Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /home/a26f9f83/public_html/articles/includes/config.php on line 159
Get Published: The Nuts and Bolts of Good English, and How to Impress a Publisher (1) > NetSparsh - Viral Content you Love & Share

Get Published: The Nuts and Bolts of Good English, and How to Impress a Publisher (1)

Not all writers write good grammar. That's a fact. It's no big deal. Well, mostly it's no big deal. As a freelance books editor, I've seen hundreds of books whose authors cannot produce decent grammar and punctuation. I do it for them. I'm paid to do that -- mostly by the hour.

So why bother to write good grammar? you ask. What does it matter if I can't tell a colon from a semicolon, or when to use double quote marks and single quote marks? Is it such a sin to use inappropriate or downright wrong words if someone is going to correct them for me? Who cares if my syntax isn't logical? If there are copy editors and proofreaders to ensure my book looks good, why is it so important to go to the trouble of ensuring my grammar and punctuation are tiptop?

Well, it might just help you to sell your book, that's why. And I don't mean sell it to the buyer in the bookstore: I mean sell it to the commissioning editor who is on the point of deciding whether your life is about to change.

When you're a would-be first-time author -- and many of us have been in that position -- a well-presented approach letter and sample chapter might be the thing that tips it for you. Look at it this way: you're an unknown; the commissioning editor likes your ideas, but has seen a couple of other approach letters and sample chapters recently that say much the same; of those other two, one is so well presented that it won't need much copy-editing. Which writer is that commissioning editor going to choose?

In reality, that editor will probably not see your full manuscript till you've been accepted, but will get a good idea of your writing skills from that approach letter and the sample chapter or two that you may be asked to submit, along with a breakdown of the book's structure.

Copy editors such as me are freelance. Mostly, we're paid by the hour. Sometimes a publisher will pay a flat rate for a particular editing job, but will assess it first and say, "Hmm, I'll offer nine hundred dollars" (or, say, four hundred pounds, depending on where you're working). That commissioning editor has just done a quick calculation and has decided that, by accepting the manuscript from the author who's submitted a near-perfect approach letter and samples, the company will save some money.

But I'm writing a novel, a big stream-of-consciousness thing, you argue. I don't want good grammar. It will spoil the whole thing.

Fine. If your terms of reference are that this is the type of manuscript you're producing, you'll have agreed this with your in-house editor, who will have taken note of it and will brief me -- or another copy editor -- to treat the text accordingly.

Most books, however, are not stream-of-consciousness novels. Many are told in a straightforward way (that's not to say they're dull, but merely that their authors have chosen to adhere to the conventions); and, anyway, many are not novels. Most books are nonfiction. If you can find a subject that will interest a publisher and you're suitably expert in it, you may get published.

But the publisher will look more kindly on you if, in your approach letter and accompanying material, you present yourself well.

The good news is that the basics -- what I refer to as "the nuts and bolts of English" -- are not too difficult to learn. Most of them are logical. Once you've seen them in action and passed that eureka! moment, you won't forget them.

I hope this short article has made you realize that you'll have to bite the bullet sometime soon, and get to grips with these basics. If you're already an expert, of course, you won't have read this far, so probably won't be reading this sentence!

But there are many writers who, for whatever reason, need to brush up a little. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe they've had better things to do with their lives so far.

The important thing to know is that there are people like me, writing articles such as this one, to help. Call me a nerd if you will, but I actually like working on text at the level I do. As writer and co-writer of 14 print titles, I've also been copy-edited a lot, so I know what it's like from both sides.

Getting published isn't always easy, but attention to detail can sometimes be the deciding factor. I wrote a downloadable book recently with my co-writer Stephen Blake, called You Can Write Books (at, which, although its main topic is actually getting published, contains some tips on the nuts and bolts of writing. This is already selling quite well, which is gratifying.

To sum up: don't neglect good grammar, because (a) it could make the difference between acceptance and rejection; (b) it's satisfying to know that you can do it; and (c) once you've learned a few basic stylistic points, that dread word grammar may not sound so bad after all.

Good luck with your writing.

Andrew John is co-author of You Can Write Books, a no-nonsense downloadable book from that will get you into print if you follow its advice. He and his co-author, Stephen Blake, have written more than a dozen print titles (details on Both are writers and editors, and You Can Write Books is crammed with advice you can trust.

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at

Writing the Book: Annual Writers' Week Celebrates Guest Authors of Ecotone Essay Collection
2) is organized around the launch of Trespass: Ecotone Essayists Beyond the Boundaries of Place, Identity, and Feminism, an essay collection forthcoming from the creative writing department's award-winning national literary magazine Ecotone, and ...


INSIDER is hiring a video writing intern for food
We are hiring a video writing and producing intern with a focus on food for INSIDER, a distributed publication that delivers stories to readers across digital platforms. The role includes finding and pitching ideas for INSIDER's food videos, as well as ...

Washington Post

Writing the racy 'Mr. Nice Guy' was a family affair
Washington Post
Jason Feifer and Jennifer Miller published books before and after they met in 2009 on OkCupid. The 38-year-old authors married in 2011 — but it took a lot longer for them to really take the plunge and enter into a writing relationship. Their first ...
Book World: Writing the racy 'Mr. Nice Guy' was a family affairAlton Telegraph

all 2 news articles »

Washington Post

As Trump administration eyes writing transgender people 'out of existence,' a reckoning for a transgender Republican
Washington Post
Jordan Evans, 27, is a town constable and an elected library trustee in Charlton, Mass. She's a Republican, as are most of the people in her hometown, a rural community where about 54 percent of voters cast their ballots for Donald Trump in 2016. Evans ...
'Transgender' Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump AdministrationNew York Times
US Halts Visas For Diplomats' Same-Sex Partners If They're Not MarriedNPR
Chase Strangio on Twitter: "I know folks are scared and hurt. So am I. We are working to stop this and we will never ...Twitter
all 799 news articles »

Writers rejoice: Kick-off for 'National Novel Writing Month' this Sunday in Somers
Kenosha News
This week's featured community group is Kenosha/Racine NaNoWriMo. Municipal liaison Peg Rousar-Thompson answered the questions. Q: What is the mission of your organization? A: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a free annual project ...

Youth learn to love writing at library's writing fest
Children and adults alike in the Bowling Green area got to show their love for writing in a new event for the town. The Wood County District Public Library hosted a writing festival over the weekend in honor of the National Day on Writing. The day was ...

Washington Post

Murakami enjoys writing because he doesn't know the ending
Minneapolis Star Tribune
TOKYO — Haruki Murakami says he enjoys writing novels because he doesn't know how they'll end. The Japanese author behind global best-sellers like his latest, "Killing Commendatore" hosted a special radio show on Sunday. He said he starts writing ...
Author Murakami: Joy of writing is to start not knowing endWashington Post

all 230 news articles »

U.S. News & World Report

Halliburton: The Writing Was On The Wall
Seeking Alpha
Halliburton's 3Q18 results were nowhere near disastrous, as the company beat expectations on revenues and earnings. But it looks like the pain caused by the North America land bottlenecks is only getting started, with 4Q18 EPS projected to land well ...

all 57 news articles »

Chicago Sun-Times

Parking ticket writing stabilizes; vehicles getting booted drops by 10.5 percent
Chicago Sun-Times
That's virtually the same as the same period a year ago, when officials reported a five percent decline in ticket-writing from the previous year. But booting through June 30 has declined by 10.5 percent, to 30,275 vehicles. In contrast, booting rose by ...

Atlas Obscura

How Writers Map Their Imaginary Worlds
Atlas Obscura
One of life's great treats, for a lover of books (especially fantasy books), is to open a cover to find a map secreted inside and filled with the details of a land about to be discovered. A writer's map hints at a fully imagined world, and at the ...

Google News

Pairs/Groups Of Words Often Confused - Part 5 of 6

PASSED, PASTPassed is the past tense of pass. Past means... Read More

The Myths of Writing: Have You Bought Into These?

There is an image most people carry of the artist... Read More

Could Your Book Idea Be the Next Best Seller?

Everyone has a unique story to tell. From explaining business... Read More

Check Your English Grammar With This Easy Technique

As an International language, English has been used widely in... Read More

Idea-Mining for Writers, 102

As many authors are fond of stating, "Ideas are all... Read More

Basic Word Processing Tips for Writers

Word processors are so widely used now that I tend... Read More

Crime Writing Beckons

If your cash is running out fast and you have... Read More

Freelance Writing: A Career From Anywhere

An island in the Mediterranean. A beach in Africa. The... Read More

Top Ten Tips (Part 1)

The following rules are essential if you want people to... Read More

If You Want to Succeed As a Writer, Dont Just Think It, Do It

It never ceases to amaze me when a prospective writer... Read More

Pairs/Groups Of Words Often Confused - Part 1 of 6

ACCEPT, EXCEPT Not commonly seen even from unpublished writers, who... Read More

Does Each Element of Your Story Further The Theme?

Creative Writing Tips ?Whichever theme you choose, all the elements,... Read More

Piecing It All Together

There's a little known secret we writers like to keep... Read More

Mama Dont Allow No Fighting in Your Writing

When you sit down to write a steamy romance, a... Read More

Timer Magic for Writers

If your writing muscle isn't in shape, writing a novel... Read More

Editing for Perfection ? The Personal Statement

This article contains a short guide on how to edit... Read More

The Demon Fear

You have a great idea for a poem, a story,... Read More

Novel to Screenplay: The Challenges of Adaptation

ADAPTATION 101Brimming with confidence, you've just signed the check purchasing... Read More

Writing Internal Newsletters: How to Build Your Network and Your Reputation

To help build your profile and reputation within a large... Read More

Writers Block is No Longer a Problem

"If you're like me, than I'm sure you're pretty familiar... Read More

The Run-on Sentence: From Here To Eternity

If you find your sentences filled with commas, and they... Read More

Another Way to Show Your Expertise: Write a Book!

Maybe you should write a book! This is not as... Read More

Starting a Freelance Writing Career (or How I Sifted Through the Muck and Found My Way)

So, the decision is final. I am a writer.Actually, I... Read More

Power Writing 101: Tips and Tricks to Get You Taken Seriously!

In my ten years as an advertiser, I've encountered plenty... Read More

How to Get Free Publicity in In-flight Magazines

If you're targeting an educated, more affluent audience with your... Read More