Book review: 'The innocent reader: reflections on reading and writing' (December 2019)

by Stephanie Preston

In The Innocent Reader by Debra Adelaide, she offers generous meditations on writing, editing and reading. Many of the essays will resonate with members, particularly those on Adelaide’s early experience as an editor. She writes about the changing nature of publishing, the trials of working for deadline-driven commercial publishers, and the occasional challenging writer. She shines a light on what can be achieved in the writer/editor relationship, and how she deeply appreciates that, having embodied both. As a writer, it appears that she has largely relished having her work edited. ‘The thrill, the joy, the extraordinary privilege of having one’s work edited, is almost inexpressible’ (p. 239).


Book review: ‘A certain style: Beatrice Davis – a literary life’ by Jacqueline Kent (February 2019)

by Renée Otmar HLM DE


When Beatrice Davis died in May 1992, I was a new mother, a fledgling editor and a newbie student in RMIT’s Graduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing. The course had commenced on the same day I gave birth to my son, and I had to start six weeks late. About a month later, one of our lecturers, Ruth Siems, convinced me to attend a meeting of the then-Society of Editors (Victoria), of which she was president. I’d never even heard of it before then, and assumed it was a kind of secret society.


Book review: ‘That’s the way it crumbles’ by Matthew Engel (September 2018)

by Danielle Vecchio

 Engel book


Britain has been battling with America over words since the second British settlement at Jamestown in 1607. In Matthew Engel’s latest book, he calls for a ceasefire, suggesting that both should agree to disagree and keep the two forms of English distinct. This in itself is interesting enough; however, what makes this book more than just a case of bruised egos and inferiority complexes is Engel’s portrayal of the mutability of language and its function in forming the spirit of individual nations, their respective societies and, most importantly, the people who use it.


Book review: 'Sounds appealing – the passionate story of English pronunciation' by David Crystal (August 2018)

by Susan Pierotti AE


The two main forces behind the use of language are intelligibility and identity. Pronunciation affects both. Our words and thoughts encapsulate the content of what we want to say – intelligibility. Pronunciation affects the delivery of that content – revealing, in some aspects, our identity.


Book review: 'Write to the point: how to be clear, correct and persuasive on the page' by Sam Leith (July 2018)

by Cecile Shanahan


Sam Leith's useful little book about writing persuasively teaches you 'how to express yourself fully and get your way in every situation'. It offers up 280 pages of confidence-building writing know-how. As the author explains, 'This book is not a list of rules or instructions ... It does not pretend to contain a magic formula. What it hopes to do, rather, is to walk you companionably around the question of what it is we're doing when we read and write, and how we can do it better and more confidently.'

This is neither a dry reference book about the 'right' way to write nor a hotchpotch collection of examples proving how the world is in peril due to lack of grammatical knowledge.


Book review: 'What editors do: the art, craft, and business of book editing' edited by Peter Ginna (June 2018)

by Rory J Cole

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Editors, authors and readers alike often view the publishing world through the lens of their own personal experiences, so I can't help but do the same in writing this review. In What editors do: the art, craft, and business of book editing, Peter Ginna has compiled a collection of case studies and reflections on the industry from 25 editors.

The book offers an ambitious overview of publishing and the editor's role in it, as seen through a kaleidoscopic lens to explore the myriad roles editors play in bringing books to people's shelves. It covers considerable ground – everything from the technicalities of punctuation to publication – and scales from the macro to the micro, from the corridors of the largest publishing houses to the experiences and offices of freelancers.


Book review: Make grammar great again (May 2018)

by Margie Beilharz


What do you do when Donald Trump becomes president of the United States? Stop watching the news? Book a flight into space? Hope the next four years will pass really quickly?

Melbourne copyeditor Meredith Forrester took a more proactive approach. Irritated by the President’s language-mangling tweets, she took it upon herself to respond with corrections. 

I imagine the President paid no attention, but in the way the world works nowadays, a publisher did. Now Meredith has turned her campaign for better grammar into a book, Make grammar great again (Craftsman House, 2017).


Book Review: Anthony Horowitz’s ‘Magpie Murders’ (October 2017)

Susan Pierotti reviews this detective novel set in the publishing world, in which an editor is the star.

Editors are similar to detectives. We search the text (or evidence) for anomalies and errors in order to sort out the gold from the dross. Personally, I relish a good detective yarn so I was delighted to come across Magpie Murders, where the problem-solving protagonist is an editor whose first name, coincidentally, happens to be my own!

The story begins thus: Alan Conway is a writer of detective novels. His fictional detective, Atticus Pünd, cast in the same mould as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, is approached by a young woman whose fiancé is accused of killing his mother. Pünd ignores her plea for help until the mother’s employer, the local lord of the manor, is decapitated with a sword in his home. Both victims had made copious enemies in the small village they lived in and, as usual, everyone is a suspect. Pünd announces that he has solved the case of the mother’s murder and there the book ends. But not quite: the last chapter is missing.


Book Review: ‘From Manuscript to Market’ (July 2017)

Gina Denholm reviews Editor Victoria member Susan Pierotti’s recently published book Manuscript to Market: The Lifecycle of Getting Your Book into Print.

MtM SusanPierotti lores

For many would-be authors, the end-to-end publishing process is a confounding one. How does a mess of ideas morph into a compelling written manuscript? And how does that hard-won prose shed its clunky, word-processed skin to emerge as a beguiling book? The growth of self-publishing has made getting into print easier than ever, but writers can be paralysed by choice: Should I do my own cover design? At what point do I bring Aunt Mary in to proofread? And do I really need an editor?

Into the confusion steps Susan Pierotti with Manuscript to Market, a guide that promises to unpack the writing and publishing processes in simple steps for anyone who wants to get into print. The target reader is the self-publishing author – while traditional publishing remains part of the discussion throughout, for most readers the reality will be assisted or DIY self-publishing, and these are the processes in most need of explanation.


Book Review: 'Effective Onscreen Editing' (February 2017)

by Margie Beilharz

EOE3 coverThe title of Geoff Hart’s book Effective Onscreen Editing (3rd edition) by no means conveys the full gamut of what this book contains. Indeed, it turns out be over 800 pages long, covering topics as diverse as how to securely transfer files, set pay rates and help your eyes focus, as well as the topics you would be expecting, such as how to manage macros, styles, templates, shortcuts and Track Changes (plus much more).

Geoff has many years’ experience as a freelance scientific editor and technical communicator. So he approaches the topic with a great deal of technical knowledge and also a realistic idea of how the editing process works. He says that he’s not aiming to teach how to use Microsoft Word, but to teach the ‘thought process involved in editing using a word processor’. In practice, however, the examples are based on Microsoft Word, given it is the default word processor of most editors, so you can certainly treat the book as a very detailed ‘how to’ for using Word.


Book Review: The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch (July 2016)

This book isn’t new but is still widely available. Susan Pierotti found a copy recently and liked what she read.

We all know what a dictionary is, don’t we? We go to it when we want to find out how to spell something, or to find that precise meaning for a particular word, or (in my sister’s case) how to get rid of a ‘z’ and an ‘x’ in Scrabble in order to score 400 points.

The utilitarian dictionary has had a curious life over the course of its roughly five hundred years of existence. Jack Lynch is a Professor of English at Rutgers University in the United States. His area of expertise is eighteenth-century literature with specific research on Samuel Johnson, and thus he is well qualified to lead us through the murky tale of the quest for that elusive beast – ‘proper’ English.



Book Review: But Can I Start a Sentence with "But"? (June 2016)

 by Jackey Coyle

ButCanI cover lores

Please don’t read this book on the tram if you get embarrassed when laughing out loud in public.

Over almost 20 years, the Chicago Style Q&A web page has evolved a voice and style that is not only witty and cheeky but is guaranteed to unknot the knickers of any editor agonising over an editorial decision.

Readers of The Chicago Manual of Style’s website began submitting style and grammar questions in 1997 to the Q&A page, which was updated monthly by manuscript editors at the University of Chicago Press.

Before that, readers would call up to ask editorial questions when they got hopelessly confused navigating the enormity of the information contained in CMOS.


Tohby Riddle’s visual book of grammar: book review (May 2016)

by Louise Zedda-Sampson

Front coverI opened this book with mixed feelings. I read a few pages then paused. A picture book on grammar? Is it a children’s book, or is it for adults? The concept of using images to explain language rules was intriguing. But, for adults?

I was confused. I almost sent it back with the suggestion a teacher should review it. After all, it’s for kids. Then I set the book aside for a while. When I picked it up again, I realised I’d been wrong.

This book is for everyone.


Book Review: ‘Between You & Me’ by Mary Norris (April 2016)

by Carolyn Leslie AE

CommaQueen loresMary Norris’s Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen is a surprising book. I’d heard a lot about this text and this author, and it’s been thrilling to see a fellow editor top the bestseller lists and develop a popular public profile. Now, when I’m talking to people about what I do, they often remark, ‘Oh, like that Comma Queen book lady’. (Which is an improvement on, ‘Oh, like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada’ – although I do wish I had Streep’s wardrobe budget . . . )

Yet, when I actually sit down to read Norris’s book, I find I’m torn between two diametrically opposed reactions.


Review of Craig Munro’s Memoir ‘Under Cover’ (February 2016)

by Susan Pierotti AE

All authors, famous or not, need editors. We can all name a famous modern Australian writer, but a famous editor?

At last, one emerges from anonymity. Under Cover: Adventures in the Art of Editing is Craig Munro’s riotous ride through the Australian publishing world of the twentieth century.

A love of literature and comics steered Munro towards a cadetship with the Brisbane Courier. He graduated from cub reporter to sub-editor; ‘the thrill of arranging other people’s stories, and impaling the rejected sheet of copy paper on my spike, became intoxicating.’ Soon after, he was offered a job at the University of Queensland Press (UQP), not realising that the literature he had just studied was what he would be soon helping to craft.


PerfectIt Pro Review (or, Why You Need a PC) (August 2015)

Much as it galls an editor to let a mistake slip through, the general consensus seems to be that catching 95% of proofreading errors is a pretty good effort. But some editors have a secret weapon that I'm convinced helps them reach greater heights than they would otherwise - a software program called PerfectIt Pro.

Nothing can guarantee perfection, but this program is a great help in ensuring consistency of usage, spelling, punctuation and, to some extent, formatting in your document. I've been using PerfectIt Pro (version 2) for a year now, but developer Daniel Heuman of Intelligent Editing kindly supplied me with the recently released version 3 so that I could review it for this newsletter (and he's also offered a discount to members - see below).