Tag Archives: editor

Homophones – a viral epidemic

Homophone is a confusing word. Homo means same, similar, or alike. But phone? Nope. A homophone is audible, but not an electronic device.

After my post about the U.S. Library of Congress Trump to/too (not tutu) faux paus, editors keep a keener eye (not aye) out for homophones—words that sound alike but convey a different meaning. See if you can spot the homophone mistakes in this short prose without the use of your spelling or grammar-check program.

Homophones cantor through the computer gait. Editors, like jockeys, reigns in hand, race foreward down the tract toward the finish line in a determined manor. The words hide, stationary on screen, waiting for the editor to waiver. Instead, she knits and pearls the maize into a fashionable story that vales the queues of mistaken identity.

Grammar Police Award

Maybe farfetched that you, the savvy author, would make the exaggerated mistakes above, but here’s a BOLO (be on the lookout) from me, the grammar cop. Like drinking and driving—only not as dangerous—these common homophones can destroy your clear record.

Wind your way through these wry words to the bottom where the edited prose quiz awaits.











































Here’s the edited homophone test with correct words in italics.

Homophones canter through the computer gate. Editors, like jockeys, reins in hand, race forward down the track toward the finish line in a determined manner. The words hide, stationery on screen, waiting for the editor to waver. Instead, she knits and purls the maze into a fashionable story that veils the cues of mistaken identity.



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Okay to ignore writing rules if you’re Lee Child

Start-screenI’m a freelance editor for individuals and independent publishers. My job is to pinpoint spelling, punctuation, grammar, incomplete sentences, and syntax errors, but the rules are always changing.

For example: Limit the use of anybody, just, like, only, some, and somebody. But or and, once forbidden as sentence starters, are now acceptable, but the author should avoid beginning with because, when, which or words ending in –ing. One more grammar rule: Don’t use incomplete sentence in narrative, only in dialogue. Don’t overuse commas.

Bookpages animatedWait a minute! I just read Night School, a Jack Reacher 2016 novel by #1 New York Times Bestselling author Lee Child. Here are random sentences from that prequel.

  • Reacher thought back, to the conversation in Garber’s office.
  • She drove, back to the place she had only just left.
  • Surprised, and a little quizzical.

Are those commas necessary in these three short sentences? What about the double-up of only and just? I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop on that last sentence.

How about these incomplete, single sentence paragraphs?

  • Twitching and writhing and wringing his hands. [Note: At least this is appropriate syntax]
  • Thinking.
  • Local gentleman, like himself.
  • Like an old black-and-white movie.
  • An inconvenient ratio.

Start-Finish-RoadWhy does Lee Child’s editor let him get away with these writing blunders? Not because he was born Jim Grant in England. Not because he hires a freelancer like me (Delacorte Press can afford top-quality editors). Not because the third-person narrator mimics Jack Reacher who doesn’t waste words. Because one thing an editor doesn’t change is the writer’s style.

P.S. Bestselling is now one word. Lee Child and his editors got that right. It’s possible that the #1 New York Times Bestselling Author blurb is the #1 reason basic editing rules don’t apply to Jack Reacher.


Filed under Blogging, Book Reviews, Editing, Reading, Writing

The Thought Police

Livermore Civic Center Library

Winston Smith, George Orwell’s main character in 1984, a futuristic novel published in 1949, defies “Big Brother” who sees every move Winston makes in Oceania. The telescreen monitors his heartbeats, emotions, and thoughts. One evening he finds a small corner in his flat where he escapes and writes his musings in one of the last blank, bound journals that escaped destruction when the world went paperless. He shapes his destiny when he uses ink, not pencil, to record his thoughts on quality cream-colored, pages.

Grammar Police Award

Last October I blogged about editing (“Grammar Police” post October 17, 2013). English grammar, both in speech and written form, are replete with multiple rules that require writers to employ a team of editors before submitting manuscripts to an agent or publisher. Since George Orwell’s fantasy more than 65-years ago exposed the limited thought process, it would seem that writers are finally free to fly. Ah, but not so. Although the “Thought Police” Orwell painted exists only in his novel, a new guardian force rules today’s writers.


Instructors and mentors, whether academic or associated with for-profit publishers, have formed a new stratum of Thought Police. Every paragraph, perhaps every sentence, is monitored for point of view (POV). Authorities justify this “Big Brother” scrutiny with a single question: Whose story is this? Thoughts are limited to that character.


In Next of Kin, I have two main characters, Captain Luis Rojas (male), and Detective Taylor Madrid (female). Rojas has more than twenty years of experience in law enforcement; Madrid less than half that. It’s impossible for them to see the world of crime through the same eyes, so I chose a dual POV. Supervisors and associates clamber for their individual POV rather than be seen through the eyes of the duo. That can’t happen. Why? because modern Thought Police have blown the whistle on verbs like thought, believed, recognized, realized,  reflected, ruminated, understood, considered, wondered, imagined, concluded, presumed, mused, surmised, commiserated, envisioned, pictured, conjectured, guessed, anticipated, expected, speculated, pondered, brooded, despaired, sympathized, and dozens more.

Tree chopper

I can only hope (Oops! That’s the narrator’s POV) that neither of my main characters fall prey to the misfortune of Orwell’s Winston Smith. When tortured by the Thought Police, he was brainwashed to believe that two plus two equals five. If that happens, future agents and publishers might require a math class as a prerequisite to writing. I hope I publish my novel before then.


Filed under Blogging, Editing, Writing