Author Spotlight: Julie Bogart

The Original Brave Writer: Julie Bogart

Internationally acclaimed teacher of writers and author Julie Bogart is the mind behind Brave Writer, a fantastic resource for parents and students of writing. She has authored over 200 curricula teaching writing to various age groups, helping thousands gain a better understanding of the written word, and their own voice. Her podcast is also a fantastic support for homeschool families. The same warmth and insight found in her teaching style is evident as she chats with families about their challenges and helps them find ways through the rough. We were able to score an interview and are so pleased to be able to share with our readers her work and wisdom.

TLW: Thank you so much for agreeing to visit with me about your work and approach to writing! I saw this quote recently, and felt the truth of it regarding my own writing. Even as someone who loves to write, it sometimes takes a lot of guts to put myself out there; sometimes the sacrifices required to see your work through is tough, so this really hit home:

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. 

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.” 

― Veronica Roth, Allegiant

Does this relate to your writing students?

JB: Courage in writing, in my view, has to do with showing up as yourself—your ideas, imagination, personal experience, opinions, thoughts. It takes courage to risk exposure of a self. We sometimes forget that it takes just as much courage to write a 4th grade report about dolphins as a poem—to make sure you have the right information in the best sequence, that you’ve shared it in a way you hope is compelling to read. So yes—that there are many ways to be brave resonates. What I notice is that not everyone recognizes the act of courage in writing. That’s my mission: to highlight that fact and help parents appreciate it.

TLW:  Tell me more about why you chose the name “Brave Writer” for your programs and materials.

JB: Both words matter.

“Brave”—because each of us has to be willing to be seen when we write. One of the reasons for the rampant experience of writer’s block is that everyone knows putting your thoughts into written form preserves them for scrutiny, judgment. When we talk, our words are ephemeral, easily revised and forgotten. Writing solidifies and preserves them—we must face our own shoddy thinking or incomplete understanding. The willingness to greet the blank page with openness and optimism often needs to be cultivated. Putting our words where they will be read is a brave act.

“Writer”—because we teach human beings (writers) not a subject (writing). The emphasis in our name is on the people taking the writing risks. Anyone who can externalize language is a writer—whether that person transcribes their own thoughts or gets someone else (secretary, parent, voice-to-text software) to do it. Writing doesn’t exist apart from the writer; writing lives inside the writer. Our task in Brave Writer is to help the writer discover their words within and then to coax those words forward with gentleness and optimism. Once we have the words on the page or screen, we can do lots of things with them—all of which can be shared in a friendly, warm way, which leads to power in writing.

TLW: That is so beautiful and powerful. How did you start your career in writing, and ultimately arrive at teaching writing?

JB: My mother (Karen O’Connor) is a professional author of over 70 books and countless magazine articles. I grew up writing as a natural birthright. As a young adult, I built a freelance writing career that included ghostwriting, magazine editing, and book editing. A homeschooling friend of mine shared her struggles teaching her children to write and asked for my help. When I looked at the materials she was using, I was floored. They were so out of step with everything I knew about the writing life. She then suggested I host a class for her and other home educators. We began with 15 parents and it grew over 7 weeks to 40 people. I discovered that what I taught felt brand new to most adults. That led me to realize that a book teaching parents how to be writing coaches and allies to their kids would be valuable.

Julie’s supplemental materials delve into more than just basic writing.

TLW:  You do have a very unique approach compared to most writing instructors for children. I love that you’ve set as a first priority helping writers find their voice. What advice do you have to writers still struggling in this area?

JB: More freedom, more space to write “badly.” One of the first ways I help kids who feel reluctant to write is to encourage them to focus only on their thoughts (not spelling, handwriting, or punctuation). Give complete attention to the ticker tape of ideas and words flowing through your mind and write down every single word—even words like, “I’m stuck” and “This is stupid; why do I have to write?” As the hand is trained to transcribe the mind, the blocks dissipate.

For especially stuck writers, I go one step further. I tell the young writer than no one (not even your parents) is allowed to read what you write. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and write the whole time, anything you want to say, anything going through your mind, and share it with no one. Your writing is for your eyes only. Get used to seeing yourself show up on the page without the anxiety that someone will judge you for what you put there. Some kids need months of weekly writing just like this. To help create this space, I tell parents that they, too, must write for 3-5 minutes at the same time. Let’s all take the same writing risks—a democracy of writing.

TLW: We talk often about the bravery required for an aspiring writer to become a published author. What about the bravery required for teaching?

I homeschooled my five kids who are now all grown adults. I went through many of the struggles other homeschooling families face. I had one child with ADHD, another with dysgraphia, a daughter who didn’t read until she was almost 10. My family tested the ideas I share and lived with the challenges of education at home—and I learned so much. Our Brave Writer team has worked with over 100,000 families. Over the last 20 years, the one constant in all that work is this: a parent’s loving, warm relationship with the child is the key foundation for a healthy homeschool AND writing life. It takes courage as a parent to be relentlessly optimistic, to use your friendliest voice when identifying the missing capitalization yet again, to affirm the writing risk rather than to criticize the poorly developed content. It takes faith to believe that your children can arrive on the shores of adulthood ready to tackle their futures, even if their spelling skills are still “woefully behind” at age 13.

I wrote a new book called THE BRAVE LEARNER: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschooling, Learning, and Life that expands on this premise—the notion that parents create a context for the magic of learning to take place. Fortunately, these are skills that can be learned by the parents—if they are brave enough to trust themselves, their children, and the process. The book is available through online retailers and local bookstores. Check out the website for more information: https://thebravelearner.com

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us, Julie! I’ve learned so much from your work and am so thrilled to share it with our readers.

Foreign Language: A Resolution Worth Keeping? by Catherine Foster


January: that time of year redolent with fresh beginnings, new starts, a bright future and all of those resolutions. There are a few resolutions that crop up January after January, those great promises that we make ourselves and intend to keep. Sometimes we do … or at least, we try our best to. This post concerns itself with a particular recurrent resolution that many people fizzle out on not long after they begin: learning a foreign language. For those of you who have decided that this is your year to finally conjugate those verbs in earnest: this message is for you! Especially if, as January draws to a close and February starts to dawn, your initial enthusiasm begins to wane a bit, and you’re beginning to think “Eh, what’s the rush? I’ve got a lot on my plate. Maybe some other time. Maybe next year …”

Not so fast! That resolution was a sound one, and you should keep it if you can. Learning a new language is tough, it’s true. It takes time, commitment, and effort. There’s no easy way, and anyone who tells you different is just trying to sell you their method. This post isn’t about how to learn a foreign language, but why you shouldn’t give up on it. In particular, why it has relevance and benefits to you, as a writer.

There are plenty of benefits of learning a foreign language. We have all heard them, and it only takes a second to Google the word “foreign language” before you are bombarded with endless lists detailing why you’ll be all the smarter and better for attempting it. But if you want to know how it will help you as an author, the field narrows. How does it help you write?

People who study foreign language must begin to pay attention to vocabulary, grammar, diction, syntax, conjugation … parts of speech and complexities of their native tongue that they already have through natural language acquisition as an infant and take for granted. In learning it anew, they must think about and educate themselves in the structure of not only the new language but also the native language. In short, they become an expert in their own language through being a student of another.

Language is something we acquire so early in infancy that we often don’t pay attention to it. Nor to the main purpose: communication. In becoming a student of another language, with its strange new sounds, we are forced to pay focused attention to the sounds we make as well as the sounds others make. This allows us to become better listeners, better communicators, and better writers. Writing is merely speaking in slow motion. Everything is related.

There are countless studies on the effects of foreign language on the brain, but one in particular is important to note here: a study of verbal achievement concluded that performance in reading comprehension, language mechanics and language expression was significantly higher in favor of people who study and learn foreign language than unilingual students. This study shows that the bilinguals outperform the unilinguals on a number of cognitive, linguistic, and metalinguistic tasks, even when the differences in intelligence are controlled. This is an important finding for people who are curious about how their language expression in their own language is impacted by bilingualism. The answer is resoundingly clear: it is one of the best organic ways to improve vocabulary, language expression and language mechanics, all critical skills for an author.

If you’re leaning towards learning a language, you don’t need to wait for next January or make a resolution to do so. There’s no better time for anyone, especially an author, to jump in and get started. Your brain will thank you, and so will your flagging manuscript! Try it and see!

Worth Every Sacrifice

Like most artists, the road to becoming a published author is unique for each individual traveling it. But anyone planning for success must also plan for one thing: sacrifice. Whether the path is long and arduous like it was for Michael J. Sullivan, or enviably short like Brandon Mull’s, there is no way forward without surrendering a few things.

It’s Time

The most obvious sacrifice necessary is of time. Regular, consistent, methodical, reliable, scheduled TIME. Many aspiring authors disappear into the ranks of the wistful wishful because they fail to dedicate the necessary time to see their vision through, push through the walls, and lulls in creativity between projects. If you are not committing to regular time for writing in your schedule, then you are not a writer. Even the aspiring kind.

Pride

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something” (The Princess Bride). “Get used to disappointment” (also The Princess Bride). Even some of the biggest best-selling novels in history were rejected many, many times. Harry Potter? 12. A Wrinkle in Time? 26. Kate DiCamillo received a staggering 473 rejection letters for various efforts before publishing Because of Winn-Dixie, arguably one of the most-read books in Middle School. To succeed in publication, one must sacrifice their pride, and recognize that even a well-written manuscript may not be picked up right away for publication. It’s also worth remembering that the quality of the manuscript is (obviously) not determined by how many rejection letters the author receives in the attempt to publish. It may be rejected because of that particular publisher’s goals, what kind of works they are currently interested in publishing, or because it’s just not well represented.

And Prejudice

You’ve just written the best thing you’ve ever attempted. The characters are alive and real to you, the story moves along at a good clip and has some exciting plot twists you’re excited for readers to discover. It’s perfect. With all due respect: nothing is perfect straight out of the gate. As the author you see and live the story in a way no one else can. And there’s the rub. No one else can. Which is why every published author has a favorite editor, and many a forward dedicates some space for gratitude toward their editor(s) for helping make the book the best it could be. The editor’s job is to help draw out your vision and trim back the weeds to bring into focus what the readers need to see to experience your work in the best way possible. Check your pride and author’s prejudice at the door, and let your baby grow up and move out into the world!

Worth It

To live is to sacrifice. Each moment of the day we are choosing how to spend that moment. We are giving up infinite possibilities to choose the one thing we are doing right this minute. If your goal is to be a published author, choose to leave behind whatever is holding you back from that reality. Check your pride at the door an acknowledge that rejection is just part of the process. Not everyone is going to love your work, or have room for it in their lives. That is not a value judgement, it just is. Set aside your personal preferences and listen to a good editor help you refine your work and prepare it for publication. Then get to work. And keep working.

Surviving Burnout! A Must-Read for the Holiday Season

As November winds down and brings NaNoWriMo to a close, it’s time to discuss an important subject that many writers face but don’t like to talk about: writer burnout. All of us have or will come across this dreaded feeling; it’s akin to a sailor being stranded in the doldrums. One minute you’re flying along on the giddy wings of inspiration, and your fingers can’t keep pace with your ideas. The next, you stumble and stare at a blank page. What was effortless a second ago is now a drudge. The words are there, but they jumble inside your mind and they won’t come out. Is it writer’s block or are you tired? This happens to us all. It’s unexpected, it’s not preventable, it’s frustrating and there is no way of knowing how long it’s going to last. The only cure is patience. Writer burnout can strike anyone at any time. So what can you do when it happens to you?

We’ve talked a lot about how to use strategies to overcome writer’s block, but burnout is different. The definition of burnout is: “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” It’s important to identify the events or times in your life in which you may be suffering high amounts of stress that could contribute to sudden and unexpected burnout. NaNoWriMo is a big culprit. The holidays are another. Tests, exam dates, family visiting, changes to a schedule … these are all valid reasons that one might suffer burnout, especially at this time of year.

But writing is how I combat stress in my life, you might say. I agree, as writers do. It can be a cathartic outlet and is a form of stress relief. So why then would one be burned out from doing the thing they love? It is when there is a schedule involved, such as writing for a deadline, editing a project, contributing to a literary journal, composing an academic paper, contributing to a competition or hosting a blog which one might find pressure building. This brings a different sort of expectation to the writing than one would have in writing for pleasure. Typically, writers take pride in their skill and they are so at ease in their craft that they are writing far more than they realize. They may craft a paper for school and discount that as “writing” because it was so easy for them. They may put out a quick blog post but not consider that “real writing.” Then when they come home to work on their novel, they don’t realize that they have been using their talents all day. It may not seem like much, and it may be enjoyable, but it is still writing and requires work. When we are under stress from different areas of our life, the words dry up and we are left wondering if they will ever return.

A big contributor to burnout is the holiday season. Whether you love it or hate it, it is tough on the life of a writer. Most cultures celebrate holidays of some kind, and no matter what time of year they fall, they tend to involve a disruption of schedule. Writers need time to practice their craft, and they require uninterrupted concentration. This is in short supply when relatives are visiting and the flow of the day is different due to celebration. Increased responsibility and attendance at festivities means that writing needs to take a backseat to whatever event—or events—are occurring. These events could be a day or even span the course of several weeks. Some families are accepting and accommodating of writers’ needs during this time, and others are less so. This can lead to frustration and guilt for the writer. This slurry of disrupted scheduling and emotional havoc is a major contributor to burnout.
What can be done? Be patient and forgiving of yourself, especially during a time of year when you expect to have increased responsibilities that will take away from your writing time. Plan when you can write and set aside those moments so that you can be assured to have time for yourself in the chaos of the holiday season, but know, too, that you might not be able to keep to your regular output. Understanding that beforehand will alleviate anxiety. Many people who participated in NaNoWriMo choose to take off the month of December. A pause is something to consider, and know that you may come back in January invigorated and refreshed.

Understanding that burnout doesn’t just happen to some—it happens to all—is a helpful point to remember. This is something that is stress-induced and can be managed, but in the end every writer has been in this position, and you are not alone. From Shakespeare to Virgina Woolf, if you wield a pen, at some point you will feel betrayed by your inspiration. It’s the badge that marks you as an author, and something only time and patience can cure. But by keeping in mind that you are in good company and you, too, will survive, hopefully your holidays will be a little less stressful to begin with.

Memoir vs. Autobiography: Does It Really Matter?

Happy November! For most of America, the transition from October to November heralds the end of trick-or-treating and pumpkins and the anticipation of Thanksgiving and the bigger winter holidays, whatever your family celebrates. For writers, however, November first means only one thing: the start of NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month! Our staff has covered this venerable tradition in the past, and we’ve got advice for you if you’re participating this year for everything on staying motivated  to the importance in staying connected with like-minded individuals to reviewing your work after the big rush . Here are some links to get you started:

This post is for the portion of our friends out there who swim in the autobiographical end of the writer’s pool or for those who are thinking about testing those waters this November. We are seeing more and more of a trend towards autobiographical submissions. This is becoming a very popular category of the nonfiction section, and why not? It’s easy to see why people might want to draw from their own personal histories to create an epic novel; there’s an endless source of inspiration to draw from. Anyone can do it, from celebrities to political figures to a person with a story to tell. But hold on a second: does anyone remember that moment in time back in 2006 when A Million Little Pieces was first hailed as a masterpiece then ultimately crucified as a work of fraud? Written by James Frey, the book was billed as a memoir, but on January 8, 2006, The Smoking Gun published an article exposing large portions of the book as fictionalized or gross exaggerations. Mr. Frey was interviewed by Larry King to defend his book three days later, but the real media storm happened on January 26 when Mr. Frey made an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He was confronted by her and admitted to fabricating many sections of his memoir, which he had previously stated had been fact-checked by his publisher. This ultimately caused an ensuing controversy in which Mr. Frey’s literary manager dropped him and his publisher broke a two-book, seven figure deal. A legal settlement for readers who felt defrauded was also reached, and people were entitled to a refund of their book. That’s a massive consequence for someone who embellished the truth a bit. So where’s the line? Should writers be expected to remember every conversation they’ve ever had when they are recording memories to the page? Is any creative license allowed, or are we in danger of being sued by some disgruntled cousin who doesn’t remember the family reunion going down the way we do? How can we sort through what is fact and what is reasonable fiction? Luckily, there’s an answer to these questions and more.
Everything on this list falls under the umbrella of non-fiction. If I think of writing as dessert, then autobiography is cake. Memoir, narrative nonfiction, personal essays and roman à clef are all just slices of the same cake. Let’s break it down:

Autobiography: An autobiography can be distinguished from the others on the list as the most factual of the bunch. It is told in a linear fashion and should relay all the major life events of the subject in a chronological order. It concerns itself with the entire scope of a person’s life and all of the events, people, places and subjects that relate to a person’s existence as they move forward through their life, not just a few key years, events, feelings or observations of the narrator.

Memoir: This form gives someone more creative license. It can cover a few short years or a major event. Examples might include how someone survived their time in a concentration camp or how they overcame an addiction. It doesn’t have to be harrowing, but it may just focus on one developmental stage and is more likely to reflect strong feelings. It is generally less factual and more emotional. It is far less encompassing in scope than an autobiography. It is generally less formal and may have a more literary feel.

Narrative non-fiction: Narrative or creative non-fiction is a somewhat new and emerging genre. It draws on real-life scenarios, usually something journalistic, but incorporates elements of fiction to become a readable novel. According to literary critic Barbara Lounsberry, there are four recognizable elements to narrative nonfiction: the topics and events must exist in the real world (not in the mind of the author), there must be exhaustive research, all scenes must be in context, and it should all be presented in a literary style. Some examples of narrative nonfiction are The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Personal essay: This is exactly what it sounds like: an essay that is personal to you. It is generally just a short memoir. A great example of a classic personal essayist is David Sedaris.

Roman à clef: Roman à clef is from the French, meaning “novel with a key.” It began as a way for people to write an expose of famous social and political figures without the risk of reprieve. It is truth with an overlay of fiction. Names or identifying situations can be changed to avoid persecution, but the general public could still understand and enjoy the jab. This could be done for protection of the author or for satirical purposes. The Marquis de Sade often employed the roman à clef to skewer prominent religious and political figures of his day. Today, the roman à clef is still in use for various reasons, including satire, but it can also be used when you’d like to write a memoir but perhaps you would like a bit more creative license than your own story affords you. This is where certain authors—cough, Mr. Frey, cough—could simply have stated his work was inspired by real events. That little disclaimer would have saved him seven figures plus and a whole lot of embarrassment.

These are all just guidelines. Most of them bleed into each other. The important thing to remember is if you have a story to tell that you don’t fret which category you bill it as, but that you get it all down on paper, especially this November! A good editor can help you decide how your memories and your story fit together and what you’d like to call it. Happy writing!

The Ultimate Guide To Style Manuals: What Do They All Mean?

By Catherine Foster

A writer and editor must work in tandem to produce a high quality and error-free document. But what is considered an error? Sometimes it’s very clear: a misspelling or a comma out of place constitutes a mistake that can be fixed by either party at any stage in the editing process. However, some rules are more ambiguous. Should italics or quotations be used when denoting a title? Is it proper to use a numeral when referring to age or is it better to spell it out? Oxford comma: yay or nay?

The answer to these questions and more can be found in the form of a style guide. A style guide is the list of rules for a particular writing discipline. For example, when there is ambiguity in grammar (mostly in punctuation for citations and references), the style guide seeks to provide a standard set of rules for one area of writing. This guide is essential when one is seeking to submit a document for publication. The style guide that a journalist might use when attempting to submit to The New York Times is vastly different from what a doctor might need when publishing in The New England Journal of Medicine, for example. Understanding the subtle differences in each style guide is crucial and could mean the difference between acceptance and rejection—regardless of the content of the manuscript itself. While a full distinction of the guides is beyond the scope of this post, below are a list of the major style guides (in the US) and their respective disciplines:

AMA Style for medicine

APA and ASA Style for social sciences

AP Style for journalism

Bluebook Style for law

CSE Style for physical sciences

ACS Style for chemistry

USGPO and AGPS Style for government publications

Oxford and Chicago Style for academic publishing

MLA Style for academics, literature and humanities

House Style This is a blanket term referring to a publisher’s individual and unique set of rules for formatting or punctuation

While a writer isn’t typically expected to know all the rules of these style guides by heart (and there are many more individual resources within each discipline that exist to help clarify), they are expected to adhere to the guide of the discipline that they are submitting to. House styles within even the literary community can vary widely, so a savvy author will take a moment to check the style guide and either adjust accordingly before submission or employ the services of a knowledgeable editor. Preparation is the key to publication! Knowing the difference to different style guides is half the battle. Good luck and happy writing and editing!

The Great Copy Editing Cheat Sheet

We’ve all been there: we’re reading someone’s Facebook post when we’re confronted with that most annoying of offenses: someone who uses your when they meant you’re. “I’d never do that!” you think, reveling in the self-righteous glory that comes from someone who knows a possessive from a contraction. You may be right; you’re probably the sort of person who double checks your texts to make sure that they don’t autocorrect to the wrong their/there/they’re, and you might even know your who from your whom. But even the most seasoned grammarian has a weak spot; the following are a list of common words that might make you think twice, even if you’d rather not admit it. Remember: there’s no honor lost in having to pull out your dictionary to double check a phrase once in awhile, especially if you edit a lot. Editing tends to loosen our moorings. When we see something wrong on the page enough times, it starts to look right after awhile. Even if you aren’t an editor by trade, there are some words or phrases that may just have an evil hold on you (in the interest of full disclosure: I still question how to spell privilege each and every day). Check this out and see if there’s something on this list that you struggle with, too:

lay vs. lie

Perhaps the most complicated pair on the list (at least for me!), lay and lie are deceptive in that they are easy to understand at first. They are both verbs. Lay means to place an object down. Lie mean to recline or to be placed.

Ex.:

Lay the hat on the table.

Lie down on the bed.

It becomes confusing when you consider the past tenses. The past tense of lay is laid. The past tense of lie is lay.

Ex.:

The hat was laid on the table yesterday.

You lay in bed last night.

The past participle of lie is lain. The past participle of lay is laid.

Ex.:

They have laid many hats on this table before.

You could have lain in bed for days.

Layed is a common misspelling and does not exist. Use laid.

may vs. can

These two words may take you back to your childhood. May simply refers to a possibility and can to an ability. In speech, there is a somewhat formal-sounding tone to ask “may”, and many people forgo it for the less-formal can, (similar to the way should has replaced shall) however, there is still a place for may. When we consider the question “May I go to the bathroom?” vs. “Can I go to the bathroom?” the questioner is asking permission, but in using can it sounds as if he is asking if he is able to go instead of if he is allowed to go. Thus, may still retains value and should be considered.

may vs. might

Many people use these two words interchangeably, but there are two important distinctions between the two. Let’s tackle the first thing you need to know. May refers to situations that are factual and possible, whereas might is used when the possibility is less remote or hypothetical.

Ex.:

I may go to the movies later.

I might buy a boat if I win the lottery.

May gives a sense that things could happen, and might is for more speculative situations.

The second thing to know about these words is that might is the past tense of may. The only time when one would use may have would be when one is asking for permission, as in the previous section (May I have another slice of cake?). Otherwise, it would only makes sense to write might have.

Ex.: I might have driven around the accident if I had known about it.

One would never have an occasion to write may have, since may is the present tense.

further vs. farther

This is pretty easy. Further refers to anything metaphysical and farther to strictly distance. Thus, I wish to take my career further, and I will be willing to drive farther to do so. While this rule of grammar has fallen out of favor somewhat in recent years and it is more permissible to use these terms interchangeably, it is still good to know the difference and to apply them when possible.

issue vs. problem

The rampant misuse of these terms have become a widespread problem in recent years. We don’t tend to see people writing much formally about the words problems and issues, but it is spoken about and thus it crops up in informal writing, such as texts and in emails. Many people are not aware that there is a difference in the terms, and they use the word issue to mean problem, believing it to have a less … problematic sounding tone. Perhaps it sounds more official. Whatever the recent shift to issue, this is an incorrect word to substitute when one really means problem. A problem is something with a solution. An issue is a debatable topic. Examples of problems would include broken computers, a hardware malfunction, a measles outbreak, “Houston, we have a” … any number of things that trouble us because they are pressing matters and they have gone wrong and need fixing. Examples of issues are political debates such as Roe vs. Wade, gun rights, civil liberties, etc. Issues may also be problems, but problems are not usually issues.

i.e. vs. e.g.

These Latin abbreviations are often misused. It isn’t much of a problem, since the point of language is for us to understand each other and communicate our intentions. As long as we all understand each other, that’s what matters. Still, you’ll impress others if you are in the minority of people who know difference between these abbreviations and how to apply each of them correctly!

i.e. stands for id est and means “that is” or “in other words.” It is often used erroneously to list things out. The correct use for this is when you need to clarify something, use a metaphor or restate it more simply.

e.g. stands for exempli gratia and means “for example.” This is when a list can and should be used.

wherein vs. whereby

Wherein means “in which” and whereby means “by which.”

was vs. were

Was and were are both used in the past tense. Was is used in the first and third person singular past, and were is used in the second person singular and plural and first and third person plural. Was is used for statements of fact only. Were is used in the subjunctive mood to indicate unreal or hypothetical statements (The words if and wish usually indicate the subjunctive mood.)

Ex.:

When I was a child, I was very short.

If I were rich, I’d buy a mansion.

Hopefully, you’ll find some of these distinctions useful. If you’re like me, you’ll have to keep looking up one or two even after many years. Good luck, and happy editing!

The Great Copy Editing Quiz No. 2

by Catherine Foster

Do you want to be a copy editor? Maybe you just enjoy catching other people’s grammar errors and rampant punctuation mistakes. Do you think you have what it takes to find the flaw in every phrase? Take our quiz and find out!

Choose the correct sentences:

1.
A) The girl thought that all of her pudding were missing.
B) The girl thought that none of her pudding were missing.
C) The girl thought that some of her pudding were missing.
D) The girl thought that some of her pudding was missing.

2.
A) Neither Erik nor Christine have played violin.
B) Neither Erik nor Christine are playing violin.
C) Neither Erik nor Christine is playing violin.
D) Neither Erik nor Christine were playing violin.

3.
A) Either of us were capable of doing more work.
B) Either of us are capable of doing more work.
C) Either of us have been capable of doing more work.
D) Either of us is capable of doing more work.

4.
A) Some of the cookies is on the platter.
B) Some of the cookies has been on the platter.
C) Some of the cookies was on the platter.
D) Some of the cookies are on the platter.

5.
A) Here is the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
B) Here’s the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
C) Here are the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
D) Here are the box of blue ballpoint pens you requested.

Please correct the following sentences:

6. It is us whom must decide whether to eat pizza or buffalo wings.

7. Between yourself and I, this movie is boring.

8. Whom do you think you are to give me advice about the test?

9. Whomever makes up these silly games?

10. Whomever do you think should come in first place?

11. Our puppy is much more sweeter than his sister.

Answer Key:

1. Correct Answer: D The girl thought that some of her pudding was missing.
Explanation: Some is a portion word that is singular or plural depending on the object of the preposition. In this sentence, “pudding,” is the object of the preposition, so use “was.”

2. Correct Answer: C Neither Erik nor Christine is playing violin.
Explanation: when neither and nor connect two singular subjects, use a singular verb.

3. Correct Answer: D Either of us is capable of doing more work.
Explanation: “Either” is the singular subject, which requires the singular verb “is.”

4. Correct Answer: D Some of the cookies are on the platter.
Explanation: see Explanation 1.

5. Correct Answer: C Here are the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
Explanation: the subject is “pens,” so use “are.”

6. Correct Answer: It is we who must decide whether to eat pizza or buffalo wings.
Explanation: After “is,” use the subject pronoun “we” to rename the subject “It.” Also, use “who” as the subject of “must decide” because you would say “we must decide,” not “us must decide.”

7. Correct Answer: Between you and me, this movie is boring.
Explanation: “Between” is a preposition and the pronouns that follow are objects of the preposition, so use “me.”

8. Correct Answer: Who do you think you are to give me advice about the test?
Explanation: despite the tricky word order, the sentence is actually asking, “Who are you, do you think, to give me advice?”

9. Correct Answer: Who makes up these silly games?
Explanation: “Who” is correct because we would say, “He makes up these games.”

10. Correct Answer: Who do you think should come in first place?
Explanation: despite the tricky word order, the sentence is actually asking, “Who should come in first place, do you think?”

11. Correct Answer: Our puppy is much sweeter than his sister.
Explanation: never use “more” with a comparative adjective (“sweeter”).

Extra Credit

As lover of language, we never tire of a good discussion on the topic. So please choose your favorite subject and tell us about it. Do oft-overlooked rules of ellipses fire you up? Should/can you use the virgule in formal writing? Do you have a stance on the Great Oxford Comma Debate? What’s your take on rampant semicolon abuse? From the differences to em-dashes, en-dashes and hyphens to the subject of adverbs, we want to know what makes you a passionate editor. Here’s your chance to shine!

The Great Copy Editing Quiz No. 1

by Catherine Foster

Do you want to be a copy editor? Maybe you just enjoy catching other people’s grammar errors and rampant punctuation mistakes. Do you think you have what it takes to find the flaw in every phrase? Take our quiz and find out!

Choose the correct sentences:

1.

A) Some of the parfait was left by the end of the party.

B) Some of the parfait were left by the end of the party.

C) Some of the parfaits was left by the end of the party.

D) Some parfaits was left by the end of the party.

2.

A) Your bright smiles almost makes up for your tardiness.

B) Your bright smiles almost make up for your tardiness.

C) Your bright smiles makes up for your tardiness.

D) Your bright smiles has made up for your tardiness.

3.

A) Neither Erik nor I am playing violin.

B) Neither Erik nor I is playing violin.

C) Neither Erik nor I are playing violin.

D) Neither Erik nor I were playing violin.

4.

A) All of the class is willing to take part in the play.

B) All of the classes is willing to take part in the play.

C) All of the class are willing to take part in the play.

D) All of the classes has been willing to take part in the play.

5.

A) Two-thirds of the voters tend not to cast their ballots in local elections.

B) Two-thirds of the voters tends not to cast their ballots in local elections.

C) Two-thirds of the voters tends not to cast their ballots in local elections.

D) Two-thirds of the voters tends not to cast its ballot in local elections.

Please correct the following sentences:

6. He is one of those veterinarians that make house calls.

7. Dr. Raoul is one of those conductors who does whatever it takes to get his point across to his musicians.

8. He is the only one of the conductors who do what it takes to help their musicians.

9. Her and him are always together.

10. When him and Christine come over, we always have dinner.

Ex. Credit: Do you know the difference between issue and problem?

Answer key:

Choose the correct sentence.

1. Correct Answer: A Some of the parfait was left by the end of the party.

Explanation: Some is a portion word that is singular or plural depending on the object of the preposition. In this sentence, “parfait,” is the object of the preposition, so use “was.”

2. Correct Answer: B Your bright smiles almost make up for your tardiness.

Explanation: “bright smiles” is the subject of “make up.”

3. Correct Answer: A Neither Erik nor I am playing violin.

Explanation: when neither and nor connect two singular subjects and the second one is I, use am.

4. Correct Answer: A All of the class is willing to take part in the play.

Explanation: “All” is a portion word that is singular or plural depending on the object of the preposition. In this sentence, “class” is the object of the preposition, so use “is.”

5. Correct Answer: A Two-thirds of the voters tend not to cast their ballots in local elections.

Explanation: “Two-thirds” becomes plural because the object of the preposition, “voters,” is plural. Use the plural verb “tend.”

Please correct the following sentences:

6. Correct Answer: He is one of those veterinarians who make house calls.

Explanation: “who” refers to “veterinarians,” not to “one,” so the plural verb “make” is required.

7. Correct Answer: Dr. Raoul is one of those conductors who do whatever it takes to get their point across to their musicians.

Explanation: “who” refers to “conductors,” not to “one,” so the plural verb “do” and the possessive adjective “their” are required.

8. Correct Answer: He is the only one of the conductors who does what it takes to help his musicians.

Explanation: in this sentence, “who” refers to “one,” not to “professors,” so the singular verb “does” is required.

9. Correct Answer: She and he are always together.

Explanation: “She” and “he” are the subjects of “are together.”

10. Correct Answer: When Christine and he come over, we always have dinner.

Explanation: “Christine” and “he” are the subjects of “come over,” so use the subject pronoun “he.”

How did you do? Let us know in the comments!

The Big Book Proposal Part One by Catherine Foster

Your book is written and edited, but what is the next step to publication? How can you get the attention of a publisher? Should you contact an agent? How do writers make the transition to respected published authors?

There’s no single correct answer to these questions. Writers must decide for themselves if they would like to pursue self publishing or attempt their luck with online routes, independent presses, literary magazines and small scholarly publishing houses. For the purposes of this article, we’ll explore the options related to the brass ring that hangs above them all: the traditional publishing industry. These are some steps you can take to get noticed by the titans of the old school.

You’ll typically need a literary agent first, and agents can be as difficult to land as the publishers themselves. The agent is the gatekeeper to the publishing process in that they are the first person to read your manuscript and they have the power to decide if it is worth fighting for. They have established relationships with presses, and they know the appropriate places to submit. They have a keen sense of the most likely market for your book, and they manage everything from the size of the print run to percentages you earn. These finer points of negotiations on your behalf can come at a hefty cost, but most “respectable” publishers will not consider anything that is not submitted through a literary agent. Landing an agent—and paying their fees—is the price of admission to the big presses.

What, then, is the etiquette for securing an agent? The first thing you need to do is construct a book proposal. This can be as daunting a project as writing the book itself. Some seasoned authors write the proposal before they pen the book itself. Why would they do that? The proposal is a business plan, and it should be viewed as one. Many authors make the mistake of confusing the book proposal with a book discussion; it’s natural to assume that an agent or a publisher may want to know the content of the book they are planning to represent. This, however, would be a grave error on the part of the author. To know what is essential information to include in a successful book proposal, one must first understand the viewpoint of the agent who will be reading one. The agent is not as interested in the content of the book. They are looking for a book that will sell. They understand the need of the market, and it is up to you, the author, to supply information to them about how your book will fit that market. Books are now, more than ever, simply a profitable venture. It isn’t about an interesting story or an intriguing plot. It isn’t even about the quality of your writing. That might be hard to accept at first, but it is most essential that you are able to identify a key segment of the market and explain how 1) they are interested in your topic  and 2) they will buy from you. This is called evidence of need, and it is crucial for the success of your book. If you are able to present a reasonable explanation of this to an agent, they will almost certainly take you on as a client. It’s that simple.

Your book proposal should highlight this evidence of need and go on to demonstrate how it fulfills this need for the reader or for society. This will make it very easy for the agent to understand why your book is a wise investment. It may go against your principles to reduce your writing, an artistic endeavor, as something as basic as money. Writing is, indeed, a craft. It is all about art and creativity. The selling, promotion and publishing of that craft, however, is not. If you want to take the next step and go on to the publishing process, you need to view this step of writing as a business. The book proposal is set up with that aim.

The structure of the proposal can take many forms; they do not need to be followed rigidly. The purpose is to present a plan to the agent or publisher that shows that you are asking them to invest in your product (your manuscript) and explaining why they are likely to receive a favorable return on that initial investment. You may consider it akin to applying for a loan at a bank; in that case, you are asking an institution to grant you a certain amount of money and you explain why you will return it, with interest, over time. In this case, you are asking publishing houses to invest capital into the manufacture and marketing of your manuscript and you are telling them why they are going to see their investment returned. The book proposal is more important than the actual book itself, in many cases, and you must be prepared to understand business (to some degree) at this stage of the process.

Templates for book proposals vary. They can be found online, but what matters is that you understand what you are trying to accomplish. You can add or edit sections as they apply to you and your particular manuscript. The most important thing is to always keep in mind the idea that you are not explaining the content of your book, but rather always trying to provide an evidence of need. This should be first and foremost in your mind throughout the process.

A sample book proposal template may run as follows (although it is important to remember that you may diverge or tweak this as it applies to your particular situation):

Information

Proposed Title

Author

Once Sentence Description

Category Audience

Readers Say

Purpose and Need

Unique Angles

Current Interest

Competing Books

Proposed Back Cover Copy

Marketing and Promotion

Potential Endorsers

Other Details

About the Author

Proposed Outline

Table of Contents

List of Chapters

Chapter-by-Chapter Summary

Sample Chapters

            This is most certainly a comprehensive list covering every type of book; not every genre will require every category listed. For instance, a book of short stories or essays may not be written in a chapter format and won’t include many of those headers. This is not meant to fit your book into a mold or cause you second-guess what you have written; it is merely a guide on what how to most thoroughly package and present your manuscript to the people who have the power to accept it.

For those of you who were looking for a template, you can get started! If you need a little more help, I’ll begin to break down those headers in my next post. I will go section by section and give a thorough explanation of each category, what it is, if and when it is necessary, an example of what it looks like when it is written out and where to include it in your book proposal. If you ever have any specific questions about your own writing, your own submissions or editing in general, please address them to me at catherine@theletterworks.com or any of the other editors or writers here, and we’d be happy to help. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time for part two!