grammar

multi-coloured plant leaves and shoots

Copy-editing 101 for Authors

Just realised I gave a lot of detail about the copy-editing process, but not much about the big picture. So…

Copy-editing means slightly different things to different people. However, as a rule, it includes both proof-reading (checking for grammar and punctuation errors, logical inconsistencies and awkward/ambiguous phrasing) and formatting using a house style (i.e. a document specifying how different things should be formatted and how ambiguous grammar issues should be dealt with) or an established style (e.g. Harvard referencing, AMA, etc.).

Most publishers have their own house style, which will be broadly in line with one of the major styles of formatting, especially as regards referencing (if this applies).

So, Faber prefers ‘Sonny Rawlins’s pen’ rather than ‘Sonny Rawlins’ pen.’ Also, Faber would prefer ‘it twitched and twisted as if she was trying to be funny’ rather than the traditional rendering of the conditional subjunctive ‘it twitched and twisted as if she were trying to be funny’ (I have a strong preference for the latter so we went with that in the end). Some of the hyphen issues I mentioned before may also be partly house style issues, though it looks to me that it’s a strict adherence to the Oxford English Dictionary rules (the industry standard) for the most part.

Basically, the copy-editor smoothes and tidies in terms of grammar, punctuation, formatting AND content. It’s a pretty tall order.

The tricky bit is how much a copy-editor should comment on content. While I do the odd little bit of copy-editing (if a client asks me to format a reference list or make sure an article is broadly inline with a journal’s house style), most of my work involves more in-depth editing… So it’s expected that I’ll delve into the content quite a bit. But, to be fair, I find it hard not to anyway.

My take on editing of any sort is that if you tell clients and students everything you think could change, then they can examine the possibilities… all the possibilities. All the ways things could be different. Of course, they’ll accept some changes and reject others, but they’ll have had the opportunity to double-check more of the decisions that went into the writing of their work. And I think that’s always a good thing. A comment challenges the way you’ve done something. It makes you think again about whether it is the best way. And why it’s the best way. And that may help you improve other elements of the book or article or whatever the document is.

One of the things that really impressed me about Eleanor was what a light touch she had with her copy-editing. She picked up a lot of little things… but she was very respectful of the book and seemed to have a strong sense of my aesthetic and when I’d make an unusual choice that was entirely intentional. Punctuation is a good thing to look at here because there are rules, but they’re not as rigid as people sometimes think, especially in fiction. For instance, in fiction, it’s fair enough to have sentence fragments.

Amy’s voice. Soft and warm, like the blankets, like the bed.

Amy, not Fiona.

A sigh. My own. The air is hot and sharp with the smell of chemicals.

This could be punctuated in various ways. There are things that can’t and won’t work – though students often think that in fiction you can break all the rules of punctuation, rather than just bending some of them – but there are also plenty of acceptable options.

Before the copy-editing process started, I was worried that my copy-editor would want to change some of these things to other, acceptable options… But Eleanor didn’t touch anything that fell into this category. And I really appreciated that.

Ideally, the copy-editing process should involve dialogue between the copy-editor and author, plenty of compromise and some negotiation. If there’s a rule about something, and there isn’t an acceptable alternative, then don’t fight a change to uphold the rule. If the copy-editor thinks you haven’t been clear, maybe you really haven’t. But just occasionally there will be something you don’t agree on that you think is important, and then you just have to say ‘Please can we keep it as is.’ If you’ve not been difficult, and if there isn’t a true error at stake, it shouldn’t be a problem.

On the whole, though, I’d assume that most comments merit a change, even if it’s not exactly what the copy-editor is suggesting. Maybe she has spotted an error, but the correction just doesn’t sound right to you. So correct the error in a different way. But do correct it.

And there you go. My take on ‘Copy-editing 101 for Authors’.

How about you? Have your experiences been similar or have you had the bad luck to have a heavy-handed copy-editor?

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butterfly and lavender

Everyone should have a project editor

When is it? Ah… I see. It’s the very last day of July. And the universe (via Faber) has brought me a present for the new month: my very own project editor.  (Well, not brought in an I-now-own-this sort of way, but I have a project editor none the less.)

Everyone should have one. They’re wonderful. They organise things. Many, many things.

I have been especially lucky with my project editor, Lucie, who – [fast forwards a few weeks] – has arranged for the amazing Eleanor to copy-edit my book brilliantly and very, very quickly.

So, we’re… er… mid August? Yes, something like that. Somewhere in the second half of August and not only do I have a project editor and copy editor, I have a copy-edited manuscript.

Eleanor has cowed Microsoft Word into submission and made the formatting behave throughout the entire document. I am suitably impressed by this feat alone. But there’s more.

She’s also sorted out my hyphens. I didn’t realise how bad I was at hyphens. I swear it wasn’t quite this bad not so long ago. Perhaps it was. Or perhaps this is one of the things I ‘lost’ when I had the latest rib taken out. Every anaesthetic I lose a few very precise things from my memory (the time before it was Latin flower names and things to do with architecture). It’s not that I forget these things, they’re just gone: no memory trace whatsoever. Anyway, I don’t know quite whether to hope I ‘lost’ my hyphens or whether I was just rubbish at them all along. Perhaps I’ll compromise with myself and just say ‘it’s one of those things that’s hard to spot in your own work’. That seems like a happier way of putting it.

Eleanor has also found a horrid number of sentences with repeated words. I’m generally so good at spotting these when I edit for other people… how can I have missed quite so many in my own work? On the bright side, Eleanor has spotted them so I can now sort them out before quite so many people see.

Hm… typo… typo… Wow, how did I miss that one?

Interesting: a three page allergy to the definite article. (What was going on there? Perhaps I don’t want to know… moving along, moving along…)

Ah… I see how that might sound a little odd to other people. But I hear it like that. Maybe it’s some dyslexic-ness in terms of the weird way I perceive language rhythms, but that’s how that sentence sounds to me. Even if it is a little dyslexic-weird, maybe non-dyslexic people will find it interesting anyway. After all, that’s how I hear it: that’s part of my voice. And I am careful not to go overboard with my weird way of hearing things. The majority of sentences need to appeal to a wide array of readers: a writer should only keep the odd one that exactly represents the stranger bits of her inner voice. But this sentence is *me*. This represents exactly how I hear things. This one I get to keep.

An awkward sentence. Yes, it most definitely is. All change, please!

In or into… Should theoretically be in, but into is acceptable and I like how it conveys motion, whereas ‘in’ is static.

Tenses, tenses… Some tricky ones here. A recounted story that includes a note about a general personality characteristic of someone still alive. Should that be in the same tense as the rest of the story-within-the-book, or does it go in the tense of the main narrative because the character is still alive and still likes flowers? As for some of the others… the book deals a lot with the fact that the past and present aren’t always that separate… For me, that needs to bleed into the grammar. But making sure that the grammar serves the story and doesn’t confuse when there’s a slip in time, and so in tense, is not easy.

This bit of reported speech doesn’t repeat the original bit of dialogue… Nope. But it *is* intentionally different. The change in the reported version is quite telling. At least I hope it is.

With my Uncle Ben or with my uncle Ben? I’m a traditionalist. The former it is because the latter, for me, would require a comma before ‘Ben’ and I don’t like it like that.

What else? Oh… a flaw in the time line. A great big one.  I *knew* something wasn’t quite right there. Fixed. With surprisingly few changes.

A nice little bit of logical inconsistency. Possibly it’s not good for the soul. Let’s see if we can’t make that make sense.

Oh, and a nice dash of ambiguity…

And a nice little lack of clarity… Where are we in this scene? Oh, yes. There we are…

Hm… is this bit of dialogue forced? I think it won’t be if I just push a little harder here, make it clear to the reader that there’s meant to be some awkwardness by making it even more awkward. Yes, I think that works. And I love the characterisation of the bit-character now that I’ve brought all that awkwardness into the light.

Oh dear. People are spilling things left, right and centre. Or rather I’ve spilled lots of spillings into a single page. I’d better start cleaning up.

And now the manuscript is looking so clean and tidy! Hyphens all neatly in place. Repetitions scrubbed away… But there’s one change I just can’t even consider. It’s to one of my favourite lines in the whole book. And I *do* see how other people might find the phrasing a bit odd, but I love it. It  says exactly what I mean about something quite hard to describe. Sometimes it’s good to be able to say  ‘I am the author. I outrank you!’ Actually, I don’t say anything at all beyond ‘Please could I keep it!’ because I don’t have to… (and because I don’t know if Eleanor is familiar with The Producers, so don’t want to risk offending her if she doesn’t recognise this as a quotation.)

Every author is bound to find there are one or two changes that they just don’t want to make. The key is to know when something that might not work for all readers is important enough to you to assert your rights over. Think about it as having a handful of ‘free passes’ – a handful of times you can just say ‘no’, even when you acknowledge the merit of your editor/publisher’s comment. Often the comment is right in the broader sense of what will work best for the largest number of readers… But it’s still your book. If there are a few little things you love, and you haven’t been difficult about taking editorial advice, then no one will have a problem with it.

So what was my much-loved lined?

As soon as she says it, we both realise how unexpected the words are: oddly tender, wistful, as if she is lonely for kindness.

What do you think? Do you like it or are you with Eleanor, who would have preferred ‘hungry for kindness’?

lots of different pens

Between the lines: what do your CV and cover letter really say about you?

One of the things I really enjoy about recruiting is the opportunity to give feedback, especially when I’m turning applicants down: if the feedback can help them get the job the next job round, then I’ve done them a good turn and so the ‘no’ isn’t all negative. Try to see it this way next time someone give you a ‘nice no’. Always remember to say thank you: people remember it.

But before you send anything out, find someone who can cast an objective eye over your application materials. Now, I don’t mean that you should run every version of every cover letter or application past some poor benighted friend, teacher or favourite auntie. But every so often it is worth wafting one generic version past someone who’ll give it to you straight. And if you do get turned down and no one offers you feedback, why not be proactive and ask for it… provided the employer hasn’t indicated (as many are doing nowadays) that they’re not willing to oblige. And isn’t that an interesting sign that maybe that’s not a brilliant company to work for anyway?

 But before you show your cover letter or CV to anyone, make sure you’ve done the best job you can without help. Feedback on a decent attempt should turn it into a good one. Feedback on a rubbish one will probably only render it not completely dire. It’s a good point about feedback in general: go looking for it when you can’t get any further by yourself, otherwise you’ll end up with people telling you thing you already know instead of pointing out the subtle things you’d never in a million years spot on your own.

The trick with polishing your own CV or cover letter prior to that critical second opinion is knowing where the potential dangers lurk and what you may be all but shouting without realising it.

Sometimes the problem is blindingly obvious:

I am very hardworking and reliable individual, I enjoy learning new skills and gaining new experiences. Also within my project meeting new clients and working with different people is customary to my degree. I am also apart of the Student Union therefore I am a part of the team who run and plan different ways of fund raising for are world wide trips and events. I also do allot of leaflet work for events at the SU. Therefore I feel I am an outgoing individual with allot of charisma and very hardworking. I am really looking forward in having fun at the placement while also improving my CV with the experience.

Everyone makes mistakes, even in their cover letter and CV. But there are only so many mistakes you can get away with, especially when you’re applying for a copy-editing position. Generally speaking, if you’re applying for a job that has anything to do with writing, you need to make sure you make a minimum of spelling and grammar errors.

Sometimes, the problem is about how the person is tooting their own horn.

Achievements

• Passed elementary drawing exam in 2000 with grade ‘B’.

• Officiated as a student editor for the college magazine for two years, 2006 & 2007.

• Participated in several inter-school competitions for drawing and group singing.

The second point is interesting, relevant and worth mentioning when applying for a job in publishing. The other achievements aren’t. Some of the achievements I’m most proud of will never, ever get mentioned in my CV because (a) they have nothing to do with any job I’ll ever apply for, and (b) they’re just not that impressive. Getting a B at elementary level a decade ago in an irrelevant skill is just going to make your prospective employer toss your application aside: if that’s one of your top three achievements outside your degree in the last 10 years, it doesn’t say much for the range or depth of your skills. Why not just expand on the second point rather than scrabbling for things to put down that are going to do more harm than good?

The other side of the coin is that if you say you’re good at something, especially if it’s a skill that can be demonstrated in your CV/cover letter, then you need to deliver.

I am currently a freelance sub editor for XZTC. The work involves proof reading reports, which detail the commercial and industrial activities of companies across the globe; and are subscribed to by various investors.

So, this editor doesn’t really understand semi-colons and clearly can’t spot a clunky sentence even when it’s the first one. Not very promising.

I make sure the information is presented in the most effective way, with accurate use of language and grammar, and that facts and figures are consistent. This has really increased my understanding of writing technique, and of how (in business, public service or the media) it must be well handled in order to clearly provide the reader with the information they require.

This is the most effective way of presenting the info?” I ask myself. “This is a display of ‘accurate use of language and grammar’?” Not only has this editor not got a clue about how to be concise, but he thinks the primary aim of fact-checking is cross-referencing within an article. Or perhaps he just doesn’t know the difference between accuracy and consistency. Clearly (pun intended), he also doesn’t understand that splitting infinitives should be left for times when not splitting the infinitive makes for an ugly sentence. Then there’s the little fact that he doesn’t understand pronouns (the reader = they ?).

It has got me properly used to deadlines, and is a real position of responsibility (I am key link in the publication process between the writing stage and final edit) which I take very seriously. In addition, of course, it is increasing my knowledge of economic and business matters, and is stimulating my general sense of interest.

“Lovely,” I sigh to myself. “An editor who doesn’t understand the concept of formal language.” I can forgive the missing definite article and the missing comma, but the phrase “general sense of interest” is a problem: not only is this editor horribly long-winded, he’s also vague.

As well as that, of course, it drew on (and, simultaneously, further developed) my writing skills. The next placement consisted of contacting a high frequency of venues and organisations to try and get them interested in hiring the equipment for entertainment events.

So with his “further developed” writing skills, the editor has decided that “frequency” is a suitable descriptor here and that he is going to try-and-get as opposed to ‘try to get’ new clients?

My conclusion: no wonder this editor is looking for a new job.

Conversely, some applicants tell you, right from the start, why no one has hired them in the first place (or at least not for a while).

Other less relevant work has been omitted from my CV in the interest of brevity, but the only significant gaps have been the result of concentrating on higher education and the last month or so, when I’ve been looking for work.

Thank you for pointing out the gaps in your CV in a completely defensive ‘it’s not my fault’ manner. Why not just hint at what was missed out in a way that demonstrates exactly why you’ve left it out at the same time as proving you weren’t sitting on your behind during the gaps? And as for the “month or so”, I wouldn’t have cared: recruiters are usually not vicious about short gaps. It’s year-long or multiple year gaps that get people worried. But now I’m curious: is the phrasing intended to throw me off about how long the applicant has been off work? I’ll definitely be looking at the length of the gaps now.

Between March and August I was employed as part of a customer support team. My contract expired on August 30th, and although I was offered a permanent position I declined for various reasons. Chief amongst them was that the 10-hour a week commute and the poor shift pattern (I worked from 10 PM to 8 AM, four nights a week) were starting to have an effect on my health and left me little time to pursue my ambitions outside of work.

Lots of people commute for 10 hours a week. Lots of people have to work long hours on unpleasant rotas. Fair enough if you don’t want to be one, but please don’t whine about it. Friends will hopefully bear a certain amount of whinging with patience (and let’s face it, we all need a good moan sometimes), but even really nice recruiters don’t want to listen to complaints. If you need to explain why you left your last job, keep it simple and shelve the baggage.

“I was looking for a job with a shorter commute,” you tell the recruiter.

The recruiter checks your address, shrugs and says, “Fair enough.”

But there’s another problem with the extract above. Never tell a prospective employer that if you have to work late one evening, you’ll take the next two days off sick. Implied whining doesn’t go down any better than overt whining. If you’ve got a disability or long-term health issue that affects your energy, that’s a completely different matter. But if you’re a basically healthy person, you need to be willing to go into work even if you’re a little tired after a few long days. If you’re not, at least have the sense not to warn people in advance!

And please, don’t advertise your personality flaws in your CV. Save it for the Christmas party when everyone is being a bit obnoxious so it might just go unnoticed.

A long-term goal of mine is to become a renowned fiction author. As such, I regularly submit short pieces to magazines to gain a reputation.

Just what I always wanted! An employee who needs constant validation and craves worship from those around him. It’s never a good idea to tell a prospective employer that you want to do a job because you think it’ll make you famous. Why? Because you’ve effectively just said that you’re not interested in the work and that if you don’t get promoted quickly or you don’t get the high prestige jobs, you won’t care about what you’re doing.

Employers like recruits who are going to care about their work because usually these people work harder and do a better job. Plus, they don’t whinge about having to do a bit of scut work at the beginning. Demonstrate that you want to do the work for its own sake.

I also enjoy video games to relax, and on the weekend a few quiet drinks with friends and my partner, at the local pub or at one of our houses.

A picture perfect finish: in your down-time, you like to get drunk. Maybe you do, but is that really what you want to tell your prospective employer?

Now, while it pains me to do it, it probably is worth mentioning a few last things that might seem absurdly obvious but clearly aren’t to the many, many applicants who demonstrate no writing skills whatsoever in job applications but do show a clear lack of common sense.

  • Treat emails to prospective employers like formal letters. Use proper grammar and spelling. Start new sentences with capitals. Capitalise the pronoun ‘I’ and any names… And generally avoid informal abbreviations and text-speak. The minute I get an application email that reads ‘i am writing 2 apply for work placement @ ur company’, I know that I am unlikely to spend more than 10 seconds glancing at the attached CV to confirm what I already suspect: the applicant is lazy and generally second-rate.
  • Don’t use smiley faces or emoticons. Adopt a formal tone without being pompous or grovelling. 
  • Be enthusiastic and always reply promptly to emails from any prospective employers.
  • Be courteous. If someone rejects your application, never whine or tell them they’re wrong. Maybe they are wrong and you’re the perfect choice for the role, but whinging will only confirm the opposite.
  • Don’t miss deadlines. If something is going to stop you getting a form or reference in on time, contact the employer and negotiate a new deadline: that’s often acceptable. Being late never is.

Do you have any tricks for getting a CV/cover letter just right?

Or any tips you wanted to give job applicants you’ve rejected?

Technical Mastery: editing quality non-fiction

There’s something wonderful about editing a really good piece of work. With sub-standard pieces, ‘editing’ often comes closer to ‘rewriting’. Anyone who has been editing for a while will have come across pieces that can’t even be rewritten: there’s so much red that you slowly realise you’ve been writing the piece from scratch, keeping in the odd definite article and the occasional noun.

But when you get something wonderful to work on the process is energising and collaborative. Instead of writing twenty comments per page about what is lacking, what is unclear, what is illogical, you can ask questions and point out alternatives: you can engage with the writer as a colleague and partner. With good work, you remain an editor and get credit for an editorial contribution. When what you’re editing is a gigantic mess, you end up being a co-author, or even the primary author… but you don’t get any credit. This isn’t just frustrating: it brings some serious ethical issues into play. But that’s a discussion for another day.

So what does an editor do with a really good piece of work? I’m currently editing a fantastic PhD thesis. The examples below are drawn from this project, though I’ve changed the nature of the argument so that I can discuss the editorial issues while ensuring that the writer isn’t identifiable.

The above excerpt from AAAA is mirrored in the claim of BBBB that…

Coming directly under a block-quote, much of this clause is redundant. Why not ‘AAAA’s argument is mirrored in’ or even ‘This is mirrored in’? Why waste words pointing out the obvious: that the subject of discussion is the preceding quotation?

The other thing to consider is whether there is a good reason to use the passive voice here. Actually, there’s a good reason not to. You’ve just presented quotation A: why then say that this reflects quotation B? Surely that indicates that B is the primary quotation – in which case why not quote from B to begin with?

Instead of a 13-word clause in the passive voice that implies a somewhat dubious logical relationship between two key sources, why not use ‘This mirrors BBBB’s claim that’. This leaves you with 5 words in the active voice and a clear, logical relationship between the two sources.

The ways in which multiple, contradictory versions of this event are described will be explored.

This statement of the first chapter’s objective is problematic. Why use the passive voice? This is what the writer is going to do… or does the writer intend to indicate that she’s going to try to do this but isn’t sure she will succeed? Not a very encouraging start.

Be bold when laying out your objectives: say “This is what I’m going to do.” It’s for the reader to judge whether you’ve succeeded, but you can at least set out with conviction and determination.

Instead of ‘The chapter will explore’ – active voice but future tense – why not just ‘The chapter explores’? It’s best to use the present tense: the chapter has been written, so why go for the more tentative ‘will explore’ (as in ‘it will do this once it’s written’)?

AAAA and BBBB are critics, as well as authors, and this is the focus of the literary criticism in which they appear.

Beware pronouns. What is the focus here? What is “this”? Is “this” the fact that AAAA and BBBB have created two very different types of text or the fact that they are authors? It’s probably the former, but why not just say that? A lot of writers – of fiction and non-fiction – seem to have a fear of specifying: they seem to think it’s clunky to keep naming names. But pronouns are actually a huge headache for readers: the reader has to keep reminding him/herself what the pronoun represents.

Plus think about the psychology of what’s going on (this is more a point about fiction). Think about parents giving interviews about missing children. They keep saying the child’s name. Names help to make people real to us. Why not use the same principles in your writing to make your characters present to your readers?

Don’t go too far the other way and write ‘Richard went to the park. Richard fed the ducks. Richard went home and there Richard made a sandwich’. Instead, try something like ‘Richard went to the park. He fed the ducks and then went home. At home, Richard made a sandwich’. As a rule of thumb, don’t have more than two pronouns in a row: after two pronouns in a row, use the character’s name. Note, however, that this is a rule of thumb for he/she/it/this, etc., not for I/we/you… And only applies when there’s one person in the frame. Names are critical when the same pronoun could refer to more than one character.

This rule is a good one to follow for non-fiction as well. If you’re writing an essay, it’s much better to be specific: it helps keep your argument tight and clear. Better to err on the side of specifying more often than is needed than to use too many pronouns and risk confusing your reader (or, worse yet, your marker if you’re a student!).

This issue becomes significant when authors engage with the portrayals of different forms of Britishness.

Why “the” portrayals? Is the author talking about very specific portrayals or the portrayals created by a few specific authors? The use of “when authors” implies that a general view is being taken, so the writer is probably seeking to make a general point. The implied mis-match of specificity creates a sense of logical inconsistency, rendering the argument far less tight and persuasive.

Two books which make substantial use of these sources are…

The clause should either read ‘Two books, which make substantial use of these sources are’ or ‘Two books that make substantial use of these sources are’. This is because ‘which’ marks a clause as non-restrictive, while ‘that’ marks a clause as restrictive. This isn’t just a fancy, futz-y technical difference: it’s actually quite important in terms of the logic of what you’re saying. The ‘which’ version of the clause indicates that the two books in question just happen to use “these sources” but the fact that they do isn’t particularly important: it’s an extra bit of interesting but non-essential info. The ‘that’ version of the clause indicates that the two books are identified by the fact they use “these sources”.

It’s very unlikely that the author would want to use the ‘which’ version. I’m pretty sure the author wants to emphasise that these books rely specifically on “these sources”. If so, the clause must be restrictive, so the ‘that’ version must be used.

The line between “factual” and “fictional” literature, which is usually thought so distinct…

There should be single quotation marks around the words ‘factual’ and ‘fictional’. Save double quotation marks for actual quotations (NB: quote is a verb, quotation is a noun) and for dialogue. Single quotation marks are used when you’re simply trying to mark a particular word out: for example, to question its usual meaning (as here). Also note that ‘which’ is used correctly here as the clause after the comma is non-restrictive.

It doesn’t matter whether you use the terms restrictive/non-restrictive, but it is important to understand that, in this instance, good grammar can actually tighten the logic of your argument, while bad grammar can introduce a degree of logical inconsistency and weaken it. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you recognise this as a restrictive/non-restrictive issue but it does matter whether you made the right choice between ‘that’ and ‘which’. The same is true for all the other little, finicky things explored here: it doesn’t matter if you know all the technical terms, but mastering the technical aspects of good writing does matter. After all, who doesn’t want to get their point across as clearly as possible?

But even more than that, it’s important to understand how these little technical things can help you communicate more effectively, whether you’re trying to make a tight, persuasive argument or draw the reader into a fictional world. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished by getting these little details right. If your grammar is ‘good enough’, you can build a solid, basic structure: if it’s superb, you can create a unique skeleton to flesh out with wonderful phrases and spot-on adjectives. With true mastery, you can make technical choices that convey your unique voice as writer, adding a new layer to what is unique and interesting in your work. Above all, if you’ve got technical mastery, you can wield grammar as a tool, rather than having it control you: this opens up a world of different options and choices, freeing you  to focus on the higher level (and far more interesting) issue of content rather than the basics of form.

 

Where to start with polishing your writing

Three good places to start but not to finish: Strunk and White’s Elements of Style ; http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/search.php; and http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~wricntr/resources.html.

Like the three resources above, this strange-looking site is a good place to start if you’re going to be teaching writing: http://www.uefap.com/writing/writfram.htm.

Three good resources for once you’ve got a handle on the basics: The Penguin Guide to English Punctuation; The Penguin the Guide to Plain English; and The Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar.

An excellent ‘home study’ guide that’s also a really good reference and ‘brush up’ tool: Trevor Horwood’s Freelance Proofreading and Copy-editing.

Never underestimate the value of thesaurus. Roget’s is online here

Although not very professional, both of these sites have some pretty good resources: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/index.htm; and http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/semicolons.asp.

Finally, for Harvard-style referencing: http://libweb.anglia.ac.uk/referencing/harvard.htm?harvard_id=53#53.