Kit’s Corner

Over the coming months I will be bringing you lots of tips and hints, links and advice on writing and editing, starting with a few excellent websites, blogs and books some of the authors use as a means of reference, and often the first place they turn to when looking for guidance on any writing dilemma. I’ve been proofreading and copyediting for more years than I care to remember but even I need to call upon quality reference books occasionally, whether to double-check on a point of grammar or the protocol for spelling a particular branded item mentioned in a novel, for example. There are a few rules in English writing and a good author is one who observes and learns them, and a sad fact that a writer who chooses to ignore them is often perceived as an amateur or inexperienced writer. Publishers, agents and many editors, indeed some readers, will not read beyond the first paragraph, let alone the first page, if it is full of errors. Remember, correct spelling, punctuation and good grammar make all the difference to how a reader enjoys the reading experience.

So, first and foremost for any serious writer is a good, modern and comprehensive dictionary.  I always have two at hand, the first a well-thumbed up-to-date edition of the Collins English Dictionary. Although expensive, this heavy tome is worth investing in. It covers spelling variants, shows what words should be italicized, capitalized, hyphenated etc, lists famous people, presidents, foreign words in English usage, countries, cities, plants – everything you would possible want to know. Other authors swear by the Oxford English Dictionary; one as  equally as good as the other. Invest, too, in a good thesaurus. Nothing is more monotonous than reading a pages of the same noun, adjective, phrase or verb used repeatedly.

The second reference book always close at hand is the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, again an invaluable source of help although nowhere near as comprehensive as the Collins. A quick online tool is the style guide produced by the Guardian newspaper ( This covers all manner of spelling convention and format, capitalizations etc, from world politicians’ names to brand names which should always be written as the manufacturer intended, for example, Blu-Tack not Bluetack, Sellotape not sellotape.

Worth subscribing to is the blog Daily Writing Tips ( Each day it covers a different topic, from grammar to word use, punctuation to etymology. I don’t always agree with everything there, but that’s because the blog is geared more towards American styles which, on some things, are different to the UK, but it always has interesting and useful information. Another excellent online site for problems with grammar is the website Grammar Book (, a marvellous and quick “how to” guide that’s easy to use to search for solutions.

When writing, often it is the actual formatting of a document that gives problems. Linn B. Halton found particularly useful when she was having  difficulty dealing with page numbering in Word 2003; and when researching how to prepare a book for self-publishing she found helpful and easy to follow tips at

Sometimes it’s the creative side that needs a boost. Sue Johnson turns to Jenny Alexander’s blog Writing in the House of Dream at Every new post inspires a poem or story. Sue also likes the following books to give her creativity a kick into gear: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg and The Creative Writer’s Workshop by Cathy Birch.

Sometimes it isn’t just the writing element authors need guidance with. Often it’s the business end, when your novel is finally complete, when you’ve done all the rewrites and self-editing, and now need help to move forward. Thus no self-respecting author should be without the Artists and Writers Yearbook and/or the Writers Handbook, both for their invaluable listings of agents, publishers, magazines, award schemes and prizes, as well as advice, tips and hints on, for example, on how to approach and submit to agents.

For those authors thinking of going it alone and self-publishing Linn Halton found exceedingly useful, as is The Writer’s Guide E Publishing, a website she recommends following for the advice and help it gives, the majority of which is presented in a very professional manner.

Miriam Wakerly recommends the following books: How to Publish Your Own Book by Anna Crosbie, Publishing and Promoting Your Book by Pauline Rowson, Aiming at Amazon by Aaron Shepard, Print-On-Demand Book Publishing by Morris Rosenthal.

Joanna Penn’s site is highly regarded by Patricia Sands. Joanna covers so many important aspects of writing and publishing and her posts are always well researched and supported. Rather than simply dispense the information herself, Joanna frequently invites others for interviews or offers videos. A self-published author herself (initially), Joanna understands the journey and is very approachable to discuss particular issues.

Next time, I’ll be discussing that ever perplexing conundrum:  Do I use double or single quotes?

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Please leave a comment

  1. Chris Longmuir Says:

    Excellent post. I agree that every writer needs reference books for editing etc. I always have at least 3 dictionaries, and the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors is my bible. I would never revise or edit without it.

  2. Nicky Wells Says:

    Fabulous post, Kit, with plentiful resources: Thank you! I’ll be popping back here when I need help. I am an OED addict and wouldn’t go anywhere without my trusty Thesaurus. I also have a stack of grammar books and I’m keeping a diary of my ‘weak spots’ or ‘red flags.’ I’ll be checking out daily writing tips asap: thanks! X Looking forward to your post on double and single quotes…

  3. Janice Horton Says:

    Excellent post – I love it that you know these things Kit!

  4. anneli Says:

    Thanks for this very helpful post, Kit. I’ll be checking out the many links you’ve given for further information. I do copyediting as well and am disappointed when I see that authors often publish books without first having them properly edited. After all the hard work of writing an otherwise excellent book, they ruin it by publishing it before it’s ready.

  5. Sue Fortin Says:

    Great post – Kit, you certainly helped me with my manuscript.

  6. Caroline James Says:

    This is a great post Kit – thank you SO much! Packed with really usful references xx

  7. Nikki Bywater Says:

    What a very interesting post. This is a subject I am keen to learn more about. I think what can happen is when you leave school and do not write, you become rusty and out of practice and forget what is the correct way and rules of writing English. This is what happened to me. The more I write reviews the more I hope I am getting to grips with grammar. I have found alot of what you have written about to be most helpful. I want to really learn and practice until I am writing the best I can do with no errors. Thanks for sharing Kit.

  8. Melanie Robertson-King Says:

    I subscribe to Daily Writing Tips and the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors is getting ordered ASAP. Will be checking out these links, too.

    Thanks for providing all this information, Kit!

  9. Kit Domino Says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments. I hope I’ve given you some new and interesting reference books and sites to visit for help . I’m always here for advice should you need, and happy to help. Think of me as your Edit Agony Aunt.

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