviews somewhat pretentious. They remind me of English literature classes. Everyone seems to be trying to get a grade A with their verbose prose. Nothing wrong with keeping things short and sweet if that is your style. Which is why I say style is critical.


    10. You do a lot from that sofa of yours.
      Very interesting post. I hope half the time my posts are readable, show clarity of thought and with correct spelling. I forget punctuation makes though.


      • Mostly all I do is read, and sometimes write. But an immobile life lends itself to that.

        Blogging for 90 whatever per cent of us is a hobby. I make mistakes too, and when I see them, I go back and correct them. But I’m not charging someone to read my blog.

        When people are writing books, whether they charge 99p or £9.99 they should surely want it to look professional? Or if you submit a CV or produce a company report, you don’t want errors detracting from the message.

        Yet, at the same time, I don’t think editors should impose their personal views on an author/client. It’s very much about balance. There are 50 shades of grey in the publishing world …


        • Indeed, if you are paying for the editing, you need value for your money.
          I generally agree with you that the editors shouldn’t impose their personal views on an author.


          • But as with many trades and profession, the client has no or little understanding of what they are getting, or what they are paying for, or in some cases even why they need it. So this was a primer, I suppose, to try and explain what goes on between the covers.

            Personal views, style, choice of alternative words where both are acceptable, there is quite a long list. As with any contract, all parties need to be clear what is expected from each other.


    11. Thanks for a great post, RoughSeas. I’ve a friend who wants me to edit her book and I’m concerned about the effect it may (will?) have on our relationship. Think I might share this with her to show her the nuances of editing. Well done.


      • Hi Sunny. Glad it has maybe shed a little light.

        When you say editing, do you mean beta or final edit? Proof-reading or editing? Copy editing or dev editing? Paid for or free?

        I don’t need the answers, but these the obvious ones you both need to sort out.

        Are you editing in hard copy or on a computer?

        How many times will you read through/proof/edit the book?

        Will you expect her to read and ‘sign it off’?

        Will you be checking facts, eg place names, street names, punctuation for store names and common products, distances from a to b … the list is endless

        Or are you just checking for spelling and punctuation?

        You’re biggest problem is likely to be over money (as ever) if you are getting paid, and you saying something needs rewording/rewriting. People say they like their baby critiqued. They don’t. I know I don’t! Negotiating over textual changes is not easy, especially when your relationship is based initially on friendship rather than business.

        There are a lot of posts and TMI out there on editing. Ignore most of it. I was trying to make a complex issue simple which is never easy.

        As I say on my revised About page, I’ll always look at a few pages for free without obligation.

        Does your friend think her book is ready for publication?

        Hope some of that helped too, and thank you.


    12. I’ve just done a blog post – first one for over a year as life has been more than busy, on my diamonds and stone blog. Which only and rather sadly is not only private but also only 4 invited readers I see…..one of which (whom??) is you. And how strange my new post should refer to précis …..something no one seems to have to do nowadays. But I used to love when I was studying English at school. Hope all well, I’ve lost touch with blog life but well impressed to see you are still going. J ;0) ps Marvin is still alive and well, 15 and 4 months still cat and rabbit keen x


      • Whom I think :D

        I see your précis wasn’t a precise paragraph! I’ll try and comment tomorrow, grandma.

        Seven years and more. I’ve seen them come and seen them go … But nice to see you post again.

        I have lost touch with most blogger pals, apart from a select few. They self-selected actually. It’s quite nice to hear from them from time to time, our DWB days seem so long ago. Where did I find the time I wonder?

        Which brings me onto Marv. I thought about him the other day, so delighted he is well. Pippa is not far behind him, gets arthritis in the warm weather so he is limping a bit. Unlike me. If you read any back posts you will discover I have been nursing a broken ankle for the last two months …


        • Broken ankle …..oh that’s the work of the devil indeed. I feel for you, sprained mine once and it was awful, broken ankle must be appalling. Yes, I realise my post was hardly a précis after I finished writing the twelfth paragraph or so. I don’t get time nowadays much to write blogs or read and comment. I was wondering how Pippa was, didn’t like to mention or ask in case ……well you know how it is? Glad to read he’s ok. Marvin showing little signs of slowing down, but he still looks good and enjoys life and c.a.t.s……. I also find blogging now quite hard as I’ve invested in an iPad, and I don’t find it very user friendly for blogging. Apart from that, I am an iPad addict ha ha. Great to touch base etc. J ;0)


          • Sprained mine loads, and had fractures, but this was sheer evil.

            I know. Even know without the dog circuit when I visit occasionally and read the RB words, my heart sinks.

            I’m writing from an iPad. The ankle paid put to having a laptop which aren’t really laptops at all on my knee, so He Who Is Ordered was sent out to buy one. Much to his amusement as he has been nagging me to spend on new bright shinies for ages. Back track a few posts and there is one about wifi/iPad.

            I know. I still haven’t commented. Have any of the others? I won’t even ask if one of them is … Oh well I won’t ask. Lateroonies.


            • I’ve only 4 invited readers so I’m not bothered about comments plus it’s so ling since I posted on there all four invitees probably have forgotten I even have a blog ha ha! I just wanted to write some stuff down as it’s been such a year sinc Christmas here. But I don’t like blogging much on the iPad as much as the laptop. As it’s April last year since my previous post……I think my blogging days are limited ……


            • I did check a few times, some time ago. But I remembered you’d taken Marv’s down ages back, I think your words were ‘how much new does a twelve year old dog have to say?’ I knew the weddings were coming up so figured you were a busy woman.

              My laptop keyboard is playing up. Had to steal the keyboard from the desktop to get various keys to work. Not good when you can’t get into something because one or more of the letters for your password doesn’t work. I suspect there may be a little husky fur gathered in there.


    13. Good points. One I would take issue with. That of altering ANYTHING for an intelligent and reasonably skilled writer without drawing it to their attention. Perhaps the comma that is placed in one place, assuming a meaning, should have gone in another place to achieve what the writer wanted it to mean. Often such passages need rewriting, but still Or the misspelt word which was done for an effect which hasn’t come off – but it proves possible to achieve that effect. Not, however, by simply ‘correcting’ it…This is why I am a great fan of the ‘Track Changes’ mode in Word..


      • I’ll see your issue and raise one ;) which is that I loathe Word. And Microsoft. It’s probably a snooty throwback to the days when virtually all journalists and graphic designers worked on Apple. Later, the better graphic designers who I would commission were still using Apple in spite of the advances MS had made in software, so making it possible to use MS for graphic design.

        That’s my slight digression but there are tracking options on Apple software, I prefer not to use them, but we all have different styles of editing, just as authors have different styles of writing. If a client wanted changes tracked I’d obviously do it, I find it distracting. Plus, it smacks a bit of ‘look how much I’ve done for my money,’ to me.

        I prefer to think that someone does credit me with some proficiency, and doesn’t really want to know the ins and outs of pompous capitals and faulty punctuation around speech. Certainly if meaning and/or intent are unclear, then I question it. But I cover what I’m going to do in my T&Cs so there’s plenty of scope for negotiating or clarification before starting the job.


    14. I have loved reading your blog, but alas your witty brisk style has convinced me to shut mine down and confine my writing to papers on adult orthodontia. I could write about funny experiences I routinely have in my encounters with my patients but that would violate their confidences. I can mention the pretty young investment banker with wonky teeth who when I told her she would be in full braces for at least three years informed me that she couldn’t wait that long and promptly left my office and didn’t pay for her records exam. But the rest of my patients are, well, patient
      The reason I write is to say thanks for your help. You convinced me that I am not a blogger and tomorrow when I can figure out how to do it I am going to shut this blog down.
      Hope your leg continues to improve.


      • Hey! That wasn’t the idea of this post :(

        I enjoy reading your posts. It’s nice to know there is someone out there who understands casts and immobility.

        You know, blogs weren’t built in a day. Years back, when I was on blogspot, my most active post (about washing machines) got 12 comments.

        Rather than ditch your blog, why not just make it private? You can always change it back to public later. Think it’s under settings, reading maybe?

        Thank you. It is very very tight. I need to pluck up courage and put weight on it. Wishing you a not too hot and sticky summer.


          • Oh good, that sounds a grim read! I escaped earlier than expected from mine due to the need to watch the wounds. But I’d had the two weeks up front for the blisters of course. Yours though, is twice as long and heavy, and has been on for months already.


    15. Brilliant post! Even fresh out of an English degree I’m still a bit hopeless with grammar and linguistics (I only got 3 weeks into the Linguistics course in summer semester before giving it up….even though we were studying The Jaberwocky!) and have never quite got my head around propositions and modifiers so no doubt my work is littered with them. It’s definitely a skill to understand language and its rules but the one area I really have worked on based on many markers feedback over the last four years is tackling my overlong sentences! Semi colons and colons and It’s and its still trip me up even though I did an RSA Diploma in the way back when….remember the old secretarial qualifications with lashings of apostrophe advice about the boy’s coat and the boys’ coats and other such nonsense?! How do you feel about the Oxford comma??! The one that was almost my undoing though was a formatting issue that happened just before I handed my Honours thesis in: double spacing after a full stop. I’d been leaving two spaces in everything I typed ever since I did RSA twenty years ago, and a lot of my older blog posts bear that out. It’s been such a difficult habit to break. Oops! Under MLA (Modern Language Association) referencing at Uni there was some discrepancy, so for three years no one ever commented on my assignments about it until my supervisor just happened to point it out almost at the end of fourth year in 2013 and inform me it had to be a single space after every period for Honours. Imagine the scene; fraught Honours student going through entire 15,000 word doc removing extra space with hours to go……discovering after hand-in that you can do a search and replace auto edit!!! Whaaaaaaaaa!!! I make so many edits and revisions on draft blog posts that I’m going back to just once per week posting from now on to try and save all the post-published mistakes I find and have to tidy up later! I figure if I spend a week letting a draft post sit there and mature and keep checking on it regularly I’ll catch all the blighters! I can spot them much easier in other peoples work than my own (because we’re already anticipating the next sentence in our own work?) and your post absolutely underlines why it’s so important to value the work of paid editors and proofers. I was recently asked to beta-read for someone as a favour for a friend and not really understanding the term I just commented on what I thought worked and didn’t suggested revision and picked up on some proofing errors……I think I helped in some way shape or form with one of the three and hopefully didn’t offend them too much with constructive criticism! On an entirely separate note, I see rumblings via the BBC that Gib is in the news again over sovereignty issues and hope that you and your leg are not getting too hopping mad about any of it :) I’d love to send you a little something more than an overly long comment (with hopefully short enough sentences), like a cheer up note in ye olde handwritten by pigeon post, do you have a P.O box or a monkey’s lair that I can aim for? xx


      • My goodness. That beats my super-long comments!

        Thank you though. It’s not definitive, it is my view, and one of my views is that is, or should be, a lot of flexibility in writing and editing.

        I never did a secretarial qual, although I did work as one (St James’ or St James’s in Leeds) but by then I’d got shorthand anyway via journalism. It was a good job, by which I mean, I got on with my boss, and it was interesting.

        Oxford comma? No strong view. Use it for clarity, but if it’s unnecessary I wouldn’t go round adding them if it’s not an author’s personal style. I do, and I don’t use it, depending on the list. I’ve worked on newspapers that used it, and those that didn’t.

        The double-spacing one. Hmm. It was hard to get into, so I agree getting out of it is difficult. I confess to liking it, especially with ragged text. Justified is different because it introduces more spaces in the text anyway to achieve justification. It’s automatic, isn’t it, to do that double hit? I find myself typing more slowly as I have to pause instead of that fast click click.

        As for the blogs, I accept I will always find something in my published posts, even from years back. And, sometimes, I want to change the wording too. Or maybe add an additional link. Blogging should be enjoyable so I don’t stress over it. And it’s self-evident that longer posts – and comments! – have a greater risk of more mistakes.

        If I was an author beta reading would exasperate me. 1) are they really going to be honest? 2) what do you do with half a dozen differing points of view? I’d just be wanting to get it published if I thought it was ready.

        Sovereignty for Gib has been in the news for more than 300 years, ever since the Anglo-Dutch force took it from the Spanish. It’s a part of life here.

        That’s very sweet of you :) I can send you my address by email if you really want?


        • Well whilst you’re a captive audience stuck on the couch I thought I should make the effort and give you plenty of reading material! And yes, I would like to send you a suitably humorous, but hopefully not clichéd real life actual factual card in the mail when you’ve had such a bloody horrible month. As for the Oxford comma, I fear sometimes I may need some sort of intervention. It’s probably a side effect of all of my overly long and poorly constructed sentences!


          • Two months now! And counting. I’m dreading physio next week. My ankle has not walked for nine weeks :(

            You could always try shorter pars? It can make you realise sentence length more clearly. Depends what you are writing, as ever.

            I’ll drop you a mail, thanks very much.


            • I’m just guessing but I would imagine the psychological barrier is just as hard to negotiate as the physical one to getting back up on that leg now. Long time to be incapacitated and you must be really frustrated now with not having your independence while you just go through the process of recovery. As for the writing, one of my courses had 8 short reading responses that had to be 300 words. It was an exercise in really editing your work, binning weasel words and fillers etc. It was so bloody hard to say what I wanted to say! Just a perennial waffler I guess, and I was thrilled when we successfully argued for it to be 5 responses of 500 words each instead! Sad but true xx


            • There is a psych barrier, but mainly around I KNOW it will hurt. It’s been out of use for so long. There is no point bring frustrated it helps no one. I’m trying to do calm and serene.

              Short passages are not easy. I can do it, but it doesn’t suit my blog style. Although I’ve done a few in the past. But when trying to convey inf or retell events, brevity can lead to misunderstanding.


    16. Thank you for clarifying that. I have an what I might call a copy editor who is absolutely blinding at spotting ways to make stuff shine. With his help a manuscript will turn from something I am happy with to something that I can’t actually believe I was capable of writing. Which just goes to show that a good editor makes a really huge difference with just a tweak or a suggestion here and there. I’d disagree about beta readers but I use mine after the editor – who does proof read too but can miss the odd thing. Some of the beta readers are professional editors, themselves, so they do another proof read, basically.




      • Hi MT, thanks for your comment and visit. It was, an attempt to point out to authors, that a) you really do need someone, but perhaps most importantly b) you need to know what you are getting. And so, if you don’t know what are the options, you don’t know what you are buying.

        It’s great you have a good relationship with your editor, that is fundamental. It’s a delicate balance. If you find a good one, stick with them.

        Most people use betas before editing. Mainly for plot/developmental editing, plus any typos they pick up.

        You’ve got professional editors doing a final proof read for free? Why on earth would they do that? I wouldn’t. Sure, I’ll offer a sample of proofed pages for free to show what is needed but I would never proof a whole novel for free. Are you sure they are professional?

        And is your editor a mix between copy and developmental? But not a proofer?

        Strange world self-publishing …


    17. I totally agree with this, Kate. I’ve lost track of the errors in not just self-published, but traditionally-published books too. A good copy-editor is worth their weight in gold. SD


      • Absolutely. When you get Lynda La Plante having major errors in her books and she still says how wonderful her editor is, you wonder if authors ever read their own books after publication :D

        But for some of the self-pubs trying to start off, it just makes their work look so amateurish. When you read books with one or more errors every few pages it is cringeworthy. Interestingly people who didn’t use one and then do, always seem to be strong advocates of editing.

        I’d use one, but I’m sure I’d be a painful client!


          • Critical, I think. An editor doesn’t have to like it or agree with it, but they should respect it and maintain it not do a hatchet job on it. Or they should decline the commission. I know you are happy with your editor so that’s great. Difficulty for most people is finding the right one – or even realising they need one.


    18. I ain’t about to comment in this thread. I’m overwhelmed with the expertise of the English language by all of the commenter’s here because most grammatical, content mistakes and omissions expressed are common in practically everything I write.
      What is most important to me about this thread is my immense desire to be as efficient and correct as all of you. I am in complete envy of your great writing skills and know you must be very proud to flex your natural and acquired journalistic skills.
      I follow this blog in hopes that I may learn to communicate more correctly and effectively and I love the ongoing stories and saga of its author.


      • Hey, this isn’t about grammar elitism, and certainly not in blogging. My blogging writing style is last, informal and grammatically inaccurate. As are my replies.

        My points were really for aspiring writers, including bloggers but also authors, is that the more polished your work looks, without errors, the more readable it becomes. Reading books with a shedload of errors sadly becomes laughable after a while. It’s like Hallowe’en when every time someone opens a cupboard door another dead body falls out.

        Thanks as ever, for your kind and thoughtful comments.


    19. I wonder how many start out in self-publishing, already realizing just how difficult it is to attract a readership. I guess that there are significant number that think, by making available a well-thought out, highly readable book with few or no proofing errors, they have paved the way to their success. The reality can be quite different. If an author thinks that they are all but guaranteed success (and financial reward) by self-publishing a ‘good’ book, then they are far more likely to pay out large sums of money to proof-readers and editors. Trouble is that there is no guaranteed ‘happy ever after’ ending. The current literary market is overcrowded and highly competitive, and even books that have been praised by critics are not guaranteed of commercial success.


      • While self-publishing has opened up the market to everyone, which I think is good, it has also led to a lot of poorly written and unproofed/unedited books. I have read some very very bad ones.

        I think, luckily, that a fair number of authors do not necessarily expect financial success. For many, breaking even would be a good result. I appreciate that, and it’s one of the main reasons I keep my prices for editing as low as possible. Plus I proof and edit as a rule, whereas other people often do one or the other. I think it’s difficult for authors to know what their options are when they haven’t had a career in the writing/publishing field. At one point I was informally known as ‘the organisation’s writer’ which I found quite annoying.

        However, the point is, that authors really do need to be aware that an error-free, tightly written book is a basic requirement – given all the competition you mention – not a desirable ideal. Writing a book is just the start. If people don’t factor in editing, cover design and promotion, and be willing to learn what is involved, they probably shouldn’t be publishing. I’ve got a post drafted about reviews, so I’ll put that up soon.


    20. An informative and interesting post.
      Thank you for it.
      Authors need editors.
      And readers, whether we call them beta or not.
      I choose avid, insightful readers. If my story passes muster with them, I know I’m on to something.


      • Hope so. I think there is a lot of confusion about editing and what editors *should* do. Some of it is very basic nuts and bolts. It isn’t all about telling people how to re-write their book because the *editor* knows better.

        I think using readers, beta or otherwise, depends on an author. But beta readers shouldn’t be confused with pro editors/proofreaders. I read too many books where an author thinks a beta group is sufficient. It isn’t.


          • Check it out on wiki but basically they are a group of people who read a draft manuscript for free before it is ready to publish. They may comment on anything, eg grammar, style, punctuation, consistency, factual errors, plot, blah blah.

            They are not professional and they are not paid. Tbh I have no understanding of why they do it, or why an author uses them. However they exist. I suppose you could call them a sounding board.

            It doesn’t save an author money in terms of pro editing because a) they won’t have found all the errors and b) an editor goes through a set process and a number of reads, regardless of betas. It also delays publication by adding another loop into the process. I understand some people like them. I think they are sort of fashionable for now. You can see dedications in books to ‘my invaluable beta readers without which this work would not have achieved its brilliance’… You get the idea.

            Whether or not they are objective is anyone’s guess. Is there a superior/power thing going on? I critique X’s work before s/he publishes. Ergo, I am a literary expert. Personally I would say get the flipping book to an editor if you think you are ready to publish. Stop seeking validation. An editor will soon tell you fast enough if it’s worth it or not.


            • Aha! thank you.

              In that case, I’ve definitely benefited from the involvement of readers. Despite all my illustrious awards for TV work, despite all the magazine and newspaper features, I had zero confidence about my writing as an author at the time. (I think you read my post about why.)

              So I wanted people who would both praise and find weaknesses in my manuscript, and would have the capacity to do so. (No use telling me you don’t like something unless you tell me why.) They were a terrific group and I’m thankful for them.

              At no point did I or they think they were taking the place of my editors. I had wonderful editors — one at each stage of story development – and recommend them highly.

              But I also greatly valued the role my readers played.


            • I think beta readers do provide a confidence boost for some authors. I probably don’t understand it because I don’t work like that. When I’ve been writing, as opposed to editing, I’ve been used to getting it written and getting it out. Whether it is a newspaper story or a corporate business plan/annual report.

              If people want betas, it’s their choice. But like you, they then need to go down the pro road. The amount of badly or rather, non-edited books out there is huge. I read more badly edited books than good :(


            • I know that’s where you’re coming from. I read two books last year that were so badly edited (or not at all) that it upset me, because the basic storylines were good, but gee whiz…..


            • That’s the tragedy ok maybe not tragedy, but a potentially good book is let down by so many literals. Authors really need to build in editing to their costs. Shop around, and ask how they work, what they have done and whether they have any qualifications and experience.

              I sigh, I really do. This book could be so much better if only…


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