Editing Skills Your High School Grammar Teacher Didn't Teach You

 Editing Skills for Do-It-Yourselfers or Those with Editors: Help Your Editor Avoid “Bad Breaks”

As a freelance editor of fiction, memoir, and poetry as well as the author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the winningest book in the series The Frugal Editor, I know that I can give an author a better price on a per-page quotations if they have submitted a “clean” manuscript. As a writer who has published every which way I know that tricks like the one in this article will help authors produce much more professional hardcover or print copies no matter what platform an author chooses.

To put a fine point on it, authors benefit when they knows some of the things editors look for whether they work independently or with a big five publisher.  In fact, great editing (along with marketing skills) can help them convince an agent or publisher "this project" is the one they should invest in. MSNBC brands themselves with the quotation, “the more you know." It applies to authors, even when it comes to something they think they can turn over for someone else to do! 

One of those editing skills we weren't taught in our high school grammar class is what editors call bad breaks. Here is what they are talking about:
~Bad breaks can be widows (where the last line of a paragraph appears all by its little lonely self on the next page).

~ Bad breaks can be orphans (where a paragraph, title, subhead, title or section begins on one page and gets left dangling there with only one line until the reader gets to the next page).

~A bad break can be a hyphenated word at the end of line that appears as the very last thing a reader sees on any given page.

~A bad break can be a word that breaks incorrectly at the end of a line. Check your dictionary when you must break a word. Dictionaries tell you where syllable breaks are and we don’t break words anywhere but between syllables. Great publishers also don’t break a long word after the very first syllable or before the last one.

~We also don’t break a name (use a hyphen) after an initial in a name. So, we should leave a name like “J. R. Turner” on one line with no attempt to break it even if avoiding the break screws with the spacing a tad.

You’ll find many other tips on “Avoiding Humiliation and Ensuring Success” (which happens to be the second subtitle for my The Frugal Editor) in the paper or ebook edition on Amazon at http://bit.ly/FrugalEditor.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes  The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book
News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically launched to rave reviews from Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Reviews and others:

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Betty Jo Tucker said...

Very helpful! Thanks, Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for these editing tips. Even the review for someone like me who has been in publishing for years is valuable. While I've written more than 60 books, I have an editor for my material as well.Editors are valuable members of the team of people each of us need to publish a well-crafted book.


Karen Cioffi said...

Thanks for these helpful writing tips, Carolyn. I learned them from my first traditionally published book. Thanks for the reminder!

Linda Wilson said...

Great advice, Carolyn. I will add your post to my files to use over and over.

deborah lyn said...

Powerful tips, Carolyn! Thanks

maryhagenauthorrommance.com said...

Thank you for this informative information.

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