Review: editing made easy

book cover

She owned a mixing bowl designed to please a cook with a round bottom.

Read the above sentence one more time, and try to make sense of its meaning. How can a cook has a round bottom, does it mean big bottom? Aha, it is the round bottom of a mixing bowl, not a cook’s. That is unclear. The phrases are ordered incorrectly, mixed up in its meaning and context, but it can easily be fixed by re-ordering and adding a comma: She owned a mixing bowl with a round bottom, designed to please a cook. There you go. For many, writing is already difficult, but editing is even harder. Fortunately with this book, Bruce Kaplan provides an easy-to-understand rules in common situations to edit and to improve your writing.

The table of content is below for you to peruse:

Why learn editing? the benefits for you
Lean and clean: what editors do
The golden rules: for professional writing and editing
Ruthless people: what makes a good editor?
Be active: avoiding the passive voice
Split personalities: beware the split infinitive
Time for action: turning nouns into verbs
Small and pesky: two words that slow the pace
Nuisance value: more overused words
Is that so? how to avoid that
Every which way: the difference between which and that
Short is beautiful: avoid long sentences
Briefly speaking: a guide to shorter, simpler words
Pronouns: how to avoid confusion
Feeling single, seeing plural: more tricky pronouns
Collective nouns: which verb form do I use?
Clichés: avoid them like the plague
The future that is to come: the tautology trap
Stating the obvious: first cousin to the tautology
There, there: a few little words we can do without
Putting on the style: be consistent
Punctuation: basic rules
Contractions: when, and when not, to use them
To quote or not to quote: direct and indirect speech
Tricky, tricky: serial or cereal?
The plurals trap: don't get caught
Under a spell: a handy guide to difficult words
Oops: the misplaced phrase
If only: be careful to say what you mean
Now, see here: look out for this common error
Kid stuff: avoid slang
Former, latter, last: how to keep order
Get to the point: how to write a news story
Heads, you win: how to write a headline
Editing checklist: a last round-up
Hot tips: things to remember
And finally: set your standards high
Resources: things to keep handy

My favourite section is ‘every which way’. It is a section that explains the difference between which and that. Which introduces a non-defining clause, where the information within it can be completely omitted from the sentence. For example: The car, which a teenager was driving, crashed into a post. In this sentence, the main information is that the car crashed, and the driver, incidentally happened to be a teenager.

On the other hand, that introduces a defining clause, where the information within the clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence. For example: The car that the teenager was driving crashed into a post. In this case, the main information includes the fact that a teenager drove the car. If you are not sure whether to use which or that, Kaplan advises to always use that.

Another favourite section of mine is the ‘two words that slow the pace’. According to Kaplan, the words of the are not needed. Rather than writing the manager of the bank, I should write the bank manager. Another example, rather than the owner of the horse, I should write the horse’s owner. Brilliant! It is more succinct, easier to read and more pleasing to the eye.

I finished reading the book within an hour, it is a short book, and it can easily be skimmed, and you will find loads of hidden treasure as you do. Later, I plan to at least gloss over this book every time I need to edit my own writing, it makes it so much easier to do, almost like priming my brain to by having a checklist for editing. Editing made easy, indeed.

Thank you Bruce Kaplan.

Author: Martha Winata

Co-founder of Get Sandwich. An insider trading detective turns public speaking coach. A flawed speaker who has given up on perfection but instead obsessed with progress. I enjoy private conversations as much as public ones. I do a lot of prep and less spontaneity, but that's just what works for me.

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