From the June E-Tip
English Grammar for Dummies was promised to the editor sending the funniest misplaced modifier.
Brother Buford wins by default! His entry:
The farmer threw the cow over the fence some hay.
Here is one I found in a recent publication.
“After dinner, we let our food settle on their front porch
while the crickets and grasshoppers provided background noise.”
Writing—an Art or a Craft?
Writing is an art. Editing is a craft. Successful writers do both.
The right brain is artistic and creative; the left brain is logical and analytical. When we write, the right
side of the brain races down the track. When we edit, the left side trudges through the mire.
In a workshop on writing historical novels, the instructor Jean Hagar said, “You cannot be creative
and analytical at the same time.” Trying to write and edit consecutively stops the flow of creativity.
Her advice was to switch on the right side of the brain and write. Do not worry about punctuation or
grammar, sentence structure or spelling. Let the words flow. Write.
Many writers do exactly that, certain that every word is divinely inspired. When the inspiration
ceases, they stop, put their anointed work in an envelope, and mail it to an editor. When the editor rejects
the manuscript, the writer is crushed.
What’s wrong with my manuscript? the writer wonders.
Actually, he wonders, What’s wrong with that editor?
Nothing. The editor and the writer are simply sitting at different desks, using different sides of their
If the writer had not stopped before he finished, the manuscript might have been accepted. When his
right brain shut down, he should have switched on the left side and edited his work. A manuscript is not
finished until it has been edited . . . by the writer. (If time permits, set the manuscript aside for a few days;
it is helpful to distance yourself from the emotions of writing before engaging the analytical side of your
brain to edit your own work.)
Here are some editing secrets. Editors watch for these.
• ALL CAPS, italics, and bold type. The word processor has far more options on it than a writer
needs. Forget these things are available, even though they are fun to use.
• Excessive use of punctuation marks. An exclamation point now and then might be excused. A line
of !!!!!s gives the impression that the writer has a lazy little finger that got stuck on the key.
Words are the vehicles that move the story. Punctuation marks are the traffic signs. Have you ever
approached an intersection and discovered four stop signs facing you? Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! No. The
right word on the right sign is enough.
The right words do not need special formatting or excessive punctuation to help them carry the
• Flip through a best seller book or a name brand magazine. Watch for all caps, italicized words, bold
type, and excessive punctuation marks. Compare that to a self-published unedited book.
Take a tip from this editor. Even editors need editors. Before this e-tip comes to you, it goes to my
editor. Let’s hope he catches all my mistakes, or we will both have red faces.