Please welcome Karin Nicely, a professional editor, who will be posting on her own contributing page for the Scribbler. Postings will appear the first of each month. Karin welcomes any questions or opinions you may have on editing.
Karin Nicely is the president and lead editor of Seren Publishing Co., Inc. She provides copyediting, developmental editing, proofreading, and project management services along with writing workshops, consultation, and coaching.
Karin has previously been a guest on the Scribbler and you can read her interview HERE.
You might like to visit her website -
The Editor's Edge
March 1, 2021
Is the Road to Hell Paved with Adverbs?
“The adverb is not your friend,” states Stephen King in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (New York: Scribner, 2000), a book described as a “tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists.” Skeptical of such a bold claim, I wondered why he would view this helpful part of speech with such disdain, and I prepared to scoff.
However, as I read on, no scoffing ensued. King warns us that a more-than-minimal use of adverbs, like the use of passive voice, creates a weak tone in writing. Thus, if we rely on adverbs, we are most likely doing too much “telling” and not enough “showing.” For example, compare these two sentences:
He viciously told her to leave.
“Get out!” he snarled.
The second sentence is more powerful and creates an emotional response in the reader. Another example:
The tree was really tall.
The tree’s top-most branches scratched against the seventh-floor windows.
The first sentence uses the overused adverb “really,” while the second gives the reader a clear visual.
King’s discussion also made me think of one of Russian playwright Anton Chekov’s famous quotes: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” In other words, why use a weak, boring description when you can, instead, evoke an image or scene in your reader’s mind?
we eliminate adverbs from our writing? Even King admits that an adverb here or
there does not constitute terrible writing. And according to Lawrence Weinstein
in Grammar for a Full Life (Cambridge: Lexigraphic, 2020), the use of
certain adverbs can contribute to developing your unique voice as opposed to
writing with a strict objectivity and the “dispassionate tone of
Now, how about you? Do you try to avoid overusing adverbs in your writing? Do you use them more in one style of writing than another (i.e., fiction vs. nonfiction)? Or do you absolutely love adverbs and feel they are an integral part of writing in your own voice?
Let us know in the Comments section below.
February 1, 2021
What Do You Get When You Cross a Period with a Comma?
The poor, misunderstood semicolon. Writers often either misuse it or avoid it altogether because they are not quite sure what it is. Is it like a colon? A comma? A period?
Well, let me try to clear up some of the confusion with a few examples.
1) When I pore through manuscript drafts, I often see incorrect sentences like this:
“The boy shivered as he walked along the river, however, he decided he would not turn back.”
Here, the writer has attempted to form a compound sentence with two independent clauses, i.e., each could function as a complete sentence on its own. If these two clauses were joined with a conjunction (and, but, so, etc.), the first comma would be correct and the second would be eliminated. But instead, the second independent clause in our example begins with a conjunctive adverb (however, therefore, otherwise, meanwhile, etc.). So now what do we do?
In cases like this, we have two choices. First, we can simply form two sentences:
“The boy shivered as he walked along the river. However, he decided he would not turn back.”
But the two sentences are closely related. The reader needs to understand that despite the boy being cold, he has decided to press on. So rather than making a solid break by using a period, our second option would be to separate the two clauses with a semicolon:
“The boy shivered as he walked along the river; however, he decided he would not turn back.”
2) A semicolon would also be appropriate if we have two closely related independent clauses without any conjunction or conjunctive adverb:
“During the night, her mind raced wildly; during the day, her mind barely sauntered along.”
Note that each independent clause in this sentence is equally weighted. If we think of the semicolon as being somewhere between a period and a comma, we can use it to effectively show the relationship between two complete ideas.
3) Another appropriate application tends to appear more in nonfiction (how-to books, business materials, travel books, and so on). When we show items in a series, but at least one of those items includes a comma, we can use a semicolon to avoid confusion:
“There were three new board members: Bob Jones from Gateway, Florida; Sue Barnhart from Green Cove, Alabama; and John Roberts from Butler, Idaho.”
4) Sometimes writers confuse a semicolon with a colon. Whereas the semicolon is used (as in examples 1 and 2, above) to separate related ideas that have basically equal importance, the text before a colon has a different function than what comes after. To me, the colon says, “Pay attention to what I’m showing you next.” Here are a couple of examples:
“The décor incorporated three of my favorite colors: turquoise, rust, and taupe.”
“Her admiration for the man was clear in her speech’s opening line: 'His integrity and professionalism were beyond reproach.'”
Note that the text leading up to the colon clearly sets the stage for the information following it—usually an example, a list, or an explanation.
I hope these examples have helped you become better acquainted with the sometimes-subtle semicolon.
If you have a question about this topic or something you would like me to discuss in another post, please leave it in the comments below.
January 1, 2021.
Help! I Can’t Turn Off Editor Mode
When people learn I am an editor, they often ask if I’ve read this bestseller or that inspirational book. And my answer for a long time has been, “Well, no…I read manuscripts and research materials all day for work, so I hardly ever read for pleasure anymore.” I would also add that it is difficult for me to just read a book (or magazine article, website text, business communication, etc.) without editing it in my mind.
But recently, I was going through some things in a closet and came across a stack of books—one of those “when I have time” stacks we book lovers like to populate our homes and offices with. I picked up a paperback, read the intriguing back-cover text, then turned to Chapter One. As I pored through that chapter and the next, I suddenly realized I was (gasp!) reading for fun. I was getting into the characters and anxiously turning the pages to see what happened next. Now, does that mean I didn’t notice the occasional typo, awkward phrasing, or redundancy? Of course not. But I wasn’t getting bogged down by them, either. The sheer joy of being immersed in the story was propelling me through it all.
Therefore, I have realized that I absolutely should read for enjoyment much more often. After all, my love of reading is what got me into this profession in the first place. Whether it’s a fantasy novel, a paranormal mystery, or a tome on the odd creatures of the ocean’s depths, books can still produce excitement, wonder, and joy, even for me—no, especially for me.
As long as I remember to turn off my Editor Mode.
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