Here’s a fun fact: there’s actually a difference between “blond” and “blonde. And the distinction between the two words is something every good editor and proofreader should know.
Plainly, a blond is a fair-haired male, and a blonde is a fair-haired female. “Blond” is the most common between the two versions and is used as an adjective or when referring to any group of fair-haired people. Of course, use “blondes” when referring to a group of blond females.
Why do females get the extra “e”? The word has French origins that express masculine and feminine forms of the word.
Here’s a short one for you!
Is it toward or towards? Are you walking toward or towards something? Well, technically, there’s nothing wrong with using both.
“Toward” is most common in American English and “towards” in British English.
This week I found myself going back and forth on how to correctly address a business entity in text while working on a project. It was late, I was tired, my mind was playing tricks on me. A business is run by a group of people so the pronoun should be they! I thought to myself. Then the editor in me–that had been asleep somewhere in my consciousness–finally chimed in, sweat over her brow, serious as usual with a bit of crazy in her eye. Don’t you dare type “they” again.
What is a pronoun? There’s no need to get fancy with it. A pronoun is basically a word used in place of a noun (he, she, it, me, you they, everybody, each, few, none, someone, many, who, whoever). Why do these words get a fancy name? Because of rules, that’s why. All jokes aside, I wish I knew. English is complicated and to complicate things, what’s technically correct isn’t always how we speak to others so it takes a conscious effort to write correctly.
A business is an “it” or a “that” so use the proper pronoun accordingly and never address it as a group of people with personal pronouns like, “who” or “they”. To help settle any confusion, a business is made up of more than just a group of workers so simply can’t be a “who” or “they”. A business is made up of a license, machines, office space, ideas and more things that make it an “it”.
- Yes. I work for a business that rewards its employees; its mission is to serve so it’s a great place to work.
- No. I work for a business
who rewards their employees; tmission is to serve so heir they’re a great place to work for.
- Yes. The university located on Elm Street is very strict about its uniform policy.
- No. The university located on Elm Street is very strict about
their uniform policy.
- Yes. The dog is making its way to the finish line! Will it finish the race?
- No (no matter how much we want to believe otherwise, animals are “its”). The dog is making her way to the finish line! Will she finish the race?
Dieing: an imaginary word often used to represent the word, “dying” or worse, “dyeing”. The only time it’s a real word is when a machinist or die maker uses it. Want to know what a die maker is? Start here.
Dyeing: to add color or change the color of something.
Dying: to be on the brink of death.
English is hard.
“Lie” and “lay” may be the most confusing words in the world for writers. As an editor, I see the confusion all the time. I even double check myself sometimes! I hate these words but there’s no way around it.
Here’s how I get it right: I use a chart!
I Want to say
||is lying/they are lying
Jack is lying in the cot.
The cows are lying in the field.
|lay or has/have lain
Yesterday, I lay in bed with a migraine.
He shouldn’t have lain in bed that long.
|To put or place down
||is laying/they are laying
I’m laying this mug on the counter and leaving.
C’mon, they’re laying the pizzas down!
She laid the book down.
|To be dishonest
||is lying/they are lying
Jack is lying about where he’s been.
They’re lying about who was there.
After I paid, I learned that he lied.
It’s really confusing. I apologize on behalf of the English language.
So, you want to get published and you’ve been sending what feels like–or may even really be–hundreds of queries to publishing houses (big and small), editors, and agents and no one’s biting the line you keep throwing into the water. Have you ever considered that it may be your query letter that is putting your manuscript straight into the slush pile? If your manuscript is ready and you’re presenting something that is at least somewhat unique into the literary world, it could be your query letter.
Even small publishers go through hundreds of submissions a month. You’re lucky if you even get a response back. And it’s not because publishing houses are filled to the brim with jerks with no common courtesy, it’s just that everyone is busy. Some editors hold full-time jobs or swing other side projects just to keep afloat. Think it’s a financial struggle being a writer? Well, guess what a lot of writers do as a side hustle–they edit at publishing houses. We’re trying to put bread on the table just like everyone else. Sure there are those few hotshots that work in publishing and never have to monitor their bank accounts but they don’t represent the majority. Publishing houses are also committed to giving the authors that they’ve signed on as much attention as they can. Working with a publisher is a joint-effort of success between an author and publishing house.
Okay, so how do you get your query letter through the cracks so that an acquisitions officer becomes interested in taking a look at your manuscript? Sure, I’ll tell you the secret. Are you ready? You may want to sit down because I’m about to blow your mind. The secret is: keep it short and to the point, for the love of God! Of course it’s not that easy, but seriously, keep it focused.
- Address the editor/individual by name. This shows that you’ve actually taken the time to read the submissions guidelines and put some effort into looking through the website. “Dear acquisitions editor” just sounds like a control, copy, paste job that you’re sending to everyone. You already look like you’re just another writer looking for a quick way to get in and don’t really care about what you’re doing. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you’re just like everyone else in the slush pile.
- Open with a one-sentence blurb about what your book is about. There’s really no need for these overly polite introductions because the editor already knows what you want—you’re selling and pitching a manuscript. I’ve seen query letters with the first paragraph going on and on about everything but what the manuscript is about. This opening sentence is supposed to peak the editor’s interest so they want to read more and learn more about you.
- Immediately follow your one-sentence blurb with more details about your book in a short paragraph. Please don’t add pages of excerpts. If the editor wants to see your work they’ll go through your manuscript.
- The next paragraph should be about you. What else have you written? What makes your book special? Why is it going to be successful? What’s your background? What makes you, as an individual, special? What are your strengths as a writer? What are your weaknesses as a writer? This is where you plug in any more information you want known. At this point in the letter, the editor is interested in knowing who’s behind the manuscript so share what you think could close the deal.
- End it and offer that you’ll follow up but understand that the review process could take weeks to up to a year.
- Under your signature, put all your contact information there so that the editor isn’t digging for it through the text later. Include, “Author of, the title of your book“, followed by your phone number, email, and link to your website. If you mail your letter, the envelope will probably get lost. If you e-mail the letter as an attachment, it’s likely that the attachment will be printed and the original e-mail will eventually drown in hundreds of other e-mails. Just guarantee your contact information is there when needed. Even if you think they have it, give it to them again.
- Revise and proofread your letter. Also, edit the letter so that it fits on a single page.
Best of luck,
Italics: those beautifully slanted words that a lot of people forget to use or overuse.
When do you italicize words without the mumbo jumbo?
- To emphasis a word or expression.
- “I was not there, no matter what she says!”
- Foreign words.
- Perhaps your character is in another country and you want to make it feel more authentic by using foreign words.
- “She swung the payong up and over her shoulder to shield herself from the rain.”
- “The siren bellowed a high weeee into the midnight air and a chill stabbed into my core.”
- Introducing a term in text. You do this the same way you would use quotation marks.
- When using letters in math.
- Referring to bodies of work that can stand alone, put anything else in quotes.
- Book titles
- Newspapers, magazines, journals, pamphlets, reports, academic research essays
- TV shows
- Radio shows and Podcasts
- Plays, operas, ballets, long musical and poetic work.
- Works of art
- Blogs. Websites are just capitalized. Weird, right?