Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#27)

In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these guidelines form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.

Tip #27

A tip for all writers is to avoid the use of the word “there.” If it’s used as a noun to denote location (“When we got there, we stopped.”), it’s fine.
But as soon as it enters the narrative as an adverb with the chilling words “There is” or “There are,” it serves to encourage sloppy, boring writing, usually full of static nouns, and reminding the reader of a government report.

Instead of “There are many examples . . .” try “Examples abound . . .” or “Many examples show . . .”

Editors should hunt down these “there”s, and writers should avoid them.

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Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#26)

In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these guidelines form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.

Tip #26

I have written earlier about the importance of keeping all of the entries in a list consistent. All very obvious, you may say.

How, then, can we account for the giant signs outside Indigo stores that say: “Books” (That’s good, and it’s nice that they lead off their list of items for sale with the printed word. ) “Gifts” (Again, a sensible widening of the items available.)  Then, finally . . . “Kids” (What is this? Either baby goats are now on sale, or junior human beings, or the list of items has just taken a head-spinning turn to express the idea that, um, you know, things suitable for children are available at Indigo.)

“Books. Gifts. Kids.” Nice work.

Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#20)

In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these guidelines form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.

Tip #20
Make sure that lists are in a consistent form. All too often we find published lists that provide, for example, a list of aims as follows:
“ a. to entertain
b. to instruct
c. to inform
d. guidance
e to provide a model.”
Clearly, this is a very sloppy form of guidance, but a keen-eyed editor will find inconsistent listing everywhere. It’s almost as worrying as spotting a listing ship.