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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You Always Knew "Swum" Was a Word, Right?

Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
HowToDoItFrugally Publishing, 2010
55 pages, e-book and paperback
Also available for Kindle
ISBN: 1450507654

Reviewed by Dawn Colclasure

Is there a difference between “childlike” and “childish”? Actually, there is. That's just one of the things I learned when reading Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, which is a companion volume to her other book, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success.

Reading this book reminded me of the first book in my Revisions series, which is scheduled for publication this spring (and notice that it is “spring” and not “Spring”). In the editing section of that book, I show the difference between popularly confusing words, such as lay/lie, this/that, who/whom and farther/further. In the first part of this book, “Trip-You-Up Words,” Carolyn explores word pairings (or even triplings) of words commonly confused with each other.

I'm glad she included information on the difference between "anxious" and "eager.” I trained myself to stop using "anxious" in a positive way (such as, "I am anxious to see you again") by remembering that the "anx-" prefix is similar to "anxiety." Thus, "anxious" is similar to being filled with anxiety. So would I be feeling anxiety at the prospect of seeing a friend again? Not if it's a good friend! So the correct word is "eager."
This made me laugh: "The sidekick baseball announcers are big on commentary. My gawd! Those statistics and opinions! They go on ad infinitum." (Page 20) One thing Carolyn is known for is her wit and sense of humor. It was pleasant to see this side of her shown in her book.

I wish she had included the difference between compliment/complement. On the other hand, readers must remember that this itty bitty book is only a “companion” volume to her larger, in-depth book on editing. You’ll also find more editing tips on her blog, “The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor." If a word pairing is not covered here or in her book, chances are good she has taken it on in her blog.
She doesn't exactly explain why there is a difference between "hope" and "hopefully," and why using "hopefully" in the common way it is misused is incorrect. (I was surprised to learn this, myself.) Again, however, check with her book, or her blog.

I really appreciated reading this: "In English, we get to make up a word now and then as long as we don't do it at the threshold of a gatekeeper." (Page 28) So true! And very good advice. One thing about being a logophile (lover of words) is that we like to “take breaks” from our quest for proper grammar and have fun with the object of our addic—er, I mean, “affection.” One way we do this is to make up words, and it’s such fun to make up words. Sometimes, I’ll write out silly words just to pass the time, and the results can sometimes pique my interest or cause me to chuckle. (And Carolyn will be pleased to know that I have use “pique” as her booklet instructs.)

I'm glad she pointed out the difference between “i.e.” and “e.g.” as well as the importance of inserting commas on either side of "i.e." and "e.g." She didn't, however, note that the periods are likewise essential. I’ve seen many people use them as “ie” and “eg.”

Some readers of this book, and many others like it, may reach the conclusion that Carolyn must always have perfect grammar and never make a mistake. Unfortunately, this is a widespread opinion of such authors and writers. Even some may believe such a thing of Mignon Fogarty ("Grammar Girl"). However, these writers are only human, and humans are prone to make mistakes. Even grammarians make mistakes. Editors make mistakes all the time. Carolyn reminds her readers of this by sharing an embarrassing goof in using the wrong word in the title of a poem she shared with her class, concluding with: "This experience gives me a chance to remind you to be forgiving of others when they error; your turn is sure to come."

I was grateful to learn the difference between "podium" and "lectern." I know I have misused "podium" a time or two. Now, thanks to this "great little" book, I'll be sure to remember which word is the correct one to use!

And now for the "curious word of the day." Cue the fanfare! The curious word is: Swum. Yes, "swum" is indeed a word, Carolyn notes. To be honest, I've always, always seen either "swim," "swimmed" or "swam." But never "swum." It made me wonder if there is a difference between "swum" and "swam." ("Swam" is still a word, right?)

I love how she points out the popular mispronunciation of words, some of which even I am guilty of. It is not "mischievious," but "mischievous." It is not "verbage" but "verbiage." Likewise, she points out the popular way sayings are repeated incorrectly. It is not "could care less" but "couldn't care less." It is not "tie you over" but "tide you over." In one of my manuscripts, a character is guilty of often quoting popular phrases incorrectly, and we’ve all gotten a chuckle or two when someone does this in a TV show or movie. Still, it's nice to know the correct way to say such a thing for what you really mean.

This “great little book” of editing tips gives readers a down-to-earth and refreshing approach to better grammar and usage. Grammarians bemoan the incorrect wording of the sign “ten items or less” and chuckle over a sign advertising “tattoo’s.” (Whose tattoo, exactly?) While we are imperfect writers living in an imperfect world filled with grammar mistakes and mispronunciations, it’s editing books like this that helps us get one step closer to writing, and speaking, clearly and succinctly.

Author of the following books: November's Child, Take My Hand, 365 TIPS FOR WRITERS: Inspiration, Writing Prompts and Beat the Block Tips to Turbo Charge Your Creativity, BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: How We Survive as Writing Parents, Love is Like a Rainbow: Poems of Love and Devotion, Songs of the Dead, co-author of TOTALLY SCARED: The Complete Book on Haunted Houses

~Reviewer Dawn Colclasure is an author of Totally Scared: The Complete Book On Haunted Houses where she shares everything you ever wanted to know about haunted houses, and the ghosts who haunt them! .She is a contributing writer for SIGNews. Learn more about her at . Tweet with her at and follow her book review blog at

The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor. As a courtesy to the author, please tweet and retweet this post using this little green retweet widget :

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