An editor’s notebook: when repeated words are the author’s “binky”

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Which words does your author come back to again and again? As an editor, your eye and ear must detect these repetitions, but that’s not sufficient. You need to understand why the author comes back to them and suggest fixes that improve meaning, rather than just creating variety. In a business book I recently edited, the … Continued

An editor’s notebook: Analyzing and untangling sentences

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One of the editor’s primary jobs is to make sentences say what they mean. When the prose gets in the way of the ideas, fix the prose. A focus on the subjects and verbs in sentences can help make prose clearer and reduce the cognitive load on the reader. These examples come from a book … Continued

What exactly is a “strong denial?”

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I was puzzled when Donald Trump indicated that he doubted that the Saudi government had been involved in the disappearance, and likely murder, of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi. But he said he was sure, because of the Saudis’ “strong denial.” Here’s a quote: “All I can do is report what he told me. He told … Continued

10 ways to make your corporate description (boilerplate) less dreadful

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It’s there. At the bottom of your press releases, on the “Who we are” section of your website, at the end of your whitepapers. It’s the “boilerplate” description of your company. And it’s terrible. You’ve got 50 to 60 words to tell the world who you are, but if you’re like most companies, what you’re … Continued

When to break my writing rules

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My most popular post ever included ten writing tips and the psychology behind them. On social media, I see people reading these tips with no context and objecting. “Passive voice is perfectly fine,” they say, or, “You wouldn’t get very far if you only used short sentences.” You want to break my rules? I’m here … Continued