Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

On the joys of editing….



Seriously, what is the rule for semi-colons? 😛 Here’s  a website on it, since we’re talking about editing resources

Anyway, I’ve been stalking around Word Press, making writer friends and whatnot, and it seems like I am not the only one in the throes of editing and revising and all that joy. So a week or so ago, I posed a question about resources for self-editing. I got several responses from fellow bloggers and I also asked my fellow writer friends. Thought I’d share what I’ve found thus far, in no particular order:

English Language & Usage (website)Great and usually very accurate when it comes to the finer points of grammar. Suggested by

Sin and Syntax, Constance Hale. It’s informative but not boring. Suggested by

Amazon people say: “Today’s writers need more spunk than Strunk: whether it’s the Great American e-mail, Madison Avenue advertising, or Grammy Award-winning rap lyrics, memorable writing must jump off the page. Copy veteran Constance Hale is on a mission to make creative communication, both the lyrical and the unlawful, an option for everyone. With its crisp, witty tone, Sin and Syntax covers grammar’s ground rules while revealing countless unconventional syntax secrets (such as how to use—Gasp!—interjections or when to pepper your prose with slang) that make for sinfully good writing.” (Written by American)

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies, Roy Peter Clark. It takes a more positive stance, instead of “don’t do that.” Suggested by

Amazon: “WRITING TOOLS covers everything from the most basic (“Tool 5: Watch those adverbs”) to the more complex (“Tool 34: Turn your notebook into a camera”) and provides more than 200 examples from literature and journalism to illustrate the concepts. For students, aspiring novelists, and writers of memos, e-mails, PowerPoint presentations, and love letters, here are 50 indispensable, memorable, and usable tools. ” (Written by American)

Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, James Bell

“In Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing, James Scott Bell draws on his experience as a novelist and instructor to provide specific revision tips geared toward the first read-through, as well as targeted self-editing instruction focusing on the individual elements of a novel like plot, structure, characters, theme, voice, style, setting, and endings.”

Grammatically Correct, Anne Stillman

Amazon says: Covers topics including: spelling variations, hyphenation, frequently misused words and phrases, irregular plurals and negative, punctuation, syntax and structure, agreement of subject and verb, tenses, active versus passive voice, clarity/tone, sentence length and order, and much more. It claims to steer clear of academic stuffiness, focusing instead on practical strategies and intuitive explanations.

The Elements of Style,Fourth Edition, by Strunk and White

Here’s what Amazon says: “You know the authors’ names. You recognize the title. You’ve probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered.This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with writing.”

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, R.Browne D.King

According to Amazon: “In this completely revised and updated second edition, Renni Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work. Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited.”

The Penguin Writer’s Manual (Penguin Reference Books)  According to a writer in my Singapore Writer’s Group: a bit of everything: typical grammar mistakes, punctuation errors you spell check won’t notice, elements of style. Compact and easy to understand.

Amazon claims: The Penguin Writer’s Manual is the essential companion for anyone who wants to master the art of writing good English. Whether you’re composing an essay, sending a business letter or an email to a colleague, or firing off an angry letter to a newspaper, this guide will help you to brush up you communication skills and write correct and confident English.

Grammar Girl

Blog with lots of great grammar tips!

I haven’t checked any out yet. Downloading Elements of Style to my Kindle right now. I’ll keep you posted!


Have you used any of these? If so, how did you find them?

Have you used any other helpful books or websites?

15 thoughts on “On the joys of editing….

  1. teannadorsey

    My journalism professors forbid semicolons because studies showed they slowed readers down but that probably only really applies to article writing, although personally I avoid them all together and just write a new sentence if I can.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      The last time I editing, I started taking them out. I was using them properly, but they just didn’t feel right. Interesting that they slow readers down. Makes sense. Thanks for sharing 🙂


  2. lindabloodworth

    I freaking love semi colons! I also mention them in my bio.

    Linda Bloodworth loves chips, like really, ketchup to be exact. Ketchup chips are only found in Canada. Lucky for Linda she lives in Toronto with her husband and three fur babies. In between writing, debating for hours about the Oxford comma and the misunderstood semi colon, Linda enjoys camping and getting away from the city on day trips.

    They’re so important and people fail to recognize that.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Of course! And glad you enjoyed insanity wolf. I’m enjoying making memes way too much for my own good I think haha. I just sent my work to a development editor which means I get a glorious 2-3 week break from editing!!!! …until it comes back and I have more to do haha. Happy editing 🙂


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Yeah….. I haven’t cracked the one I bought either. I feel like the only thing more boring than editing would be reading about editing… BUT I know I need to do it… Keep me posted on how your book is and I’ll keep you posted on mine.


  3. C. Miller

    I laughed SO HARD over that photo at the top.
    Maybe that’s because I realized during my last edit of a series that I’d developed some sort of semicolon obsession when doing the edit before. I was going through it all scrunched-faced like, “What was I THINKING? Why did I put that there? And there. And there. And yep, there too. Okay. This is a definite problem.”
    I’d avoided semicolons like the plague before and don’t have the vaguest clue why or how I randomly became obsessed with them for some stretch of time that I don’t even remember.

    Ah, the joys of editing indeed when writing styles are constantly changing . . .


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Hahahaa!!! I’ve caught myself switching between frequency of comma use between drafts. And I can use semicolons appropriately but then it’s pointed out that in fiction it can be too jarring for the reader so I started taking them out haha.


      1. C. Miller

        I do the same thing!
        Just about every run-through I do, I’ll have to stop and ask myself why a comma is where it is. I move it or take it out. Then I’ll end up moving it back where it was or re-adding it on the one after. It’s ridiculous.
        I think a lot of the time, for me, it’s about the struggle between ‘style’ and ‘technicality’. I typically choose style and have to deal with the mental anguish I inflict on myself about how it will get torn apart because of that. haha


      2. sjoycarlson Post author

        Haha so true!!! I think lately I’ve been more inclined to go light on commas so as not to slow the writer down. Oh the art of writing! So ridiculously complicated when you really think about all the stuff we consider when writing and editing and planning…..


      3. C. Miller

        Yeah, I’ve taken a few of them out since starting this current run-through. We’ll see if that holds . . .

        And it really IS ridiculously complicated. Makes me wonder if I even have half as much of a clue as I think I do. haha


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