Category Archives: Definite Articles

Definite articles: Fiction

Welcome to ‘Definite articles’, our pick of recent editing-related internet content, most of which are definitely articles. This time, our theme is fiction. If you want to view the CIEP’s own recent content, head straight for CIEP social media round-up: June and July 2022.

Header image with text Definite articles: fiction. Photo of cat sniffing a flower on a book.

In this blog post:

  • The language of fiction
  • Dialogue and character
  • Plot, story and scenes
  • The business of fiction
  • Fiction past
  • And the prize goes to …

The language of fiction

Words: they’re what books are made of. If you’re stuck for one, the internet’s a good place to start in finding what you need. During May, June and July, Cambridge Dictionaries published a number of useful articles for any fiction writer or editor groping towards the right words, including how to describe textures, breathing, people you like and admire, looking for information and then finding it, enjoying yourself, and animal noises such as howling, mewing and snorting, and grunting, lowing and bleating.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary posted its ‘Great big list of beautiful and useless words, part 1’, with links to Parts 2 and 3. Each list contained 50 words that were obscure and attractive in equal measure. Our favourite was peristeronic: suggestive of pigeons. (So useful.)

Dialogue and character

A major element of fiction is dialogue. In July, Carol Saller for The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) explored interjections, because:

Not all fictional characters are meant to be smooth-tongued and lyrical in their speech. Rather, just like us, they sometimes mumble or stumble. Giving a character flawed speech is a way to make dialogue more realistic. And this very human kind of talking often involves the use of interjections.

Continuing the theme of writing authentic dialogue, Edwin L Battistella described how we’re likely to deal with pronouns and joint possession in normal speech – for example ‘Paul and my home’ or ‘Kace and I’s text’. Battistella set out the grammar rules but explained why we often break them when chatting. This practical approach may explain why the article attracted so many likes on the CIEP’s social media platforms.

When we write beyond our own experience it’s crucial to conduct research – for example to interview people with different lives to ours, and to learn about variations and dialects in Englishes and other languages. The internet can offer some pointers on the latter, although this should only be the first step. In June, The Guardian focused on Multicultural London English (MLE), which is rapidly growing in the UK.

In ‘How (and how not!) to write queer characters: a primer‘ on Jane Friedman’s website, Susan DeFreitas gave advice about how to avoid writing stereotyped characters (for example the ‘Magic Gay Bestie’) and biased plot devices (for example when a gay character is killed off early), and suggested best practices for writing queer characters (for example, ‘Don’t make them the sole representative’).

ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors) shared Sacha Black’s podcast on levelling up your side characters, a Self-Publishing Conference Highlight, in audio and transcript. Black’s talk featured Mr Wheezy, the penguin from Toy Story (remember him?), alongside many minor characters you might have temporarily forgotten who are important for plot and theme.

Another useful article about characterisation on Jane Friedman’s site was Heather Davis’s ‘7 questions to design a better arc of change for your protagonist’. We posted this across our social media platforms in mid-July to wide approval. One follower commented, ‘this is a great article!’

Plot, story and scenes

In fact, there was a run of great articles from Jane Friedman’s site this summer. Many of them considered plot, story and scenes, from ‘The vital difference between plot and story – and why you need both‘ by Heather Davis to ‘The building blocks of scene’, ‘Moving between scenes with summary and spacers’ and ‘Good scenes require specifics’ by Sharon Oard Warner.

Back on the CMOS Shop Talk blog, Carol Saller considered ‘What makes a chapter of a novel?’ including purpose, length and endings.

The business of fiction

The profile of self-publishing was high this summer. Radio 4’s Money Box devoted a programme to self-publishing, and at the beginning of August The Guardian published a step-by-step guide to getting your book published, which mentioned the CIEP’s suggested minimum rates for editors and proofreaders to help with budgeting.

Talking about the CIEP, the AFEPI published a version of Averill Buchanan’s CIEP blog on fiction book production. Alongside this, you could read ALLi’s ‘Ultimate guide to formatting your print book’, posted in May.

In addition, there were articles on book blurbs, creating a copyright page and how to make a great author website, as well as ALLi Twitter chat on common book marketing failures. All useful stuff.

Fiction past

Reading fiction is an important part of writing and editing it. Recent online content on past fictional works included ‘A literary history of modernism’, which starts with psychologist and philosopher William James’s ‘stream of consciousness’, a quiz on Mary Shelley, five little-known facts about Dracula, fictional worlds you might belong in (one follower commented: ‘I ended up in Mrs Dalloway’s world. Need to dig out the cloche hat’) and, after we’ve finished reading, ‘How to survive the post-book blues’.

As the summer got hotter, the OUP created a playlist inspired by Oxford World’s Classics, so you didn’t even have to go to the bother of reading to be inspired. It’s on Spotify, if you want to hunt it out.

Small gold trophy on black stand

And the prize goes to …

In June, writers and others in the publishing industry expressed dismay that the Costa (formerly Whitbread) book awards were being scrapped after 50 years.

In July, a writer responded in the most positive way to the ending of another award. When it was announced that the Blue Peter Book Award had finished, Elle McNicoll, a former winner, started her own prize for UK books with a disability focus. She specified that winning books had to be ‘about JOY more than MISERY’.

Another book award led to an unexpected result this summer: it shone a spotlight on plagiarism in fiction. An examination of John Hughes’s novel The Dogs, longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, revealed that parts of the book displayed similarities to parts of major works by Svetlana Alexievich, Leo Tolstoy, Erich Maria Remarque, F Scott Fitzgerald and others. Author John Purcell wrote an account of the saga, ending with, ‘Needless to say, all of Hughes’ other work is now being placed under the microscope. This is far from over. Oh goodie.’

Fortunately, other prizes continued unbothered. At the end of July, along with others, Lit Hub announced the 2022 Booker Prize longlist.

Another prize that has survived the summer is the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest. Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton was the nineteenth-century author of the famous opening line ‘It was a dark and stormy night’, and entrants to the contest are tasked with writing ‘an atrocious opening sentence to the worst novel never written’. The 2021 Grand Prize Winner was Stu Duval of Auckland, whose opening started: ‘A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold’ … you get the general idea. Keep checking www.bulwer-lytton.com for the news on this year’s winner, which will be widely proclaimed anon. While we wait with breath baited, enjoy Amber Sparks on Twitter (@ambernoelle), who got right into the Victorian vibe:

Normal people: I met this guy, he was average

Victorian writers: He was, in the way of most men, possessed of a rudimentary intelligence, his countenance ordinary, his bearing mild, with some weakness about the shoulders, his hair the color of ash; he spoke of the weather

What more is there to be said? Hand Amber the Bulwer Lytton crown, someone.

Online fiction resources

We hope you enjoyed this edition of ‘Definite articles’. Here are the resources we featured for reading, writing, editing and publishing fiction.

Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi): selfpublishingadvice.org

Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders & Indexers of Ireland (AFEPI) blog: afepi-ireland.com/blog

Cambridge Dictionaries blog: dictionaryblog.cambridge.org

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) Shop Talk: cmosshoptalk.com

Jane Friedman: janefriedman.com

Literary Hub (Lit Hub): lithub.com

Merriam-Webster Words at Play: merriam-webster.com/words-at-play

Oxford University Press blog: blog.oup.com

Penguin: penguin.co.uk

From the CIEP

We recently shared these CIEP fiction resources on our social media platforms.

Cashmore, Stephen. ‘Editing dialogue’. Members-only fact sheet. ciep.uk/resources/factsheets/#ED.

Donaldson, Sara. ‘Common problems encountered in fiction editing’. Blog article. blog.ciep.uk/fiction-editing-common-problems.

Introduction to Fiction Editing. Course. ciep.uk/training/choose-a-course/introduction-to-fiction-editing.

O’Grady, Carrie. ‘Sharing is caring: collaboration among freelance fiction editors’. Blog article. blog.ciep.uk/collaboration-among-freelance-fiction-editors.

Taylor, Nick. ‘Editing LGBTQ+ language with sensitivity’. Members-only fact sheet. ciep.uk/resources/factsheets/#ELL.

Trail, Katherine. ‘A look at editing romance novels’. Blog article. ciep.uk/romance-novels-editing.

You can find us online on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: cat and books by Klaudia Ekert on Pexels, trophy by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Definite articles: CIEP social media picks, April and May 2022

Welcome to ‘Definite articles’, our social media team’s pick of editing-related internet content, most of which are definitely articles. If you want our pick of our own recent content, head straight for ‘CIEP social media round-up: April and May 2022’.

In this column:

  • Celebrating books
  • All things fictional
  • Different ways to be an editorial professional
  • Behind the scenes
  • What words do
  • Learning about language
  • A Thursday funny

Celebrating books

Our review begins in the first week of April, with the London Book Fair. This massive publishing event last took place in person in 2019 so there was plenty to celebrate. There were more than 500 international exhibitors, 400 speakers, 75 first-time exhibitors and 125 events. ‘Are you there?’ we asked our social media followers, and got two contrasting responses on LinkedIn that seemed good representative samples: ‘Sure am; and making great connections, having fantastic conversations and acquiring new knowledge!’ and: ‘I wish!’

You’ll recall that at the end of the last ‘Definite articles’ we celebrated the return of Charles Darwin’s notebooks to Cambridge University Library this spring. During April and May we enjoyed two more tales of long overdue book returns: a London library book returned almost 50 years late (its fine would have been £1,254) and another returned to a library in Ipswich from Croatia, 64 years late. One follower on Facebook responded: ‘Oh wow! I’m definitely returning my library book tomorrow! Thanks man …’

We mused on our relationship with books, which are ‘Portable Magic’ but sometimes over-valorised, according to Emma Smith who has recently written a history of reading. An article about whether it was OK to treat books as ornaments got our followers chatting, as The Guardian covered the story that celebrity Ashley Tisdale’s shelves were filled with books she had purchased simply for decoration. This has been a growing trend since Zoom made public the insides of all our houses, but one of our followers revealed a different reason for buying books indiscriminately in bulk:

I lived in a Victorian terrace house and wanted some extra sound insulation on the wall we shared with next door. I put up shelves and filled them with books from charity shops. I didn’t read the blurb on the back, knowing that I would stick to my favourite genre if I did. I certainly didn’t read every book I had on the shelves but it made for interesting insulation and I read books I wouldn’t have otherwise.

All things fictional

An article we shared in April about the psychology of fiction demonstrated how reading could be transformational, helping us develop empathy and social and cognitive skills as well as teaching us about ourselves. We encouraged our followers into this positive pattern in April and May, posting articles about female sleuths, Jane Austen and food, Dracula (125 years young!) and the classics recommended by OUP if you’re a fan of TV shows like Bridgerton and Sanditon. We shared fiction-based Friday funnies, too: ‘Gentler genres for these tough times’ from Tom Gauld (including Soothing Sci-Fi and Dainty Dystopia) and ‘Classic Novel Merch’ (including the Lord of the Flies Swatter and Jane Eyre Freshener) from John Atkinson of Wrong Hands.

We also looked at the benefits of writing fiction, even when the world seems like it’s on fire: a process that not only offers solace to the reader but changes the writer for the better.

The fiction editor’s point of view was well and truly covered, too, with articles from CMOS on exclamation marks in creative text and whether the subjunctive mood – expressing ‘an action or state as doubtful, imagined, desired, conditional, hypothetical, or otherwise contrary to fact’ – was right for fiction. ‘Would that it were’, wittily responded one Facebook follower, although the article made it clear, using numerous examples, that the subjunctive was indeed right in certain circumstances.

Different ways to be an editorial professional

We posted content about many different types of editorial professional in April and May, including publishing project managers, cookery editors, indexers and, er, rabbits. We looked at the different ways editors and proofreaders work, from using Google Docs and CMOS for PerfectIt to marking up PDFs. We also considered where they worked, with an article that talked about the variety of attitudes worldwide towards remote working.

One thing that all editorial professionals can relate to, however, is that feeling when you see a mistake in a text you’d previously been rather proud of your work on. Iva Cheung captured the torture of this experience in her cartoon ‘Blues’.

Behind the scenes

There was an insight into one editor’s behind-the-scenes issues in ‘Clients hire me to edit their books and then get angry about my feedback’. Our followers offered a range of advice, many sensing that the editor seemed weary of the work. They suggested expanding into other areas of editing, which might return the editor refreshed to their original sphere. Followers also recommended being more cautious about accepting work and improving editor–client communication. Another article, from Editors Canada, was relevant too. It talked about building long-term relationships with clients to make freelance life less stressful. This approach could also be an answer to the issue of low rates and the undervaluing of freelance work in the creative industries, which the #PayTheCreator campaign, from the Society of Authors and others, seeks to draw attention to.

We also got an insight into the publishing stories behind famous books from A Christmas Carol to Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Did you know that originally these works were self-published? There was a lesson on how too much pressure on authors can lead to big mistakes like plagiarism, and a look at what’s behind an acknowledgements section.

What words do

We heard the latest from the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, which has recently expanded many of its categories. One of these was ‘types of rock music’, to which has been added ‘darkwave’, ‘queercore’ and ‘nu metal’. Among the other words and terms we educated ourselves about were those that described admirable qualities, new eco-words, odd insulting words and those with a ‘toothy’ quality, such as ‘you managed that by the skin of your teeth’. One of our Friday funnies covered the Scottish word ‘beastie’. The illustration, with 12 creepy crawlies, each of which bore the caption ‘beastie’, delighted our followers, who said ‘This is awesome’ and ‘One of my favourite words!’, although one pointed out: ‘I’m sure that at least one of those specimens is a critter.’

There was more talk of the differences we find in languages and dialects, and the way we view certain words and terms as a result of our lived experience. We got a primer on the language of Shetland; we discovered how American Sign Language reveals that the evolution of language sometimes occurs just to make our lives a little easier; and we considered how speakers of different languages name and categorise experiences like colour, smells and touch differently. Within one language alone there are varieties in how we pronounce certain words and terms, and James Harbeck surveyed the different ways we say ‘succinct’.

Or you could make up your own words. In ‘Riverbankhungrydeerwillow: How we give names to nature’, Marc Peter Keane explored how we could reflect the connections between things in the process of naming them.

It matters what words we give things, and this was powerfully conveyed by CIEP Advanced Professional Member and Wise Owl Louise Bolotin in an interview for the Editing Podcast in May. Louise is dying of cancer, and she couldn’t have been clearer about how unhelpful it is to frame her experience as a ‘battle’ or apply to it any sort of verbal sugarcoating. No talk of ‘journeys’, please, however well meant.

Learning about language

As ever, during April and May we posted lots of articles about the nuts and bolts of language. Why is plain language a good idea (and may even make your readers admire you)? Could poetry be key to making science accessible and inclusive? Are capital letters harder to read? When should you use ‘You and I’ and not ‘You and me’? Plus apostrophes, contractions and the word ‘like’, which, in a fascinating article, was lifted from being an often-scorned bugbear to a richly nuanced indicator of intelligence. Grammar Girl covered other discourse markers, such as ‘you know’, saying that ‘conscientious people use discourse markers, such as “I mean” and “you know,” to imply their desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients’.

A Thursday funny

We’ve mentioned some of our Friday funnies above. One popular funny didn’t appear on a Friday, however, but a Thursday: 12 May, Edward Lear’s birthday and National Limerick Day. We shared Brian Bilston’s ‘Four Imperfect Limericks’, and many of our followers responded with their favourites (thank you all!), including ‘There once was a man from Hong Kong/Who thought limericks were too long.’ That’s it. That’s the limerick. #genius.


For more picks from our social media team, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. See you online!

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: feathers by Pierre Bamin, bookshelves by Paul Melki, rabbit by Hassan Pasha, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Definite articles: CIEP social media picks, February and March 2022

Welcome to the first edition of ‘Definite articles’, our social media team’s pick of internet content, most of which are definitely articles, for editors and proofreaders. If you want our pick of our own recent content, head straight for ‘CIEP social media round-up: February and March 2022’.

In this column:

  • Special days and news events
  • Reading recommendations
  • Thinking about language
  • Dashes, slashes and book stashes

Special days and news events

There were a number of special days during February and March 2022. On 11 February, the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we shared Cambridge Dictionaries’ look at how we talk about science, and on 8 March, International Women’s Day, we encouraged our friends and followers to read about Hidden Sci-Fi Women of the OED, from Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne, to Storm Constantine.

3 March was World Book Day, as many parents scarred by this annual festival of competitive literary costume-creating will know. We gave them a non-costume-based chance to get their kids into literature by posting National Geographic’s ‘Seven literary destinations around the UK to inspire children’, which included Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, the inspiration for AA Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood, and (checks notes) Scotland. Which sounds as if National Geographic might have forgotten that Scotland is a large and varied country until you read that 2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories.

Not long after World Book Day was World Poetry Day, and to celebrate this we posted ‘A little light verse’ by Brian Bilston: a poem in the shape of a lightbulb, which considers how many poets it would take to change one.

And we looked forward to a very special day in the summer: the Queen’s Platinum, er, ‘Jubbly’? As all sorts of souvenirs and memorabilia started to emerge in preparation for the big event on 2 June, the BBC ran a story about a particular set of crockery that celebrated ‘the Platinum Jubbly of Queen Elizabeth II’. ‘I would love to buy one of these pieces!’ declared a follower on LinkedIn. Well, move fast: there are only 10,000 available and they’re fast becoming collectors’ items, partly because of their Del Boy connotations. ‘Cushty’, as one Facebook follower observed.

The news wasn’t great during these two months. Publishing Perspectives published an interview with a Ukrainian publisher, Julia Orlova, who described the working conditions in early March for her publishing house, Vivat, and her determination to continue producing books for those in Ukraine who needed them. ‘“We provide electronic versions of books for children who are now staying with their parents in shelters,” she says. “And some of our staff continue to edit manuscripts whenever possible. We try our best not to stop the process of creating books.”’

Also in early March came the news that Shirley Hughes, children’s author and illustrator, had died. Hughes was famous for her character Alfie, among many others, and our followers paid tribute: ‘Wonderful author and illustrator. I’ve loved her books since they were read to me by my parents, and I love them even more having read them to my own children, and to the children I’ve looked after for many years. Reminiscent of a simpler and less frantic time.’

As is often the case at this time of year, the weather made news too. As Storm Eunice took hold in mid-February, we posted ‘The problem of writing poems on a wild, stormy day’ by Brian Bils … sorry, the rest of the name seems to have blown away. Who was the poet? We may never know.

Reading recommendations

At the beginning of February we posted a story from the Washington Post about a reading recommendation: by eight-year-old Dillon Helbig, of his own book, entitled The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis and signed ‘by Dillon His Self’. Dillon took his book on a visit to his local library with his grandma and while he was there slipped it onto one of the shelves. The library manager said: ‘I don’t think it’s a self-promotion thing. He just genuinely wanted other people to be able to enjoy his story … He’s been a lifelong library user, so he knows how books are shared.’ Dillon got his wish. The book has been officially added to the library’s collection and can be borrowed. In fact, there’s a long waiting list.

This lovely story was a good start to a couple of months during which we shared a whole host of reading recommendations, from 12 books to read in celebration of America’s Black History Month to the overlooked masterpieces of 1922, magical books you’ll keep coming back to, ten new books to read in America’s Women’s History Month, what TikTok’s book reviewers are recommending and the longlist for the International Booker Prize.

We also enjoyed The Guardian’s series ‘Where to start with’, and posted its pieces on the works of Agatha Christie and James Joyce.

Thinking about language

As if considering the works of James Joyce wasn’t already giving our language-processing centres enough of a workout, article after article about the meanings and implications of language was posted by our tireless social media team. These included new terms such as swicy (sweet and spicy) and seaganism (‘the practice of eating only plant-based foods and seafood’), and the use of light verbs which ‘get their main semantic content from the noun that follows rather than the verb itself’. Examples are take as in ‘take a walk’ or do as in ‘do battle’. There was a moderate reaction to this among our thoughtful followers, but no one made a comment.

We explored the taste of words in how food is written about, and also in the experience of synaesthesia, where ‘words have an associated physical experience as well as a meaning’. Occasionally that association can be flavour. Someone who knows all about this is James, who describes journeys on the London Underground when he was a child. Tottenham Court Road was his favourite stop: ‘“Tottenham” produced the taste and texture of a sausage; “Court” was like an egg – a fried egg but not a runny fried egg: a lovely crispy fried egg. And “Road” was toast. So there you’ve got a pre-made breakfast.’ Fascinating. And delicious.

We are always looking to learn more about inclusive language. Early in February we posted a piece about a new gender-neutral pronoun, ‘hen’, in Norwegian, and then a few weeks later we shared an OED panel discussion, ‘Language prejudice and the documentation of minoritized varieties of English’, and a response to it by CIEP member Robin Black.

Bringing new and inclusive language together, we posted an article explaining what it means to be ‘out of spoons’. Spoons have become a metaphor for energy, Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty explained, which is particularly useful in helping people with a disability, condition or chronic illness explain what their lived experience is like; for example, they might start the day with only a certain number of spoons, and with every activity they might lose one or more of these spoons. Fogarty explored how the concept has proven so useful that it has become widespread, with a new self-named ‘spoonie community’ and the use of the term as a verb, as in ‘spooned out’.

Dashes, slashes and book stashes

Our social followers enjoy a quiz and we’re only too happy to oblige. During February and March 2022 we posted quizzes on dashes and slashes (both courtesy of CMOS), and book stashes: ‘How well do you know your library quotes?’ One notable quote that didn’t feature in this quiz was ‘Librarian, Happy Easter X’, a message that landed in a pink bag in Cambridge University Library, along with two priceless missing notebooks belonging to Charles Darwin, in March. After careful verification of the notebooks the story broke in early April, which is too late for our February and March survey but, a bit like Dillon Helbig’s home-made library book, it’s far too good a story not to include in our collection.


Join us again in June (after the Jubbly) for our pick of April and May’s internet gems, or if you can’t wait you can always follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. See you online!

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: fruit by Lukas, storm by Diziana Hasabekava, spoons by Vie Studio, all on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.