Take it slow.

Not “slowly.”


That’s a flat adverb. There’s no -ly on the end of it. There can be, sure, as “slowly,” but “slow” is used adverbially and there’s not a thing wrong with it under the right circumstances.

You’ll not find it in academic writing, or formal business writing, or legal writing. Those use a register sometimes called “frozen,” meaning there are certain expected phrasings that are ┬ánever changed. Think about the language of a church ritual (the more rigid the denomination, the more likely you’ll hear that frozen register). It’s always said this way, never that way. It’s tradition. It’s frozen in time. Part of the hubbub about Vatican II was over the loss of the frozen register, changing from Latin to English (or whatever the local language was). “It’s not said the same now!” Nope, it’s not. But it means the same thing, right? (That’s really a different topic, so I’ll stop with the digression.)

As much as I love flat adverbs, I don’t push them where they’re neither wanted nor needed. If a client uses them, I do my best to leave them alone unless, as happens in some cases, they just don’t work well. If a client doesn’t use them, far be it from me to suggest them; it’s not my voice in their work. It’s their voice. Their work. My task is to provide clarity, and changing “slow” to “slowly” is unlikely to help. Ditto for changing “slowly” to “slow” unless, maybe, it’s in dialogue and I’ve got a handle on the character’s style and it makes sense to suggest the change. Not make it. Suggest it.

Here’s a well-written article about flat adverbs, over at Daily Writing Tips. I see no reason to write another one. I’m just putting it out there for folks that I’m a proponent of them in cases where they make good sense and sound natural. Note that not all adverbs can be flat, and not all flat adverbs mean the same thing as their -ly counterparts. Here’s one example from the linked article: You can dress sharp, or you can dress sharply, but you arrive at five o’clock sharp.

Commas: plain-language explanation #1

I expect this to become a series, so I’m numbering this post. If I’m wrong, well … I’ll come back later, in a year or two, and edit the title.

Aaaaanyway, let’s get to it.

This is about commas and adjectives. When you have a string of adjectives before a noun, how do you know if you need commas between them? (In grammar-speak, these are called coordinate or coordinating modifiers. No one remembers┬áthat, though, except for grammar geeks. Hence my choice to use plain language.) Continue reading “Commas: plain-language explanation #1”

ACES 2017: The rest of it

Friday night, as I said last time, was the banquet. Because so many of us editor women have embraced colorful hair, there was a group photo taken before we were seated. Eleven of us assembled in front of the (old) ACES logo sign in the hallway for our moment of fame. The largest discussion focused on whether we should line up in ROYGBIV order. (We did not.) As most of us are purple of some flavor or other, we were in the middle, with the green, blue, orange, and ted on the outside. Molly McCowan (@InkbotEditor) has rainbow streaks in her blonde mane, and took center position. (I envy her ink.) Continue reading “ACES 2017: The rest of it”

Well, actually … (thoughts on an Oxford comma)

First, here’s a link to the story I’m about to discuss. Read that and come back when you’re finished. I’ll be here.

::goes to get coffee::

Ready? Okay. Here’s the thing. The court claims that without a comma before the coordinating conjunction “or,” the meaning of the wording is ambiguous.

I beg to differ. There’s absolutely no reason to put a comma there, and doing so doesn’t help clarify anything (because it doesn’t belong there in the first place). Continue reading “Well, actually … (thoughts on an Oxford comma)”

Time to re-evaluate myself.

And by “re-evaluate myself,” I mean “reconsider my editing rates.” I am not the editor I was in 2012, when I hung out my imaginary shingle and said “Hi, I’m an independent editor who wants to work with independent authors.”

I’ve edited nearly 70 titles since then. I’ve never stopped reading books on the art and craft of editing, and I’ve started reading books on the art and craft of writing because, surprise surprise, they help me be a better editor. I’ve continued reading for pleasure (not nearly as much as I wish I had time for!). I’ve taken a class in developmental editing: a beginning class, because I was very unsure of my skill set even though my clients all told me I was doing the work already.

They were right. Continue reading “Time to re-evaluate myself.”