Should It Be One Word or Two? Request My One-Two List

by Barbara McNichol

As I was finalizing a manuscript I edited for a nonfiction author, I hired a proofreader to give it a final check. (I knew I’d read it too many times myself.) What she found humbled me. I thought I had a good handle on which phrases are customarily two words versus one (backyard—not back yard—comes to mind) but several surprised me.

My proofreader corrected these (verified on dictionary.com). Look familiar?•    rooflines (not roof lines)
•    safe-deposit box (not safe deposit box)
•    old-timers (not old timers)
•    carsick (not car sick)
•    safekeeping (not safe keeping)
•    autopilot (not auto pilot)
•    pocketknife (not pocket-knife)

So I’ve put together a cheat sheet I call my One-Two List to answer the question: Should it be one word or two? Instead of guessing, it’s easy to refer to this list I’ve compiled.

Request PDF with “One-Two List” in subject line.

What one word or two questions do you have? Ask them here.

Use Planner to Put Authors and Editors on Same Page

by Barbara McNichol (full article here

Through a blog post, I recently asked what worries nonfiction authors about the editing process. The insights gained can be helpful to any editor as well as the authors they work with.

I received the following array of answers from 40 authors who responded. Specifically, they want:

  • more than a clean up; they want a major step up in clarity.
  • support in thinking through the book’s organization before nitty-gritty editing begins.
  • their book editor to be tuned in to their objectives for the book, keeping them top-of-mind throughout the process.
  • their points made more succinctly and artistically and their stories told well.

As one author said, “An unedited piece can make my point but in a less elegant way than one that’s been edited.”

How Book Editors Can Learn More About What Authors Want

From the first contact with a client, I open a dialog through what I call a Planner—a questionnaire that focuses on the long-term goals for the book itself. Questions not only address the mechanics of editing but emphasize the author’s big-picture dreams. A few are:

  1. What successful books would be good models for yours?
  2. After people in your target audience have read this book, what do you want them to say about it? How would you like a testimonial to read?
  3. What actions do you want readers to take as a result of reading your book—both for their own benefit and for yours?
  4. What changes do you want to create in your life/business as a result of putting this book out into the world?
  5. Which results do you seek most in working with an editor (followed by a list for ranking)?

Request Planner to Start the Dialogue

Delivering on an Author’s Desires!

Whether you’re an author or an editor, don’t short-change the editing process and its value to you. Use a tool like my Planner to articulate exactly what you want from your editor.

To see how Barbara’s Planner can help you, go here.

Whack Extraneous Phrases in Your Writing

In their classic book The Elements of Style, Strunk and White called word clutter “the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood out of Whack wordinesswords.”

You can start by eliminating extraneous phrases that clutter your writing. But which phrases can be “whacked”?

Consider taking out these extra phrases whenever you can:

  • “is intended to, meant to, designed to” e.g., He gives a workshop that is designed to teach writing skills. Better: He gives a workshop that teaches writing skills.
  • “it is all about”; “the fact of the matter is”; “the fact that”; “it’s important to remember that” e.g., The fact of the matter is that it’s unwise to go out carousing. Better: It’s unwise to go out carousing.
  • “in regard to” e.g., Seek additional websites in regard to your industry. Better: Seek additional websites in your industry.
  • “is going to” e.g., He is going to be a key contributor. Better: He will be a key contributor.
  • “in order to” e.g., Add key words in order to describe the new position. Better: Add key words to describe the new position.
  • “there is” and “there will be” e.g., There will be many managers attending the meeting. Better: Many managers will attend the meeting.
  • “the reason why is that . . .” A simple “because” will suffice.
  • “at this time” . . . Now!

To reinforce this, take something you wrote and circle any of these extraneous phrases. Challenge yourself to rework or remove them altogether. You may choose to keep some in, but at least you’ve asked the question: “Do I really need this phrase?” (You don’t need “really” here.)

Keep this list handy. What would you add to it? Comment here.