Category Archives: Editing

Overshare from an Edit

In a novel I recently edited set in 1930s, the main character asks another to stay in his home with a young girl while he is out, and is asked what they should do:

‘… “I don’t know,” he said sardonically. “She’s a girl. Overshare your feelings.” …’

Me, as editor: It is a good line, indeed. However, the word apparently dates from internet and social media times, so doesn’t quite fit the period.

Author: I did check the origin of the word (I was curious, myself), and it seems to have popular roots in the early 1800’s, as well as a strong reassurance in the online age.

I did more research without running to earth the earlier roots, but I did find:

1. Webster’s Dictionary Chooses “Overshare” as the 2008 Word of the Year.

     2. Described as “beautifully British”, the “subtle yet devastating” put-down “overshare” was today named word of the year 2014 by the Chambers Dictionary.

Note the irony of the ‘beautifully British’, when it was chosen six years previously by an American dictionary!

In view of the likely popular perception that the word is modern, I reluctantly suggested either that it be dropped, or that there be a footnote (not recommended, Terry Pratchett notwithstanding), or that something appear in the front or back matter to the effect that some words have been in currency for much longer than one realises. The writer decided to remove it.

Had you written that passage, would you have stuck to your guns? Or, had it remained, how do you think you would have received it as a reader?

© June 2017 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble

Fast Food Writing

Editors and style advocates these days are promoting the conversion of gourmet meals of words into packets of popcorn. Is this really what has become necessary to keep the public reading? The above picture shows some of my works requiring total rewrites in order to convert them into the package in the foreground.

The guidelines for the rewrites would be as follows:

Adverbs are taboo. Adjectives are allowed only rarely. Other ways of putting he or she said are frowned upon. Thou shalt not have anyone answer, reply, respond, remark, growl, snap, shout, yell, bellow, rage, whisper, murmur, laugh, gurgle, giggle, chortle, trill, pipe up, interrupt, venture or squeak.

Sentences should be short. Concise. Not need commas if possible. Semi-colons are unnecessary, they should be eliminated completely even if linking two complete phrases. Let me revise that. Dont use semicolons.

Paragraphs should be kept short and not be allowed to ramble on, even if there is no change in topic or voice. The reader is only to be fed small bites.

Bites that can be mashed up and fed in forkfuls. With the arm in perpetual motion.

Perpetual motion that only ceases when the plate is empty. Then the reader is ready for the next meal.

Clichés are to be avoided like poison. Let me rephrase that. Dont use clichés.

Obfuscation is anathema. Rephrased: dont use any words that will confuse your dim readers.

The plot should always involve the main character/s in great suffering. They not only get themselves into horrible situations, but are too stupid to do so without suffering constant damage.

There: you now have a blueprint for your best cellar to get drunk with success on. Oh, and never indulge in wordplay, or end a sentence with a preposition.

© May 2017 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble

A Dash of Controversy

"Controversy" — Karl Henning

“Controversy” — Karl Henning

Following on my previous dashing post, which I have updated for greater clarity, I was reminded while doing my latest editing commission today that there is an aspect I did not cover. First, though, my heading has made me want to touch again on the controversy controversy.

In earlier days I recall that the word was invariably pronounced con-TROV-er-see, which is what I was taught. Then, radio and TV announcers suddenly switched to CON-troh-verse-ee. There seemed to have been a brief return to the original, but lately the latter has predominated again.

I believe the former was the more logical pronunciation, mainly for the reason that it is not ‘contrAversy’ where the new pronunciation would make sense. ‘Contra’, as meaning ‘against’, would take the emphasis. However, with the word spelt correctly, for ‘contro’ to be singled out is illogical. Admittedly a case could be made for the ‘CON’ form when one considers the development to ‘controversial’. There, ‘con-TROV-er-shall’ would sound silly. It becomes ‘contro-VER-shall’ indeed. Still, I am not persuaded that this necessarily means that the shorter ‘con’ form should CON-form!

Thoughts from the groundnut gallery?


Now, em dashes with other punctuation. The question is whether commas or semi-colons should be kept when using dashes to insert another thought in a sentence, and if so where they should be placed.

A sample sentence:

Many of those present, using strong language, disagreed completely.

Now, insert the other thought:

Many of those present, using strong language — and in that part of the country it can be very strong — disagreed completely.

Here it has lost one comma, replaced by the dash, as the Chicago Manual of Style, among others, agrees should happen.

Numbers of other authorities argue, however, that the original punctuation should remain, so that if the section between dashes is taken out the sentence is still correctly punctuated. They have a valid point. It can arise that a difference in meaning will occur without the second comma, even though this doesn’t arise in my example.  (It would, on the first comma, if the sentence were something like:  Every weekend now he runs, away from home, to experience more professional tracks elsewhere.)

If it is decided to keep the full original punctuation, the question arises as to where to place it:

Many of those present, using strong language, — and in that part of the country it can be very strong — disagreed completely.


Many of those present, using strong language — and in that part of the country it can be very strong ––, disagreed completely.

Now the brain can get boggled. The first version looks neater, as it avoids jamming a comma against a dash. However, the section between dashes relates to the ‘language’ clause, not the ‘disagreed’ one, so the break is happening in the wrong place, there.

My conclusion:

Keeping the comma is preferable, and that comma should appear in the clause it relates to, as in the second version ‘—,’ .

Or, avoid the problem altogether with:

Many of those present disagreed completely, using strong language — and in that part of the country it can be very strong.

With question or exclamation marks, much the same applies, but it is often better to use …? ellipses …!

© September 2016 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble (WordPress)

A Dash of Punctuation

 Dashing from Dashes

– – —  Dash

I am fond of using dashes in my writing — dash it all, why not?. However, I have tended to become lazy, and to use a hyphen for all purr-pussies. (As in kit-cat?)  🙂
As a professional editor, I should be more meticulous. There is a distinct difference between appearance and usage of a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash. Here are the rules for each, and I have resolved to stick to them in future.

The hyphen (-) is found on the top row of the keyboard below the underline. It is used without spaces to join two or more words into one concept such as up-to-date or flower-child.


An en dash (–) has the width of ‘n’; it is obtained by using Ctrl and the minus sign on number keys*; and is primarily used to replace the word ‘to’. Examples: Opening hours 8:00 a.m.–5:00p.m., or ‘The final score was 3–1’ or ‘Trading results were up–down’ (arguable) or ‘From A–Z’. *(Update: or press down Alt while keying 0150 on number keys.)


The em dash (—) has m width; for this you press Ctrl, Alt and minus sign on number keys*; denotes a pause or a different line of thought. Examples: ‘If you keep interrupting, I can’t finish a —’ or ‘How do you do — reminds me, wonder how he did?’ or ‘He spoke confidently — though there was little for him to be confident about — for some time.’ No spaces are necessary before or after, but some writers—including myself—think this non-spaced result is too crowded. Whichever option is chosen should be used consistently.        *(Update: or press down Alt while keying 0151 on number keys.)

Final Update: Just to show clearly the actual differences between the em dash, the n dash, and the hyphen, I have superimposed them under letters of the same font. Note the slightly lower level of the hyphen.


© August 2016 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble (WordPress)

A Well-Travelled Book About a Journey

The Long SlumberA pleasant surprise awaited me at the Brighton Beach Post Office today.  It was a copy of the published version of The Long Slumber by James Walker Hastie which I edited last year, sent to me by the author.  Until I received it, I didn’t know that it was now in print, and as always it was a thrill to see the finished product of something one has helped to create.

MissentThe book was written in Scotland with a mythical setting perhaps in the East.  The cover was done in Essex.  It was edited in South Africa, and made in USA,  My copy was directed to Brighton Beach in Vancouver, Canada, before finally coming to the Durban one.  At least they didn’t try the sandy bit of Brighton, UK, or the Melbourne version!

There is, as may be seen, a description of being ‘a journey of enlightenment’.  My copy certainly had quite a journey before I was enlightened!

© January 2016 lesliehylawintonnoble (WordPress)

‘Editification’ and delight – The Goddess of the Devil.


Most writers tend to want their editors to remain, if not invisible, at least fairly well-hidden.  Some, but not all, do give an acknowledgement in the front matter.  Some don’t.  They want it to be assumed that no hand has muddied the pristine waters of their genius.

If authors do mention that their book is in the course of being edited, they hardly ever say by whom, so unless they do the editor is also obliged to keep mum on the subject.

Also, the editor has to be aware of the confidentiality of the relationship.  If it is known what books are being worked on, any general remarks on writing faults may be assumed as having arisen from the current project.

It is refreshing, therefore, that I have received full permission from the multi-talented Mart Sander (link is to the Wiki page on him)  to blog my appraisal of his latest novel, now undergoing an edit of the final section.  He may, of course, have been influenced by the fact that it isn’t exactly uncomplimentary!  🙂

The Goddess of the Devil
Mart Sander

Editor’s Appraisal 

Maria Orsic (Metapedia)Few novels I have edited – or, indeed, read – have gripped my attention and imagination to the extent this one has succeeded in doing.  The main protagonist, Maria Orsic (Orschitsch), actually existed and was an exceptionally beautiful woman, with blonde hair to her ankles, whose mediumistic talents were acknowledged even by sceptics.  Her association with the famous and the infamous of the Nazi era, and the influence of her ‘Vril’ group of clairvoyants and mediums upon them, had an undoubted effect on the events of that time.  How much so, is one of many fields explored in the novel.

From her first meeting with two anonymous men, the book leaves no doubt regarding the reality of her abilities in esoteric matters.  The limitations in her talents, though, provide a source of suspense and frustration for the reader throughout.

The identities of her callers are revealed towards the end of the first chapter in a way which gives an early indication of the author’s skill in dropping bombshells in a casual way.  That particular one is effective even if expected, but most of the other (many) surprises arrive as a total shock.  Every time the reader is lulled into a sense of having a good idea where events are being taken, further ingenious twists come in.

Particularly skilful blending of recorded history, vouched-for and documented facts, well-founded speculation, and imaginative invention, provides another thing which sets this novel apart.  Actual characters and events were so amazing that it becomes almost impossible to know where fiction starts coming in.  One is easily able to verify, for example, that Hitler claimed to have been at the mercy of a British soldier, Henry Tand(e)y, VC, who could have shot him but waved him on.  Though disputed, this seems to be true.  Then, ‘Indiana Jones’ prototype, Chapman Andrews, also existed and was as flamboyant as depicted.  As yet another instance we have the Roerich expedition which ‘vanished’ for a year – again, this is recorded.

In essence, the novel follows Maria through her earlier days in Vienna to all the events and experiences beginning with her fateful interview in Munich and the ‘messages’ she received in Bechtesgarten in 1919, and her participation in a 1927 Tibetan expedition, through to the events which preceded, and unfolded during, the Second World War.  Adventure, romance and mystery are interwoven with the progression of all the momentous happenings of that incredible time in history, leaving the reader breathlessly eager to reach the outcome.

This outcome is not rushed.  It would have been a mistake, in my opinion, to do so.  The impact lies in all that has gone before; to try and condense or prune would not be wise even though the length of the novel is well over that which publishers traditionally look for from a writer not yet established.  One could, perhaps, try to dispense with sections which show the progression of a normal, rational nation into a unity which became associated with pure evil.  However, the insights into how the fascination with fascism, and reverence for Hitler, crept insidiously into the psyche of the ordinary German man and woman is part of what lifts this novel far above the normal run.

It is my belief that this book has definite potential to become a best-seller.  The most difficult part will be how to categorise it.  Historical ‘faction’?   Supernatural?  Adventure?  Romance?  Science fiction?  Fantasy?  It has all these elements in it, and more.  As is appropriate for a writer who is also a musician, Mart Sander has orchestrated them all perfectly into a symphony of epic proportions.


Leslie Hyla Winton Noble 

September, 2014.

Really Awful Editnig Woes

Dragon by Lee Young

Dragon by ‘Tabika’ illustrator Lee Young –                            how Editors are seen by Writers – and vice versa!

It is a most distresing thing,
 However many times.
  That I will go through editnig,
I still uncover crimes
 By punctuation grammar; to;
 Or simply of a the word
 That’s one too many, one      few,
 Or simply is obzurd;
No matter that, time and again,
 I root out every flaw/
 I look agen, and that is when
 I sea a dozen more;
 i think some evil imp waits there
    To change the thigs around:
 No mat-ter how mush sweat and care – 
 Be sure, more faults are, found!
 When reeding threw a ‘final” file
The prawblems that I find
Are going, in quite short a wile,
                   To drive me from my mined!
At least I no no errors lurk
 In this hear bit of prose
F or al misteaks, wif lot’s ov wurk,
I done makes sure has goes.

 © Leslie Hyla Winton Noble September 2014 first appearing in Colonialist July 2014 (WordPress)

Editor and Writer – a Hate-Hate Relationship?

Translation etc header

Advice to authors and editors:

You are a writer.  You have produced your masterpiece.  Now your publisher or someone else suggests it needs to be professionally edited.

Immediately, your hackles rise.  You don’t need editing.  You have gone over the manuscript yourself, numerous times, and it is perfect.

Finally, kicking and screaming, you submit.  The first results return and you find that you have missed any number of spellcheck-proof errors of the ‘to/too’ variety as well as many wonky punctuation points.  Are you grateful?  Not exactly.  ‘I would have picked all of those up on one more read,’ you grumble.

Then you see a comma inserted somewhere and you don’t like it.  The editor points out that without it the sentence has a different meaning.  You don’t see it that way.  One of you capitulates, but only after many mutterings.

Now comes the ultimate insult – it is suggested that a sentence, paragraph, or passage be reworded.  A total tantrum is immediately indicated.  You suggest that the editor do some rather physically impossible things to him/herself, and you storm off to bed.  The following day, you concede that there may be a point.  A week later, you decide the rewrite is a great improvement.

Or, after reading your impassioned argument in defense, the editor comes back to you and says, ‘Oh, I see your point; much better to leave it as is.’  Replies like that do make one feel a lot better about the whole process, but there has still been a mutual rise in blood pressure.

Now we look at the editor.  He/she/it starts off happily, jabbing away at correcting the obvious stuff, and enjoying the tale.  Suddenly a screeching halt is reached.  ‘What the blanketty-blank is meant here?’ comes the anguished cry.  After some mental gymnastics, a revised wording is suggested.  The writer replies acidly, pointing out that had you read a little further on you would have seen exactly why that wording was essential or, quoting sources, why it is correct.  Now the (infallible, of course) editor is discomforted and not amused, instead of simply being glad that the point has been cleared up.

In another scenario, the editor is convinced that something is spoiling the story, but the writer refuses to budge and does not give any convincing argument for the refusal.  Capitulate, or stick to guns?  In these circumstances, the editor must persevere, and if overruled must make it clear that this is under protest.

I have been in the unique situation over the past few weeks of alternating between both of these roles.  I am professionally editing two novels, and having my own latest one undergo the same process.  In my ‘author’ role, I have had to learn to ignore my first reaction of, ‘How dare you criticize this?’ and take a deep breath followed by a long hard look.  It was painful, for example, to delete a section of brilliant wordplay (well, I still think it was) when the editor pointed out that it breaks the action in the passage in question, but if one has to concede that’s actually what it did, then that’s what had to be done!

Then, in my editor role, I have to remember my own reactions to any crit, take another deep breath, and use lots of patience in getting the point/s across.

It is clear that the relationship between editor and writer has to be approached as a partnership, with the greatest sympathy and understanding on both sides.  Subjectivity must be replaced with objectivity, and passion with reason.

Bottom line, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, and in the final analysis, an editor must be able to accept that even clichés can have their place – and the writer to acknowledge when they are overdone!

© September 2014 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble  (first appearing in Colonialist Blog, June 2014) (WordPress)