Notes from an Editor – GUEST POST by T. L. Greylock
Notes from an Editor: Day 122
1. Refrain, at all costs, from using any form of lie or lay. Except when people are fibbing, of course. Your editor doesn’t want to deal with remembering the correct usage between lie and laying and laid and lying any more than you do.
2. Things are only further away if they are figurative. 87%* of the time, it’s farther you want. You can be further from the truth, but if The Truth is a magical narwhal tower on the outskirts of The City, you are farther from it.
I’ve heard that this differentiation is favored in American-English and doesn’t exist in British-English; I’ll be sticking with it because frankly I don’t think English is complicated enough already.
3. Do you know how to spell your made-up words? I do.
4. When writing accented speech (you know, those omnipresent, vaguely Cockney accents we writers assign haphazardly to denote a common upbringing), check the curvature on your punctuation. If you are shortening the word them, your apostrophe should not curve in the same direction as the letter c. In other words, type ’em, not ‘em. Think of it as you would a contraction—the ’ indicates a missing letter, which is exactly what we have here.
Unfortunately, our computers try to be smart, so if you use the apostrophe key at the start of a word, it will default to a single quote that is curved the wrong way. For Word on a Mac, press Option-Shift-] to get the correct mark. Non-Mac users…sorry, I got nothing for you.
5. I will insert Oxford commas in your manuscript until the day I die.
6. Style sheets are your friend. A good style sheet can tell you if your Thieves’ Guild is a Guild or a guild, if you should italicize that word that looks suspiciously like fake Latin, or if your heroine carries a longsword or a long sword. I make temporary style sheets on a sticky note as I edit, which is, of course, thoroughly professional and organized.
7. Do prepositions at the end of sentences keep you up at night? Unlikely, but don’t sweat it. Sometimes prepositions at the end of sentences are perfectly okay. I tend to leave them alone in dialog—because SPOILER we talk this way—unless the character’s speech is noticeably formal or it just seems to work with the sentence to shuffle that preposition around. Within the narrative, it really depends, for this editor, on flow.
8. If your manuscript doesn’t contain any em dashes—it will when I am done with it. I mean, there are four of them in this 600-word article, what did you expect?
9. Your editor might not admit it, but we all hate certain words. Not the same words across the board, mind you (there is NOT a secret society of editors that gathers at Salar de Uyuni every leap year and decides these things), but our own unique batch of letter combinations that feel like sand in our shoes. For this editor, that list includes massive, aquiver, bemused, couth, scabbard, comely, and meatball.
10. On the other hand, if you use maelstrom, incendiary, luminous, fierce, nemesis, petrichor, and/or coruscate, you get bonus points. What do bonus points from your editor get you? Nothing. Absolutely nothing; I’m not a vending machine.
*Scientifically arrived at, of course.
T L Greylock, also known as Taya, is an author and editor based in Boston and is available for copyediting and proofreading your manuscripts of any genre. Her published work includes The Godforged Chronicles (Indiana Jones meets Renaissance Italy) and The Song of the Ash Tree (vikings and vengeance and apocalypse, oh my!). You can book her at www.editingbytaya.com and find her on Twitter @TLGreylock.