Saturday Editing Tip


I’m in the last stages of publishing a highly-technical manuscript for a client. As part of my standardization, I have to make sure that the way the author expresses units of measure is not only consistent but also verify that it should be expressed as a singular or plural unit of measure.

Before this project, I honestly didn’t give much thought to the difference between “2 feet” and “2-foot” or “10 inches” and “10-inch.”

Here’s a down & dirty way to remember:

The singular, with a dash between the number and the singular form of the measurement, is used when you’re talking about a unit of measure. For example, a 10-inch section of board or a two-foot gap.

The plural is used when you’re talking about how many. For example, space the nails 10 inches apart.

The same works with metric (centimeter, meters, etc.) as well! What I discovered is that anytime I was unsure of the author’s exact meaning, I would read the sentence aloud and try it out both ways.


I need a twelve _____ long board.
a. foot  b. feet  c. –foot  d. –feet

Space the cups six ____ apart.
a. –inches b. inch   c. inches   d. -inch

Please hand me the six ____ stapler.
a. inch  b. –inch  c. inches  d. -inches

As part of my Assisted Self-Publishing services, I offer a round of comprehensive editing. This editing covers grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Here’s a quick grammar tip for your Saturday!

Saturday Editing Tip: Catching the “little” things

I’m in the middle of an edit on my next book. The working title is “A Beginner’s Guide to Tent Camping”. This edit is still for major issues like adding in a whole section and clarifying paragraphs. But as I do this, I’m also looking for the “little” things that can mean the difference between a professional manuscript and looking like an amateur.

See if you can spot the problems:

  • Most public campgrounds in have paths between sites to the bathrooms, trash, etc.
  • When the sun begins to sweat you’ll get a chill.
  • Fist Aid Kit
  • I recommend packing in a duffle big.
  • And never underestimate the importance of a pair of slip of shoes.

None of the sentences (or chapter headings) above have any grammatical error that will be caught by a spelling or grammar checker. It’s up to a real editor who carefully reads each sentence to find them.

So how do you spot things like this in your own writing?

  1. Read the manuscript backwards. I start with the last sentence (reading it from start to finish). And then the second to last sentence; the third to last sentence, etc. By reading the manuscript this way, I’m able to focus on one sentence at a time and my brain isn’t “assuming” it knows what will come next.
  2. I print out the entire manuscript, grab my tea and red pen and go to town. Looking at the project in a different format really causes errors to jump out at me.
  3. Read it aloud. It’s not a quick (or even entertaining) process, but hearing it can help me identify mistakes and sentences that don’t flow.

After your manuscript meets your personal editing standards, be sure to pass it along to a copy editor to go over it again. No matter how good you are at self-editing, a copy editor will find mistakes.

As part of my Assisted Self-Publishing services, I offer a round of comprehensive editing. This editing covers grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Here’s a quick grammar tip for your Saturday!


Affect vs. Effect

I’m sure that every English teacher everywhere has a catchy way of remembering the difference between affect & effect. But, when I was in school, it wasn’t considered “in vogue” to diagram sentences, focus on parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc), and spend much time on those little nuances of grammar that I’ll use my whole life long. Like the difference between affect and effect.

It doesn’t help that the affect/effect pairing not only sound similar but don’t have meanings that are wildly dissimilar. I mean, couldn’t it  be like pear and pair? Same sound, nearly same spelling, but one’s a food!

BTW My mom taught me a trick to remember the difference. I was a third-grader and I had a bunny. Mrs. No-Name (Rabbit) liked to eat pears. She had EARS. The one she ate had EARS in it like a bunny! Whew!

The Grammar Girl website has a great tutorial on the difference between affect and effect. Go check it out.

But when I’m editing someone’s writing, sometimes I have to guess about what they’re trying to say. I wasn’t there for the thought process and I don’t want to fire off a list of questions about what they were thinking in that particular sentence and do they mean X or do they really mean Y?!

What I do is just re-read the sentence subbing in a synonym for effect or affect. Without fail, the sentence with the wrong affect/effect choice will JUMP out.

Effect Synonyms:

  • result
  • consequence
  • outcome

Affect Synonyms:

  • influence
  • impact