Monday, July 10, 2006

Dear everyone who writes a nonfiction book,

I know you’ve spent much of your time since high school developing the skills to make you an expert on acupressure/jump roping/home organization/sign language/television/facerise/bigfoot/the history of twine, but while you were doing that, I was busy developing my writing skills beyond the tenth grade level. Here is what I have learned:
1. Read what you wrote after you write it. No, seriously. Does that paragraph make sense in any way? If no, then rewrite it. Now read it again. Repeat.
2. If you’re making headings for things (like chapters), those headings should be a descriptive word or phrase that tells the reader what that section is about. They should NOT be what the first sentence is about. Remember: further information is often presented in the second, or even third, paragraph!
3. Writing doesn’t sound good if you use the same word or phrase over and over. If tempted to use something over and over, use a thesaurus. Using a thesaurus over and over well help you to not use the same word or phrase over and over. And over.
4. This is not a jr. high science fair. That is, you can’t just stretch your data to make it sound how you want it to sound.
5. I use google. A lot. So if you pull anything off the internet, I will find it. More quickly than you did.
6. If I corrected something, I did it because it was wrong. Or bad! You see, I know more about grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, word usage, paragraph flow, and publishing than you do.
7. Along with that, there are actually rules for that things that you have never even heard of! When are numbers spelled out? Should you use a serial comma? (What is a serial comma?) When are things italicized, capitalized, or put in quotation marks? There are answers to all of these questions, and I didn’t just make them up. So yes, we’re doing it “my” way.
8. Just because you wrote a book does not make you in any way important or impressive to me. In fact, it makes you a pain in my ass. I’m not here to bring your genius to the masses, I am here to make money for my heartless corporation. We paid less for your words than the paper they are printed on. Remember that.

And call me when you’re in town! I’d love to take you out for lunch!

Your Bitter Editor

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