12+ With the ubiquitous spread of the Internet, personal computers and digital devices, and DIY websites, blogs and ebooks, the barriers to publishing for aspiring authors and writers are lower today than at any time since the invention of the Gutenberg printing press.
But the barrier between writing and good writing remains high. And it surely explains why so many writers first and foremost thank their editors in forewords, dedications and acknowledgements!
Not all writers have the luxury of editors. Whether you are an aspiring or published author, writing technical reports or project proposals, drafting a C.V. or job application, or even blogging, without an editor, like me, you will likely rely upon weighty reference tomes, Google searches and online grammar apps for editorial guidelines.
‘Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.’ ― Kurt Vonnegut, Letters (2012)
Having searched in vain for a simple reference to recommend to writers, Denise O’Hagan ‘gathered together her notes’ from years of working as an editor in the publishing industry and at Black Quill Press to produce the Mini Style Guide. And it is a well organised and accessible resource for all writers.
With real-life examples, the style guide explains clearly the concepts of good writing, including styles, misused words, variant spelling, British and American English, tricky singulars and plurals, the perils of possession (not forgetting the perennial it’s v. its), and the benefits of using Plain English and the rules for doing so.
The guide then looks at manuscript presentation. This section is of relevance whether your ‘manuscript’ is a fiction or nonfiction piece, a report or proposal, or any other form of writing. Formatting, pagination, headings, quotations, bibliographies and references, and the correct use of citations are as important to the writer of an essay as they are to the author of a book.
Finally, the style guide explores publishing options, traditional versus independent and self-publishing, and provides an extensive author’s checklist. There is also an appendix, with standard forms, letters, and style templates, a glossary of common terms used in printing and publishing, and a helpful reference section of recommended resources for writers.
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Denise O’Hagan has produced a style guide that can be read and enjoyed in its entirety (note the possessive its without an apostrophe?) or simply for reference purposes. I'm thinking of dipping into it as a style-primer before I start writing each day!
In short, with the Mini Style Guide on your desk, you can be a good writer and a good editor!
© 2018 Robert Fairhead
Disclosure statement: I was invited to review the Mini Style Guide and write the foreword for the book by the author, Denise O'Hagan. I received no payment for the review or foreword. Tall And True receives affiliate sales income for books purchased from Amazon.com.au links on the TallAndTrue.com website.
NB. You might also be interested in this Writing Tips piece, Grammarly - My Editor and Proofreader Friend.
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story, and in 2021 Twelve Furious Months, twelve short stories written for the Furious Fiction writing competition.
Outside of writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, walking his dog, and watching Aussie Rules Football with his son.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.