Editing and Writing Services



Transforming the ordinary

Recent Posts

Famous Books with Errors

Famous Books with Errors

It is a lot of work to write a book, and authors and editor’s everywhere can never, no matter how hard they try, be perfect. It is a fool’s errand to consider perfection the goal. What ultimately matters is the story shines through in clear […]

Dashes (including faltering vs stuttering in dialogue)

Dashes (including faltering vs stuttering in dialogue)

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about faltering and stuttering in dialogue and dash usage.

It can get pretty confusing which to use when. It all comes down to what industry you’re writing in, but you should be checking a style guide right for the type of work you’re doing. One of the most common guides are indicated below and is used for fiction, some non-fiction, some online formatting, and some academic work. Other guides may have decided on a different course, so make sure you know which one is right for you. Don’t know? Email me (agent@catherinemilos.com), or check with your communications department, publisher, editor, or organization you’re writing for.

Some things you should know:

  1. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) is the resource to use as a writer for your questions. They have an online forum which offers a lot of solution/discussion if you pay for a subscription (it is fairly reasonably priced.) If you’re like me though, you can order a hard copy of the book online or find it in some bookstores.
  2. Faltering speech is equivalent to trailing off or lengthy pauses, “I. . . hmm. . .” (ellipses with spaces as per CMS)
  3. Stuttering speech is more jarring and jerking, “I—I—I don’t know!” (em dash, convention/CMS)
  4. An endash and double punctuation is used in unique circumstances
  5. Hyphens/regular dash should only be used for compound words or names, spelling out letters, or separate certain numbers

Here’s a great resource for you that summarizes what the Chicago Manual of Style says. (Note: she uses 16th edition, I use the most recent 17th edition right now, but the usage is the same in both editions.)


Ask the Editor: When and how do I use hyphens and dashes?

Reduce Word Count and Improve Clarity

Reduce Word Count and Improve Clarity

The most important aspect of your writing is your story. Get your plot, characters, subplots, data, conclusions, and heart of your writing down on the page first. If you’re stuck or face writers block, check out author Adam Dreece’s Get Unstuck video. The next important […]

Editors Make Mistakes Too, and it is Okay

Editors Make Mistakes Too, and it is Okay

It is a lot of work to write a book, and authors and editor’s everywhere can never, no matter how hard they try, be perfect. It is a fool’s errand to consider perfection the goal.

What ultimately matters is that the story shines through in a clear and well-written manner. We do our best for readers. We want to put our best foot forward, but no matter how hard we try someone will always find something we missed.

Plus, we all have off days (not to be confused with days off, which no writer nor editor ever truly gets).

It doesn’t help that English has many dialects (Canadian, American, British, Australian, and other more localized dialects) and subjective choices when it comes to grammar, syntax, and punctuation (it is why we use or create style guides as editors).

For example, the first sentence of this post could:

  • have a comma after the first ‘and’;
  • use a semicolon;
  • be separated into two sentences;
  • use a different conjunctive adverb other than ‘and’;
  • be left as it is.

All of those are technically correct.

A writer gets the story out, then rewrites to improve clarity and hone the story. An editor navigates the technicalities, works with the author’s style, uses the publisher’s or appropriate style guide, and keeps up with current conventions to find the right balance between story, style, and structure. All of that goes into a single sentence.

It isn’t uncommon for the brain to fill in gaps or try to predict what is next as you read, or for your vision to go blurry after reading something for hours or for the tenth time. Remember the meme about reading jumbled words? Cambridge explains some of the science and psuedo science here.

Follow the link below to some famous books that readers still loved (or hated to love or loved to hate) with errors.

Meanwhile I am going to be in a corner trying not to worry about the errors in my own books….

5 Famous Novels that Have Huge Mistakes

So, You Want to be an Editor?

So, You Want to be an Editor?

People ask a lot of interesting questions of me. As an author and editor, it comes with the job. My favourite questions come from eager individuals genuinely impassioned by reading, writing, and editing. I’ve been asked, “how do you become an editor?”; often, this question […]

Before You Get Published

Before You Get Published

Write Your Manuscript to the End Without a manuscript completed, it is impractical to begin the publishing journey. But, you’re eager to get the book to readers. That’s understandable. Creativity spirals out from you, encouraging you to craft your art and reach across the noise […]

Active vs. Passive Voice and When to Use Them in Your Manuscript

Active vs. Passive Voice and When to Use Them in Your Manuscript

Using the passive voice in your novel is not the end of the world. It isn’t grammatically incorrect, and, it is quite common. There are times when a passive voice is necessary, or, as a writer’s convention or style choice. However, your manuscript’s magic may be lost as readers try to fumble through a passive voice to connect with your characters or content.

If you’re post-secondary educated, passive voice has been drilled into you in the strive for objectivity. If you’re female, you may be more likely to use passive phrasing as a result of social norms. If you’re a politician, well, you use the passive voice all the time.

Using an active voice in your novel or non-fiction means greater clarity for your readers, and, a solid immersive experience for them too. Below I’ve summaries the pros and cons of using the active versus using the passive voice in your manuscript (this applies to most non-fiction and fiction work).

What is the Difference?

Active voice character(s) (subject) performs an action.

Passive voice character(s) (subject) have something happen to them indirectly.

For Example:
Active: She ran.
Passive: She was running.

Writers often fall into the passive when using flashbacks or shallow point of view, or, when there is fear or uncertainty about what is being written.

Cons of Passive Voice

  • Wordiness
  • Confusing/unclear and can obscure meaning
  • Use prepositions/ create prepositional phrases
  • Creates distance between reader and characters by inserting a passive narrator
  • Can be inaccessible for an average audience and is often difficult for English learners to comprehend
  • Promotes power imbalances and is often used to dehumanize minorities and marginalized people
  • “agentless passive voice” can be used to evade responsibility (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet)

When to Use Passive

  • Emphasize something other than the subject/character such as a key item in a mystery or thriller novel that is integral to the plot while obscuring the character who performed the crime.
  • Build a sense of mystery
  • Writing a report or news release
  • Create anonymity
  • You need an authoritative or professional tone
  • Using a passive voice lends a sense of objectivity, and so is often used in scientific writing and business reports to put distance between the reader and the content

Pros of Using an Active Voice

  • Creates an immersive experience for the reader
  • Shorter phrases
  • Adds clarity to your work
  • Improves pacing
  • Gives a sense of immediacy
  • Is accessible to the majority of readers

What to Look for in Your Manuscript


Prepositions indicate a relationship between the subject (noun/pronoun/character) and the rest of the sentence, phrase, or clause. i.e. Zoe and the rest of the dragons – “and” and ‘of’ are prepositions. See Oxford Dictionaries for a brief overview.  A list of prepositions can be found here.

Common offenders:
  • “by”
  • “was”
  • “had”
  • “felt”
  • words ending in ing


  1. Language and Gender by Penelope Eckert and Sally McConnell-Ginet
  2. Gendered Talk at Work by Janet Holmes
  3. http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CCS_activevoice.html
  4. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice?page=1
  5. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/539/02/
  6. https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm
  7. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/grammar/prepositions
  8. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3831 


Want to know more or want Catherine on your team (she’s an editor/Alpha/Beta Reader too!)? Contact her.