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    A Source, a Source, My Kingdom for a Source

    One of the biggest issues I run into when editing is when authors use questionable sources to back themselves up. The most common example of this is when Wikipedia is cited as a source.

    You might say, "Wait a second! Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It says so right there in its description!" Indeed, the websitedescribes itself as, "The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit." It's in the second part of the description that you find the biggest problem. Anyone with any bias, expertise (or lack thereof in many cases), or malicious intent can edit an article on Wikipedia. Even Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, has acknowledged that the site is not a good source for academic research.

    Now don't get me wrong, I use Wikipedia at times when I'm trying to look up the premise of a movie or general trivia. It is useful for that or for getting a general idea of how something happened. However, the site has several limitations that make it very unsuitable for a reputable source in a book or article, especially an academic one (e.g., a thesis). For example:

    • As I mentioned before, anyone can edit Wikipedia's entries, which means they can be tampered with, and the information can be quite inaccurate. There have been several cases where people, whether to be funny or malicious , inserted false information into Wikipedia entries, such as back in 2009 when someone reported that Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd had died.
    • The site lacks a peer-review process, which is very important for to ensure accuracy and adherence to scholarly standards.
    • The site is frequently updated and changed, which means the article you cite in your book is likely to be radically different once the book has been published.

    You might be wondering, "What is a good source?" Well, they are plentiful, but you might have to put a little more effort into your research. Some examples of good sources are:

    • Good, old-fashioned books written by reputable authors. Yes, I know books are not as popular and easy to access as the Internet, but they are by far the best place to look for reliable information. Schelpping down to your local library might seem like a chore, but the dividends will be worth it.
    • Scholarly articles from well-known journals. The best place to go for these are libraries. The articles in these journals undergo a strict peer-review process that ensures they are accurate, reliable, and in the same vein as other research in the field.
    • Reputable websites. These are okay to use, as long as they are from well-known sources such as CNN, the Washington Post, etc. Keep in mind, however, that the Internet changes rapidly, so a source that is in print and won't change is still best.

    These are just a few examples of ways to keep your research reputable. A skilled editor can help flag research that may be questionable so your book or paper is the best it can possibly be.


    The Art of Apostrophes

    Who cares about apostrophes? They’re just tiny, seemingly insignificant marks. You can hardly even see them! Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but they can be a much bigger deal than you realize.

    Here’s a classic case for you. October was Pastor Appreciation Month, and several local churches had nice, encouraging messages for their clergy on their marquees. (On a side note, marquees, especially church marquees, are often a veritable smorgasbord of grammar and spelling hilarity—but that’s a whole other post.) One particularly stood out, but probably not for the reason the church had hoped.

    The message read, “We love our pastor’s wives.” Well, after looking twice to make sure we weren’t passing a fundamentalist Mormon church, I had to laugh to myself. That one little misplaced apostrophe totally changed the meaning of what the church was trying to convey. (In case you’re wondering, the message should have read, “We love our pastors’ wives.” More than one pastor for more than one wife.) Here are some good rules of thumb for how to use apostrophes to show possession:

    • To show possession with a singular word, simply add an apostrophe and the letter "s." For example, to form the possessive of child, you simply write "child's."
    • This gets a little more complicated when you have a singular word that ends in "s" already, like boss. In this case, you can do one of two things. You can either simply add an apostrophe to the end of the word (e.g., boss') or add an apostrophe and the letter "s" (e.g., boss's). The important thing is to be consistent, whichever way you decide to go. I personally prefer the apostrophe "s" (i.e., boss's) construction because I think it's less confusing.
    • To show possession with a word that's already plural, you simply add an apostrophe to the end of the word. For example, if you had many dogs with lots of bones, it would be "the dogs' bones."

    The takeaway here is simple: always make sure you proofread your work. Even the smallest punctuation, from the apostrophe to the semicolon, can make a huge difference in the meaning of what you’re saying. It is usually best to get another set of trained eyes on what you're writing to make sure you avoid mistakes like these. You can make a polygamist out of someone without even realizing it if you're not careful!



    With so much good information available at the touch of a button, plagiarism is a rampant problem in today's world. It comes in all forms, as this article from discusses. So what is plagiarism?

    Well, some forms should be pretty obvious, like printing an article from someone else without his or her permission. A shocking example of this recently came to light when Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs printed an article by writer Monica Gaudio without permission. When Gaudio discovered what had been done, she requested an apology and a donation to be made to the Colombia School of Journalism in the amount of $130 (which was about $.10 per word for the article). Griggs' reply, which you can read about more on Gaudio's livejournal, was truly shocking:

    Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
    But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!

    The Internet is public domain? And Gaudio should be thankful (and pay Cooks Source, no less!) for having her work plagiarized? I don't think so. There are so many problems with this response (not the least of which is its condescending and rude tone) that I don't know where to begin. Although I can't help but point out the irony of Griggs' claims that the article was poorly edited when her response is peppered with spelling and punctuation mistakes. All that's missing is a "your stupid." Truly, an editor who has been in the business for three decades (or any time at all) should know better.

    This is a pretty outrageous example, but the problem of plagiarism is more widespread than most people realize. Here are a few examples of plagiarism that you should watch out for:


    • Quoting another's work, even if it's one sentence, without citing the original source. The full source should be cited. In the case of books, this is what needs to be included: Author name, Title of Book  (City, State: Publishing Company Name, Year) Page number(s).
    • Using the ideas of another author without giving proper credit.
    • Quoting another's work without using quotation marks and without citing the original source. This is a more egregious case, because, whether intentional or not, you are passing another's work off as your own.

    There are other ways work can be plagiarized, but a safe rule of thumb is to always cite the source of another's ideas, thoughts, or direct quotes. There are laws governing fair use that allow you to quote the work of others, to a certain extent, and it does strengthen your writing to cite reputable sources to back up your own thoughts. What constitutes a reputable source? Well, that's a whole other post. Stay tuned!


    I'm So Excited!!!!


    Ah, the exclamation point. It's arguably one of the most overused and abused punctuation marks out there. Authors are fond of sprinkling them throughout their books willy-nilly, with no regard for how often they're used or if what the author is saying is actually exciting. Consider the following paragraph as an example

    I love ice cream! It tastes so good!!! I wish I could eat it every day! Don't you wish you were eating some right now?! Vanilla is the best! Or maybe strawberry! Go get me some right now!!!!

    Now there's no doubt that ice cream is great. In fact, why don't you go get me some right now. I'll wait.

    The problem is that when you overuse the exclamation point to this extent, you dilute its effectiveness. It's much better to save it for when something really exciting happens so it still packs a bit of a punch when you do use it.

    The overuse of the exclamation point can be pretty comical when its used to the extreme. I recently edited a children's book that had this problem. Almost every sentence in the book ended in an exclamation point, and in some cases multiple exclamation points. It was very exciting! There were rocks! And they were brown! The characters went places! And did stuff! Isn't that neat!!!

    If you're unsure of when to use an exclamation point, a skilled freelance editor can show you when to get really excited and when to tone it down a bit. As this video shows, there are times when an exclamation point is appropriate and needed. (Sorry for the Swedish subtitles!)



    So You've Written a Book...

    You finally did it. You've achieved a long hoped-for goal and written a book. Congratulations! The questions many writers face at this point is, "Now what?"

    Well, the answer to that question depends on what your goal is. Do you want to see your book in bookstores and have it read by the masses? Well, in that case, you probably want to seek out an agent, as most large publishing companies do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Agents are sort of a gateway to the traditional publishing world. They also provide a wide variety of services to their clients that are very valuable, including contract negotiation and reviewing royalty statements.

    If you don't see a huge publishing company in your future, there are many reputable smaller publishing houses that might be a good fit for you, especially if you are writing in a niche genre. Many of these smaller publishing houses accept unsolicited manuscripts.

    If you already have an established platform or are just looking to get your book out to friends and family members, self-publishing may be a good option. There are a wide variety of services that can help you with this venture or you can do it yourself and find a printer to print your book.

    Whatever route you choose, your manuscript needs to be in the best shape possible. Having a professional freelance editor look at your book will eliminate embarrassing typos or errors. It will help to put your best foot forward and ensure that your message rings true.

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