Guest blog by Ally Oakes.
Just a decade or few ago when I was young, I had a t-shirt with the above slogan. Now in the 21st century, you get a bargain offer of two for one: you can understand us editors and you can love us! I’m sure you already do the latter.
Understand more about how we can help you with your submissions. One way is to understand some of the common writing points that we pick authors up on when we’re copyediting/language editing. This will help intermediate writers of English.
The following points are DEFINITES.
Yes: The event was well attended
Yes: The well-attended event
An adverbial phrase like the second one here does need this hyphen coming before the noun.
However! … an exception is when the adverb in the phrase before the noun ends with –ly (e.g. suddenly, peacefully); if we have this, then no hyphen is needed:
No: Entering the highly-skilled field
Yes: Entering the highly skilled field
Singular or plural? Scientific fields tend to require data as a plural noun; modern non-scientific fields use data as a singular noun. Do check your journal guidelines.
Several standard phrases can open sentences:
Yes: As regards … ,
Yes: With regard to … ,
Yes: Regarding … ,
One phrase gets confused with these:
No: With regards to … ,
Or we might even consider going straight into the rest of our sentence without one of these phrases; not all sentences need these starter-extras.
Secondly, Thirdly, … Finally,
Watch out! Is there also an earlier sentence or paragraph that begins ‘Firstly’? This is needed for a good balance in our writing.
Figures or words
A sentence in English needs to start with a word, not a figure:
No: 75 colour-coders …
Yes: A total of 75 … / In all, 75 colour-coders …
Gone are the days when authors/roles were masculine, or were assumed to be. Increasingly, authors need to use neutral words and phrases, unless the person’s name is used and the gender is known.
If these are not, then we go for the plural pronouns, even though we are writing about a person in the singular:
No: he him his / she her her
Yes: they them their
Yes: The dichotomy between an author and their readership
Yes: It opens up new possibilities when the coworker explains their point of view
To some, this will look unfamiliar. However, it’s mostly preferred and recommended for all writing, academic and other. It’s known as the singular non-binary ‘they’.
The verbs ‘express’ and ‘highlight’ both need a grammatical object; we need to ‘express’ or ‘highlight’ something.
No: Bentley expresses that he …
No: Here, they highlight that the main purpose …
Much more stylish are the following:
Yes: Bentley expresses the hope that he …
Yes: Here, they highlight the fact that the main purpose …
Those were the definites. Here, the following point is POSSIBLE.
Here is one point to make our writing more elegant. It’s not a grammatical absolute, and some editors may not go with it. I wouldn’t correct it as a mistake; however, I’d probably suggest it in the ‘Comments’ pane on the right in a Word document.
Some of us love the word, whereas others are quite happy to bin the word. Compare these short clauses with the ones that follow them:
This reveals the speed is increasing
She stated their followers were keen
We believe this project is feasible
Now try these on for size – to some readers and writers (and editors), these read much more elegantly:
This reveals that the speed is increasing
She stated that their followers were keen
We believe that this project is feasible
So now we have more ways to write with even more fluency and elegance. Happy stylish writing!