Monday, September 20, 2010

Parallel Structure

By Sherry Wilson

Parallel structure requires sentence parts of the same value to be expressed with the same grammatical structure. Doing this properly will help to make your writing clear and concise.

To find places in your manuscript where the parallelism might be strengthened, do a search for the coordinating conjunctions “and” and “or.” Then look on either side of the conjunction and determine if those words are in parallel.

Here are some examples:

1. Faulty Parallelism:
Katie likes writing, drawing, and to work with paints.

Katie likes writing, drawing and painting.

Katie likes to write, draw and paint.
(Ensure the actions are all the same tense.)

2. Faulty Parallelism:
She always ran quickly, deliberately and with a great deal of grace.

She always ran quickly, deliberately and gracefully.
(All are changed to adverbs here.)

3. Faulty Parallelism:
The coach told the players they should get a lot of sleep, they shouldn’t eat too much, and to do some warm-up exercises before the game.

The coach told the players they should get lots of sleep, they should not eat too much, and they should do some warm-up exercises before the game.

The coach told the players they should get lots of sleep, not eat too much and do some warm-up exercises before the game.

(The following was added by Sandy Tritt)

Note that bullet items and list items should also be parallel in construction and begin with the same part of speech.

Faulty Parallelism:
We offer many other writing tips:
- Within this blog
- Tips pages on our website
- Our Tips and Techniques Workbook has lots of tips not found elsewhere
- When we edit your manuscript.
- At our workshops

We offer many other writing tips:
- Within this blog
- On our website
- In our Tips and Techniques Workbook
- With an edit of your manuscript
- At our workshops

Making your sentences parallel in construction is one more way to strengthen your writing. And we can all use that.

Thanks for stopping by!
© 2010 Inspiration for Writers, Inc.

Monday, September 13, 2010



An editor is the captain of a ship of words. Sometimes the sailing is smooth and the captain enjoys a moment to get another cup of coffee or other source of caffeine. Most of the time, however, Captain Editor is “putting out fires” literally and figuratively.

So what does an editor do? She reads and reads and reads and reads, and then she thinks. Editors must read for work and for pleasure and to stay in touch with contemporary writing. They read manuscripts over and over. They read books on writing and works of fiction. They read the newspaper, magazines, billboards, signs, and telephone books to stay on top of the progress of the written word. This is how they guide a writer toward a concisely written story that makes good sense. And they have to know grammar. While most grammar rules are downright ancient, changes happen in the grammar world, albeit the changes happen about as fast as an iceberg melts. Editors stay current on grammatical issues by reading and studying constantly.

Editors respect the individuality and idiosyncrasies of the writer. Editors inspire writers to be the best they can be by offering honest praise and criticism. Editors help writers grow to understand that writing is a never ending attempt to get the words right. And they answer piles of emails and talk on the telephone. Somewhere they have to make time to think about how to reorganize a piece of writing to accommodate the reader and the writer while pleasing himself as an editor. Time to think is valuable to an editor.

They famous editor Max Perkins, who discovered and edited Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald among many other literary giants, was a great figure in the editing domain. He told writer Thomas Wolfe, “There could be nothing so important as a book can be.” All editors love books and writing and believe nothing else is more important than nurturing the written word even if some editing styles are a little rough around the edges. Perkins also said, “The book belongs to the author.” A model editor keeps this in mind as they work to help a writer’s words remain their own but display grammatical and literary clarity.

Like parenting, good editing sometimes requires tough love to get some writers to understand that although they wrote the words, the book is not a flesh and blood being that needs protected against all aggression. The book belongs to the author but the keen eye belongs to the editor. An editor sees beyond the emotional involvement of the writer and helps produce the best possible book while staying as true to the writer’s voice as possible. Not an easy task.

Send kindness to your editor this month with a handwritten thank you note saying you understand and you can be sure the editor will do their best to respect the writer in you. My editor cut 32,000 words from my latest novel and I didn’t need one bandage, just a drink or two, but I’m sending her a thank you card because the book ended up better for it. Thank an editor and a writer today!

Joy Held, copyright 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

O(de) to Be a Writer

by Charlotte Firbank-King

To be a writer is common place; to be so obsessed with writing that you have to write every day is a burden, surely? But those of us plagued by this malady don’t feel burdened. We feel deprived when we can’t write. Now is that warped or what? Yet there are those out there who will be nodding in agreement and most seriously, too.
Once we have written the great tome, we look at it and edit it again and again and again.

Eventually, we are absolutely certain every comma and period is in place. There is not one tiny little typo left. What can be rephrased brilliantly has been done. We sigh and caress it once more with a confident eye.

Just a quick glance, though.

There is a comma missing!

Panic sets in, and such is the paranoia of this breed of writer that we will edit all one hundred and twenty thousand words. Again.

Although we’re pretty sure it needs nothing more than a proofread, we send it out for an edit. We wait with bated breath for its return, consoling ourselves with the knowledge that there may be one or two little typos we may have missed.

It comes back and we open the file.

The margin is riddled with comments and the text is marked with additions and deletions. First there is disbelief. An idiot surely edited this. Then anger. Our brilliant moments are labelled wordy or just too much. Then astonishment.

But as we get into the edit, we begin to feel energized. The editor was right—our character does need a hobby. Coin-collecting adds a new dimension to his persona and makes him so much more real. And the plot was slow in the middle. Adding a subplot with the brother-in-law adds appeal and gives credence to the ending. And yes, the setting does need a bit more description to take us right there, and yes, the reading is so much more interesting when we tighten the dialogue.

And so it is. If we open our minds to instruction and if we study our craft, we will become much better writers and yes, eventually, we will succeed.

Winston Churchill said:
Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.

(c) copyright 2010 Charlotte Firbank-King. All Rights Reserved.