Category Archives: Editing

Semicolon Superhero

Well, it’s awfully rad to get the “Yelp” treatment from one of my favorite authors! From Jooyoung Lee, sociologist at the University of Toronto and research fellow with Yale’s Urban Ethnography Project:

It was a joy working with Letta! She helped turn a sprawling manuscript into a leaner and more polished book. As a Hip Hop scholar, it’s often hard to find someone who knows a thing or two about the subject matter. But, Letta combined her lifelong knowledge of Hip Hop and music more generally to make my book less nerdy and more readable. Different chapters were at different stages of writing, giving Letta a chance to show her flexibility as an editor. At times, she’d go through my manuscript like a chainsaw-wielding super hero, shredding through redundancies and unnecessary uses of “the ways in which…” In other moments, she’d make small subtle revisions that made the book read and flow better. Most of all, Letta was a great help during those tough stretches of writing and revision, where nothing seemed to come out right. This is when her expertise really shined brightest. She would give me feedback that kicked me into gear and nudged (and pushed) me toward the finish line. Part writing coach, part muse, Letta Page is a top-notch editor.

Constant Gratification

Image by Nero Monga, Flickr

Forget instant: constant gratification’s where it’s at. I’ve noticed that many of the authors I work with tend to delay their excitement about a project, especially when it’s a book. Why? They usually tell me it’s not “real” until there’s a book in their hands. Ugh.

This means people are choosing to overlook exciting, gratifying, and totally rad moments like: Continue reading Constant Gratification

Reverse Outlining

Photo by Wes Peck via Flickr CCA friend reached out this weekend because she was absolutely mired in a bear of a final paper. She didn’t want me to edit it (and I definitely don’t edit exams or papers earlier than the dissertation and/or journal submissions), but to give some advice on how to handle what had become unwieldy. My suggestion? The reverse outline. Here’s what I wrote:

To reorient yourself to the question, I suggest grabbing a notebook and your paper, and making an outline of what’s actually in the paper. Continue reading Reverse Outlining

Read Widely, or Becoming a Better Writer by Reading

book collageAnd reading for pleasure. This piece first appeared, in different form, on TheSocietyPages.org‘s Editors’ Desk.

Read Widely

In case it’s hard to tell, that’s an imperative, not a descriptor.

See, many authors ask me for examples of how to incorporate a lot of information into something that’s thorough, academically sound, and engaging. It’s a tough balance, to be sure, but over the years, I’ve collected a number of books (and this is by no means a list of all of them) I can hand off as representations of that ideal. They likely have nothing to do with your area of study, but watching the authors’ deft hands at work (and knowing there are surely unsung editor elves in there, too) can be a truly enjoyable homework assignment. Think of it as “authorial excellence by osmosis.” Absorb and emulate these ten fine examples. Continue reading Read Widely, or Becoming a Better Writer by Reading

Use Twitter to Refine Your Writing

Twitter_logoAs a prematurely old person (that is, I’m technically 34, but I make a suspicious number of references to “those damn kids” and know the difference between e.g. and i.e.), I can be wary of social media. Still, I’ve found one way Twitter is really useful for the writers I advise: forced brevity.

Off the top of my head, I have two approaches to using Twitter to guide writing, and I’d be happy to hear others’ ideas. Continue reading Use Twitter to Refine Your Writing

Name Dropping

shout outsToday, someone forwarded another academic editor’s website to me, pointing out his big-name clients and wondering why I didn’t have a shout-outs section of my own. After thinking about it a bit, I came up with three answers:

  1. Editors, ideally, are secret squirrels. We’re the spies who learn what makes your writing yours and leave those quirks intact. We get in there with a scalpel instead of a hatchet, and we make your ideas shine without doing violence to your piece. In the end, we hope your usual audience won’t even notice we’ve been there. Continue reading Name Dropping

Abandon Ye Latin

Lindisfarne Gospels

I started taking Latin in the 6th grade, when we were offered one quarter each of Latin, French, Spanish, and German. I continued through high school, college, and graduate school, for a grand total of, I believe, 11 years of Latin. I am not very good at Latin. Hell, I’m still working on conversational English.

What I have learned well, though, is what all of those nice little Latin abbreviations that pepper our readings actually mean: Continue reading Abandon Ye Latin

The Art of Being Edited*

Art once on display @commonroots
Art  @commonroots

This post originally appeared on TheSocietyPages.org.

A primer on getting the most out of the editing process, this short article assumes that you’re working on a journal submission, but is generally applicable to an op-ed you might be pitching, sample chapters for a book proposal, etc. I am also assuming you’ve already found an editor, but I’ll talk about that a little bit. As always, I take questions and additional recommendations—I’m positive I’ve overlooked, oh, about a hundred things. A hundred seems about right. Continue reading The Art of Being Edited*

Jargon-Slaying

"Your wits are your only weapon here." Photo by Krista Kennedy, Flickr CC.
“Your wits are your only weapon in here.” Photo by Krista Kennedy, Flickr CC.

“What, precisely, does one use to slay jargon?” Dave asked.

“My wits!”

“That’s not… jargon-y.”

“Okay, I utilize the methodology inculcated by years of carefully calibrated pedagogical approaches…”

[seething annoyance] “Stop it.” [/seething annoyance] Continue reading Jargon-Slaying

The Care and Feeding of Co-authors

10803691685_4404b76801_nThis post originally appeared on TheSocietyPages.org.

As Chris Uggen pointed out on the Twitters, it’s easy to disappoint your coworkers. Whether it’s producing actual Swedish Fish when a candy-mergency arises in a late-night writing session or dropping the ball when it’s your turn to write the lit review, there are just so many opportunities to co-write badly. Here’s my very quick editorial advice should you decide to undertake a co-authored project: Continue reading The Care and Feeding of Co-authors