Monday, March 26, 2012

Today's Writing Tip Is What We Can Learn from Mad Men

Last night, I eagerly tuned into Mad Men, after a seventeen-month hiatus. Season five started with a bang and I was thoroughly satisfied, as usual. But this time I heard an awkward sentence that I wanted to use as an example here.

Peggy, the ambitious secretary turned copywriter, said, "I wish I would have known that." (I confess that I can't recall the context, so that should encourage you to rent the DVD.) This is a no-no.

Here's how she could have done it differently: "I wish I had known that." Or "I would have liked to have known that." I prefer the simpler version, so I would go with option A: "I wish I had known."

There is never a good time to use the phrase "wish I would have." At least, I can't think of one. If you can, let me know. But there are lots of times that we can say, "wish I had" or "I wish I would." It's fine to say, "I wish I would exercise more," or "I wish I had known that Jon Hamm planned to take his shirt off during the season premiere, so I could've taped it for all of eternity." What you want to avoid is mixing the words "wish" with "would have."

Happy writing and Mad Men viewing.

Sigrid Mac

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Announcing the Release of My New Novel, Straight and Narrow

New Mystery by Sigrid Macdonald, Straight and Narrow

Several years ago, OIW member Sigrid Macdonald published a book called D’Amour Road, which was loosely based around the true-life disappearance of an acquaintance of hers in Ottawa. She has since discontinued that book and rewritten large parts of it. The final outcome is Straight and Narrow, a darkly witty mystery with complex subplots.

Right before her fortieth birthday, Lisa Campana goes missing. Her best friend, Tara, is devastated and bewildered. Has Lisa broken her sobriety or has she gone into hiding because she is afraid to tell her partner, Ryan, that she's pregnant and he may not be the father? Worse, Ryan has a history of battery. Could he have harmed her? Take a roller coaster ride with Tara Richards as she falls headfirst into a comical midlife crisis while dealing with the grave situation of searching for her missing friend.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Be Your Own Editor Is Free on Kindle for the Next Five Days!

Be Your Own Editor, a guide for writers and students, will be free on Amazon Kindle from March 8 to March 12. If you're not sure how to develop characters, create realistic dialogue, or develop background settings for fiction or how to structure and write clearly for nonfiction, BYOE will guide you step-by-step. The book also discusses how to write smashing essays as well as e-mail etiquette.

If you like the book, it would be great if you could write a short review.

Download your free copy here:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Great Article on Grammar Goofs

Today's Writing Tip Is on Passive Sentences

Generally, a passive sentence fails to identify who performed an action. A good example would be, "The bank was robbed." We don't know who robbed the bank. Sometimes that's fine because the person who committed the robbery has not yet been apprehended. But if we do know who stole the money – and we are not in cahoots with him – we may want to phrase that sentence more dynamically: "Jack robbed the bank."

A less recognizable form of the passive sentence is when we simply make a clumsy sentence construction. This morning I was listening to CNN talk about the results of Super Tuesday. One of the announcers referred to "The counties that were won by Santorum" and "The counties that were won by Romney." Why not just say, "The counties that Santorum won" or "The counties that Romney won"?

Also, the word "that" is losing popularity; many publishers and editors recommend deleting it whenever you can. So the cleanest way to write the above sentences would be, "The counties Santorum (or Romney) won..." That not only removes any passivity from the sentence, but it also reduces wordiness.

Sigrid Macdonald is a manuscript editor and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor, a category bestseller on Amazon.

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