Writing roundup – 4 great topics to help you write better

Here are the latest ‘shorty’ posts I’ve been sharing on social media recently … the first two are about books, and the last two are about writing in general. Enjoy!

writing tips

Can you tell if a book has been produced professionally? Here’s how
  1. The cover should still be readable and attractive when its image is small, e.g. on Amazon
  1. The back cover ‘blurb’ must be enticing and correct, and text on the book’s ‘spine,’ straight and centred.

  1. The first few pages should contain publishing data, followed by an introduction, contents, and perhaps a foreword and/or preface. These initial pages should be numbered in Roman numerals.
  1. The interior should be attractive, inviting and easy to read, with consistent subheadings and images
  1. The main text should be justified to both margins. Extra space should be left in the inner margins to compensate for the ‘gutter’ at the centre of the book.
  1. In the body of the book, do you see ‘widows & orphans’ — the odd word or two carried over to a next page? These look amateurish.
  1. Are there spelling, grammar, syntax etc mistakes? (Poor copy editing and/or proofreading).
  1. Is the text repetitive, disordered, lacking in continuity? (Poor structural and line editing).
  1. Does the cover curl up when the book’s down on a surface, closed? (Can signify poor quality production).
  1. In the digital/Kindle version, is the text laid out in a good design?

article about writing books

Writing a nonfiction book? If readers can find all or most of your information on Google, don’t write a book about it!

If you want your book to sell make sure it offers readers a lot more than they could find just by doing a rough search for the information on Google.

I had the painful experience recently of looking into the production of an ‘A to Z’ book of jargon terms for two particular audiences, clearly defined.

Then that ‘Oh No’ moment hit me: why should people buy this book containing several hundred entries when all they need to do to find out what any of those terms mean, is to key them into Google?

An example of how to refine your topic came up in a discussion I had with a client when I was helping her with developmental structuring of her book, which was a small encyclopaedia of different complementary treatments that help in a variety of health requirements.

As far as individual treatments were concerned, everything you wanted to know was available on Google.

What Google could not provide was a means of comparing each of the treatments with and against each other, and rating them against a set of criteria made up of each reader’s personal needs.

That was a light bulb moment for my client and as I write this she is busily typing away.
article about writing

I hate writing! I’m crap at writing!

A lot of people say one or both of the above to me.

There may be very understandable reasons for it – e.g. they’re dyslexic, bad at spelling, etc.

They may have a long history of poor learning at school, over-zealous (or under-zealous!) English teachers, family and peer pressure not to be a “boff” …. and more.

Now that ‘conversational writing’ has become the norm in nearly all non-literary circumstances, many of the barriers to good, plain writing have been lifted.

Whereas even 20 years ago conversational writing was the domain purely of copywriters, scriptwriters, bloggers and the like, now everyone’s doing it.

The internet has basically taught us to cut the crap and just say what we mean.

So when someone tells me they’re crap at writing, or they hate it, I say, “what about talking? Are you crap at that? Do you hate it?”

While they ponder this I add, “…because if you can talk, you can write – and write well.”

“But,” I often hear, “I’m dyslexic.” Or, “I can’t spell.”

No worries: simply look up one of the thousands of voice recognition and ‘talk-to-text’ systems available – many have free versions, too – and you’ll never need even to pick up a pen or learn how to type.

Egnlish grammar on How To Write Better with Suzan St Maur

Who should be an ‘EE’ and who should be an ‘ER?’

It’s interesting to see how these two suffixes work sometimes. As you know, an ‘ER’ or an ‘OR’ suffix makes a word describe a purveyor (agent) of something and an ‘EE’ is the recipient of something.

An ‘EE’ suffix should not be confused with words that are more closely related to French origins, like protegee, fiancee or divorcee … the double ‘EE’ here is the feminine version of those words and should have the accent aigu on the first ‘E.’

So you get protegée, fiancée, divorcée – and leave the second ‘E’ out if the word refers to a man. Sorry gender-neutrals, but I don’t make the rules in French grammar…

And how about these rather strange ‘EEs?’ All are real words.

Attendee – often used to describe people who are attending a meeting. Are they really attenders?

Cohabitee – what’s the difference between this and a cohabiter, as you’re living together?

Departee – can you be the recipient of departure?

Enrolee – how can you receive it, rather than do it?

Escapee – nice if someone lets you escape, but does this make sense?

Murderee – no sh*t, Sherlock … recipient is a corpse.

Returnee – once again, how do you receive this?

What do you think? please share your views!