Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Editing: 5 Writing Tips for Authors

Book Editing: 5 Writing Tips for Authors

By Susan Kendrick

Barbara McNichol - Book Editor
Whether you are writing a brilliant message inside your book, or packaging your book to sell on the cover, the same basic writing principles apply. Be clear and vivid. Talk to your readers, not at them. Be conversational yet concise. And, above all--use good grammar to make it all work.

In my last post I showed how a recent client of ours worked with us and the rest of his team to create his book cover. Now meet another member of your book-publishing team, your book editor. For both long and short copy--inside your book and out—flow, organization, and grammar combine to make your message shine and give you maximum credibility as an expert in your field.

Check out Barbara McNichol's five guidelines below to instantly improve the way you write the inside of your book by thinking like an editor.

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Authors: How Can You Think Like an Editor?
By Guest Blogger -- Barbara McNichol

As an author, you take your observations and experiences, draw insightful conclusions, and translate them into messages on paper (or computer screens). You don your writer’s hat to express your messages in the written word.

But don’t stop there. You then need to put on your editor’s glasses and focus on fine-tuning those words to make sure they communicate with your intended audience. That requires you to read your piece as if you have never seen it before and think like an editor.

A skilled editor examines every phrase and asks:

·       Is it necessary?
·       Is it clear?
·       Is it concise?

When you review your own writing, you likely won’t answer “yes” to all these questions. So take off your writer’s hat and look through your editor’s glasses. Then make changes based on these five common writing problems.

1. Use the active voice. (WHO does WHAT to WHOM.)

Passive: It was decided that everyone would take the class.

Active: The principal decided everyone would take the class.

2. Make subjects and verbs agree. (No mixing singular and plural.)

Incorrect: A group of writers were in town. ("Group" is singular while "were" is plural.)
Correct: A group of writers was in town. ("Group" is the subject here, not "writers.")

3. Use parallel construction. (Give your writing rhythm.)

Weak: We’ve learned to read, write, and we’re making sure information is shared.
Stronger: We’ve learned to read, write, and share information.

4. Make the subject obvious. (Don’t let your participles dangle!)

Yucky: Driving down the highway, the new stadium came into view. (Who was driving down the highway? The stadium?)

Better: We could see the progress on the new stadium as we drove by it on the highway.
5. Use specific, vivid verbs and nouns. (And don’t overuse adverbs and adjectives.)

Dull: I saw some really pretty yellow daffodils.
Interesting: I reveled in a riot of daffodils.

When you wear your editor’s glasses, make sure every word counts. What are your favorite writing/editing tips that will enhance someone’s writing? Please share them on this blog.

Barbara McNichol is passionately committed to helping authors achieve accuracy and artistry, clarity and creativity through the written word. She delivers expert editing that puts your book on the pedestal it deserves. Since founding Barbara McNichol Editorial in 1994, Barbara has worked with 200+ amazing authors. She says, “Enjoy the credibility authorship brings you with a well-edited book you can market with pride.”

To further support authors, Barbara has created a word choice guide called Word Trippers ( and produces Add Power to Your Pen, a valuable ezine for improving your writing. Contact:, email or visit her blog

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