Helen Sword talks about trimming your prose with The Writer’s Diet

CMOS: How did you come to think about writing as “flabby”? HS: Many years ago, I read Richard Lanham’s book Revising Prose, which influenced me deeply as a writer. Lanham teaches you to identify the “lard factor” in your writing, based on the percentage of words that you could omit without significantly changing its meaning. The Writer’s Diet follows similar principles, but with

Sections 5.112–13 in the Spotlight

“Oozing slowly across the floor, Marvin watched the salad dressing.” “I smelled the oysters coming down the stairs for dinner.” Most of us don’t have to worry about overlooking gaffes as obvious as these, but more subtle danglers—or misplaced modifiers—sometimes sneak by even the most careful

Shortcuts in Editing (Are They Allowed?)

Shortcuts in editing may be frowned upon, but when it comes to word processing, editing shortcuts are not only allowed, they’re essential. If you’re still fumbling around in the pull-down menus, fighting with features that won’t leave you alone, and wasting time on tasks that could

Editor’s Corner

For Freelance Editors: How to Set Fees. Anyone who has something to sell faces a dilemma when it comes to deciding on a price: ask too much and no one will buy; ask too little and you won’t earn enough money. In freelance editing, the second option carries an added danger: ask too little and you could be swamped with competing deadlines.

Editor’s Corner

The Editor’s Toughest Challenge. In my view, the most regrettable copyediting disasters come in the form of errors introduced by the editor. Letting a writer’s original mistake survive is certainly cause for regret, but nothing’s worse than knowing that the work was correct until you messed it up!

Editor’s Corner

The Danger in Drudgery. The most mind-numbing job I ever had was in an insurance company filing papers—carts full of policies to put in numerical order, hour after hour, 1064952, 2586027, 1943902, 1064951. The only thing that kept me awake was the occasional paper cut. I’m sure they’re still looking for some of the policies I misfiled in my stupor.

Every writer or editor is faced with a mindless task now and then: alphabetizing, renumbering, abbreviating . . .

Editor’s Corner

Searching CMOS Online: Finding Your Way in The Chicago Manual of Style. Here’s a secret we’ve been trying hard not to keep: you can use the online edition to find things in the print edition even if you don’t subscribe online. Here are three ways to do that.