Monthly Archives: October 2017

metal type laid out to print

How to Reduce the Word Count

This week, I edited a paper that had a word limit of 8000. When I received it, the paper had 8905 words. The client asked me to cut as much as possible and to suggest sections that might be reduced. I was determined to return the paper with less than 8000 words—making writing more concise is one of my favorite things to do!

old fashioned computer keysThere were many ways I reduced the word count to 7964. When I’d finished, not only was the word count below the limit, but also the paper was much easier to read. While we hope papers are published for their academic merit, being readable can’t hurt.

Here are some of the ways I reduced the word count. To protect the author’s confidentiality, I’ll invent a paper topic: Let’s pretend the paper studied the effect of growing multiple varieties of pumpkin on farm profits in the fall season.


Replace groups of words with a better word

  • “growing large amounts of pumpkins” → “growing many pumpkins”
  • “in the farm environment” → “in farming” or “on the farm”
  • “the pumpkins appearing in the photos” → “the pumpkins pictured”

Remove lengthy introductions

  • “As can be illustrated with the color of pumpkins, there are many options” → “As seen with the color of pumpkins, there are many options” or possibly “Consider the color of pumpkins: there are many options”

Rearrange “of” phrases if possible

  • “the color of pumpkins” → “pumpkin color”
  • “the use of hoses” → “hose use”

Remove “in order” from “in order to”

Remove “furthermore,” “additionally,” “moreover,” and other such words; one or two might aid readability, but they are often overused—not every item in a paragraph needs such an introduction

Replace long noun-filled phrases with a verb

  • “pumpkins are the possessors of nutrients” → “pumpkins possess nutrients”
  • “pumpkin color has an impact on sales” → “pumpkin color impacts sales”
  • “our hypothesis suggests that” → “we hypothesize that”
  • “to obtain a better understanding of the colors” → “to better understand the colors”

Remove passive voice, which often adds words

  • “Increased pumpkin growth has been seen by farmers” → “Farmers have seen increased pumpkin growth”
  • “Similar results were found by Smith et al.” → “Smith et al. found similar results”
  • “Farming has come to be regarded as” → “Many now regard farming as”

Remove use of “there”

  • “There has been increased use of drip irrigation” → “Use of drip irrigation has increased” or “Drip irrigating has become more common”

Remove unnecessary references to studies: it’s not necessary to preface every intention or result with a reference to the current study or other studies; the reader will assume results are yours or others’, depending on the location in the paper (i.e., a section about the current study versus a section about the literature)

  • “It was found that orange pumpkins are most popular” → “Orange pumpkins are most popular”
  • “Growing a variety of vegetables has been found to significantly help farm profits, as shown in Table 1” → “Growing a variety of vegetables significantly helps farm profits (see Table 1)”

Own your results: if you found a result, you can state that

  • “The current study aims to further expand our knowledge of” → “This study expands our knowledge of”

But, don’t repeat the importance of your results ad nauseam

  • “Another important result is the benefit of displaying large pumpkins on the farm” → “Another result is the benefit of displaying large pumpkins on the farm” or better, “Displaying large pumpkins benefits the farm”
  • “It significantly helps farm profits” might become “It helps farm profits” if nearby data shows that the difference is significant and if the significance is discussed elsewhere
  • Sentences such as “our important results will be of great benefit to the farming industry” can often be removed—the data will illustrate this point to the reader, and trying to draw additional attention to it comes across as phony

Don’t describe what the reader can see for himself: if you list items, you don’t need to describe the number of items to the reader

  • “A handful of studies have looked at pumpkin color (Jones, 2013; Smith, 2017)” → “Studies have looked at pumpkin color (Jones, 2013; Smith, 2017)”

Combine sentences

  • “Recent studies have demonstrated that orange pumpkins are more popular. This effect was seen at farmers markets but not in grocery stores.” → “Recent studies have demonstrated that orange pumpkins are more popular at farmers markets but not in grocery stores.”
  • “We examined several factors. These include color, size, and shape” → ““We examined several factors, including color, size, and shape” or better, “We examined several factors: color, size, and shape”

Avoid repeating a lengthy phrase throughout the paper, simply because it was needed in the introduction and conclusions. For example, if the study examined the effect of growing other varieties of decorative winter vegetable in addition to pumpkins, such as gourds, squashes, and corn stalks, you don’t have to list these other varieties, such as gourds, squashes, and corn stalks, every time you mention them. You can simply write “other varieties of decorative winter vegetable” or even “other varieties” after the first one or two mentions of the list.

Avoid repeating the obvious. If your study looks at growing pumpkins on farms, you will let the reader know that. But you don’t have to repeat “growing pumpkins on farms” throughout the paper. Once the reader knows that you studied growing pumpkins on farms, you can reduce the phrase to “growing pumpkins.”


Authors can reduce word count using these tips, or hire an editor to do it. Ask specifically for the editor to make the writing more concise. While I prefer this type of writing, I also respect the author’s voice and might not have made as many cuts without the directive to shorten the paper.

colorful hashtag symbols

Understanding Hashtags

At one of my jobs, they told me to Use More Hashtags! I know this might come naturally to some folks, but I began using social media later in life and decided to research a bit. I read a lot of articles that repeated each other, but the information organized in my head in a different way. Here’s how I see hashtags.

Hashtags in General

The general advice can be summed up as follows:

  • Keep hashtags short, memorable, unique, relevant, and specific
  • Don’t overdo hashtag use
  • Use hashtags to add to a conversations (e.g., don’t use #NationalCoffeeDay just because it is National Coffee Day if you’re not writing something relevant to #NationalCoffeeDay)
  • Don’t use spam hashtags (e.g., don’t use #NationalCoffeeDay for a random photo of your cat, just to get viewers to see your post on National Coffee Day)

I found this advice for using hashtags on specific platforms:

  • Twitter: Hashtags are used to categorize posts or to focus a conversation; one or two per post is best
  • Facebook: Hashtags do not boost engagement and might even hurt it; use one or two at most, but maybe none
  • Instagram: Hashtags are used to describe the photo and to build community, and should be unique and detailed; some say to use eleven or more, while others say five or six maximizes engagement

Branded versus Unbranded

An area of confusion among my coworkers was what kind of hashtags to use. Should the hashtags contain our company name (i.e., branded), to stay unique to our events? Or should they be general hashtags (i.e., unbranded) that others might already use, resulting in more people finding us? The confusion resulted from confusion about the goals of using hashtags.

Branded hashtags are used for the following:

  • Group together viewer-generated content, posts about a campaign, or contest entries
  • Raise awareness of a campaign
  • Organize posts relevant to a certain topic
  • Drive participation and engagement within your community (for a local business, this would be the local community)

Unbranded hashtags have the following characteristics:

  • You can use them to join a trend
  • You can get people to notice you, thus increasing participation and engagement from newcomers to your community
  • They are usually global but can be local (e.g., #firstworldproblems versus #carrboroproblems)
  • You should use hashtags that fit your brand
  • You should make sure you understand the hashtag before using it (e.g., #instabuns is about bunnies, not bread buns)
  • You should use the hashtag only to add to the ongoing conversation, to avoid looking like a spammer

hands holding smartphone with laptop nearbyA key point to me was the global versus local nature of unbranded and branded hashtags, respectively. It might benefit a nationwide company to use an unbranded hashtag and have people all over the world discover the company. As a small business without online sales, we would do better to engage with people living nearby who might come into our store.

So, we would create our own, clever, branded hashtags to have an official hashtag for each event; use them on our posts; and include them on event banners and materials to encourage others to use them. On Instagram, where there is enough space, we could use both the official branded hashtag and other unbranded hashtags; it wouldn’t hurt to have engagement from people who might never visit our store. (As a final note, any engagement on Facebook at the moment helps a post gain traction, but since hashtag use doesn’t help on Facebook, and might even hurt engagement rates, it’s a moot point. As far as I know, engagement on other platforms does not increase a post’s visibility.)

End-of-Summer News: Goodreads, Self-Publishing Guide, and More

I’m not an early adopter. This week I finally “claimed” my books on Goodreads. Now that I’ve done it, I actually feel excited about the platform, unlike most social media platforms. It’s centered on books! Anyway, I set up my profile, turned on “Ask the Author,” and imported my blog. Here I am: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1439262.Emily_Buehler

the cover of Emily Croy Barker's bookI decided to start by reviewing a book I loved, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker. I can’t remember how I ended up at Emily’s author reading back in 2013, or what her connection is to North Carolina (where the action starts), but I was so glad to have discovered the book. I was glad to support it on Goodreads, too, especially when I saw a few of the scathing, one-star reviews (which, IMHO, reflect more on the reviewer than the book). It was a good lesson for me, that there are always going to be readers who hate your book, and that I should keep working on developing the thick skin I’m going to need.

I don’t think I would slam another author’s book, no matter how much I hated it. I guess negative reviews are important, but for now at least, I’m going to review books I liked. I’m going to try to write a few each week, and to post them at Amazon as well. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile, knowing how important online reviews are to authors.

two versions of a block print of a chickadeeIn other news, my blog post about the class I took last July is now up on the Folk School blog: “Nothing Is As Expected in Printmaking Paradise.” The post deals with the unpredictable nature of print-making (and life!) and features a print I made of Scruffy.

The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) published my overview of how to self-publish a book with as little outside help as possible: DIY Self-Publishing: An Overview. You can buy it on Lulu.com as a print or e-book. There’s also a free version (here) that contains some of the information and is a good starting point. If you think you want to move ahead with self-publishing, the EFA version is better written and more detailed.

The Modernist Breadcrumbs podcast has begun. I still don’t have a date for my interview, but the bread-related podcasts are all listed here, with the newer ones on top:
http://heritageradionetwork.org/tag/bread/

Finally, I’ve been writing blog posts about writing, editing, and self-publishing. Since this blog is dedicated to personal news, I’m posting them on my editorial business website, here: http://www.emilyeditorial.com/blog/.

row of people holding colorful open books

A Checklist for Self-Publishers

stacks of books with text, "Judge a book by the book"Yesterday I attended a webinar about the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) checklist of book standards. IBPA is hoping to change the publishing industry so that all books are judged by their quality, not by who published them. Providing the checklist to self-publishers enables them to produce professional-looking books that won’t instantly be labeled as self-published and therefore inferior. And, promoting the standards on the checklist as the standards to use to judge if a book is professionally published will result in librarians, reviewers, and bookstore buyers ignoring the type of publishing model used in favor of the quality of the book.

You can download the checklist here: http://www.ibpa-online.org/page/standardschecklist(Click on “Download the checklist.”)

row of people holding colorful open books with text "Level the reading field"Brooke Warner, the publisher of She Writes Press and a board member of IBPA, presented the webinar, which was sponsored by the Authors Guild. Since joining the Authors Guild, I’ve found the organization to be a great advocate for authors, which made me trust Brooke’s opinion on book publishing standards. (I’m new to IBPA, but so far they also seem like great advocates.)

Brooke explained that the publishing industry is an old one, with entrenched standards. If an author wants a book to succeed, the book’s chances increase if it fits in. This might be hard to take for some authors, who want to rebel against standards or produce a unique-looking book. However, in this industry, the best way to succeed is to adhere to standards.

person reading on a lakeside, with "Let the book speak for itself"While the content of a book will always determine how it is received, the book’s appearance can get it in the door. When I first self-published, I looked at other books to determine what I should do. This worked for the most part, but there were definitely items I missed. (I’m relieved at how much I did right! But I now squirm to see the mistakes I made.) The checklist will help self-published authors avoid mistakes that will flag their books as unprofessional.

For example, the following items are ones you might not realize are important:

  • There is a “half title page” before the title page
  • The font on the title page matches the font on the cover
  • There is no “By” before the author’s name
  • The book is edited following the Chicago Manual of Style, the standard in book publishing
  • Margins should be big enough that the reader’s thumbs won’t block the text
  • The front cover should look good as a thumbnail, which is how it will appear on Amazon and other websites
  • The front cover design should fit in with other books in the genre
  • The back cover should include the BISAC subject heading (which you find at BISG.com)
  • Blurbs on the back cover should not be from Amazon reviews-the industry in general does not love Amazon

You can download the whole checklist on the IBPA website, here: http://www.ibpa-online.org/page/standardschecklist (Click on “Download the checklist.”) Brooke noted that the checklist is relatively new, and that IBPA welcomes feedback on it.