Writing’s Little Things

Details matter, someone once said. As a writer and teacher, I’m willing to overlook spelling, grammatical and usage errors from new writers. But the moment I spot a small error from a writer who is supposedly a pro, something inside me cringes and I have trouble admiring that writer. Even if the writer is ME. When I goof, I send myself to the WRITER STOCKS.
Writing Tip for Today: My literary agent wrote a blog post today listing her favorite style & grammar books. Below you’ll find a list of some different ones that I use, sometimes less often than I should. And while we’re on the subject, I think all of us should learn our word processing programs (i.e. WORD) so we don’t end up with a poorly formatted document and so we don’t panic quite as often. Yesterday I learned how to make lists behave and how to finally finally rid a doc of the track changes red ink. I think we should celebrate!

  • Elements of Style: Strunk & White. This slim volume is a standard reference that every writer should own. While it was originally published years ago, it’s been updated and still remains the standard-bearer for writers. I hear there’s an illustrated version out. How cool!
  • Eats Shoots and Leaves. Lynne Truss helps us out with punctuation lessons that will make you laugh out loud. Another example of a punctuation no-no is: Let’s eat Grandma. Can you guess where the comma goes?
  • Sin and Syntax. Constance Hale keeps our souls and sentences clean and effective.
  • Woe is I. Patricia T. O’Connor helps us with those tricky pronouns and lots of other useful stuff.
  • A good dictionary. Webster’s or Oxford, no matter. Pay special attention to homophones, words which sound alike but are spelled differently. Your spell checker is useless on these things. Just this morning I read something from a supposedly “pro” writer who announced that her husband had come through his cath surgery and now had a new stint. As in stint in the army? I think she meant stent. But I misspelled carpal tunnel recently so we’re both guilty. Maybe we should both do a STINT in the writer stocks?

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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