Friday, February 28, 2014

Guest Blog: New Generation of Writers (Bloggers. Website Builders. Social Networkers.) Needs Help

Everyone needs a little brush-up on their grammar and their editing skills because everyone is a writer these days. From social networking to writing copy for our own Web sites to blogging, our writing know-how is on display as it never has been before. Regardless of our profession. Regardless of our age. Older folks find that grammar rules and style choices change over time. The youngest group of writers might need to get over some bad habits fostered by texting. And many will be surprised that writing online may require a different skillset (other than the technical part) than writing for print (and vice versa). An example: If you’re writing for online consumption, you may want to use a type font like Verdana that was developed for reading on screen. If you’re submitting something for print as a writer or in the business world, you may be safer with the tried-and-true New Times Roman that studies have shown is easier to read in print. 

It’s because of these differences and some grammar mistakes that seem to never go away that I wrote The Frugal Editor and recently updated and expanded it in a second edition. The first was published in 2007. There have been quite a few changes since then—both in recommendations and some very bad new habits being passed around. You may ask why I included other suggestions for books other than mine in the Appendix? There is no more frugal way to keep your skills current and nurture your career (whatever that career may be) than with books!  Here are just a few from that list:

·         AP Stylebook, by Associated Press. Especially good for those who write for newspapers and some magazines.
·         Chicago Manual of Style, by the University of Chicago Press Staff.
·          Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss. Especially good (and fun) for those writing for the UK market.
·         Far From the Madding Gerund, by Geoffrey K. Pullum et al.
·         Garner’s Modern American Usage, by Bryan A. Garner, is excellent for Americans. For our purposes—that is not to rile an agent or publisher—choose the more formal of possibilities it offers. If the suggestion feels stilted, rearrange the construction of your sentence.
·         Grammar Snobs Are Big Meanies: Guide to Language for Fun & Spite, by June Casagrande. Use this book when you want to be informed and confident enough to edit on your own or to judge the expertise of the editor you hire. It is an excellent source (and a fun one) to learn more about style choice vs. grammar rules. A more formal tome that helps with basics but isn’t any fun is The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage (Fowler and Burchfield).Mortal Syntax: 101 Language Choices That Will Get You Clobbered by the Grammar Snobs—Even If You’re Right by June Casagrande. The more you know about choices, the better writer you’ll be. You will not always need to cater to gatekeepers.
·         It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences, by June Casagrande. This is the best single book to review before you begin to edit any major writing project.
·         StyleEase for Chicago Manual of Style, by Kate Turabian.
·         Perrin and Smith Handbook of Current English has been around a long time. When you have read it, you will know the difference between temerity and timidity—or at least know to look them up. “Half knowing a word may be more dangerous than not knowing it at all” is the kind of truth you will find within its pages. Trouble is, you may need to search for it in a bookstore that sells used books or watch for it at garage sales.
·         The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, by William Strunk Jr., E. B. White, Roger Angell. See my cautionary notes in this book about using Elements as if it were The Ten Commandments.
·         The Describer’s Dictionary: A Treasury of Terms & Literary Quotations, by David Grambs. One of my favorite references for creative writing.
·         When Words Collide: A Media Writer’s Guide to Grammar and Style (Wadsworth Series in Mass Communication and Journalism), by Lauren Kessler and Duncan McDonald. Perfect for freelance writers, copywriters, journalists, media writers.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson also wrote a fun-and-fast booklet  Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers:
The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy
full of wordtrippers and some help on style choices. The newly formatted Frugal Editor is available for e-readers and will be published in paperback in July of 2014.


  1. I hope your subscribers and visitors find this a valuable resource, Magdalena. And I hope visitors will become subscribers! Both groups may also find the Writers' Resources section of my Web site valuable--for editing and for book promotion. and then click on the Writers' Resource tab at the top of the home page.

  2. Thanks Carolyn. Your book is a great resource for writers of all ages.

  3. Wow, great list of writing books. I have a couple of them, but will be looking into some others. Thanks for sharing, Carolyn. I shared the post!

  4. Carolyn, thanks for this list of books. I will be needing some of them.

  5. Thanks to all of you for coming by, commenting, and for sharing on one of your networks! Maggie, special thanks to you for running this!