Jun 23

Enter to Win a 50-Page Substantive Edit of your Novel!

Jack Kerouc - Writing quoteKris Spisak’s editing clients have gained literary agents and become Amazon best-sellers. Are you ready to elevate your story?

Click here to enter!

Contest runs June 23 – July 1, 2016

What is a Substantive Edit of your Novel?

A Substantive Edit (heavy edit) involves an examination of clarity, logic, structure, and pacing, as well as plot, character, and setting development. More than a basic proofread, a substantive edit focuses on word usage, tone, style, voice, and total writing strength. Notes will be given on a page by page basis, and overall project commentary will also be included.

The Substantive Edit for this giveaway will also include the identification and correction of typographical errors, punctuation errors, and grammar flaws. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 21

Writing Tip 176: Please Don’t Write “Please RSVP”

Please RSVP fairy dropping dead

Oh, the poor thing…

At this moment in history, I almost can’t bear to tell you to be less politein fact, I beg you to consider your words through a lens of respect and kindnessbut one way to be considerate is to get your words right. Please stop writing “Please RSVP”!

Do you know the abbreviation “RSVP” stands for “Répondez s’il vous plaît”? This translates to “respond if you please” or, more simply, “please respond.”

Every time someone writes “Please RSVP,” there is a French fairy somewhere that drops dead. That’s what Peter Pan said after all, isn’t it?( Okay, maybe that’s not quite how it went, but doesn’t it sound silly to write “please please respond”?)

I’m all for etiquette, but the “please please” is a bit over the top.

Save the French grammar fairies, folks. Next time you send an invitation, get this one right.

Jun 14

Writing Tip 175: “Elicit” vs. “Illicit”

Elicit vs. Illicit - with garlic

I know how your mind works, Indiana pranksters. I’m onto your tricks.

If you cook a garlic-heavy dinner for your friends in Indiana and insist after a few drinks that they take public transit home, you would be eliciting something illicit. (It’s illegal in Gary, Indiana to use public transportation within four hours of eating onions or garlic.)

If you told your lovey-dovey friend in Idaho to steal her heart all over again by buying her a gigantic box of chocolates, you might be eliciting something illicit. (It’s illegal in Idaho to give a gift of candy if it is more than 50 pounds.)

If (a few years back) you told your friend to parallel park an elephant next to a parking meter in Florida without paying, you’d have been eliciting something illicit. (If one put an elephant in a parking spot with a meter in Florida, elephant parking used to have to be paid.)

I really want to go on here, but I won’t. Long story short, this is a fun pairing of near homonyms. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 07

Writing Tip 174: “Horde” vs. “Hoard”

Horde vs. Hoard

Uh oh. Is someone hoarding this horde?

Think fast. How do you spell the name of the television show where people have collected (or refused to throw away) mountains upon mountains of stuff?

Answer: The show’s name is “Hoarders.”

The decision of using “horde” vs. “hoard” often isn’t a matter of thought but rather a matter of whatever spills out onto one’s keyboard, but that ends here. It’s time to pick up after ourselves and put everything in its proper place—including our vowels in these two words.


  • “Horde” is a noun, meaning a crowd, and it’s usually used with a negative connotation (e.g., a horde of angry shoppers on Black Friday).
  • “Hoard” can be a noun, meaning a collection of something amassed for later use, or a verb, meaning the act of collecting and storing the aforementioned belongings.

Yes, they sound the same, but clean up your act, folks. Edit yourselves to get “horde” vs. “hoard” right.

May 31

Writing Tip 173: “Online” vs. “On-line”

Online vs. On-lineThere is a trend that new terms often begin as two words (e.g., “electronic mail”) evolve into a hyphenated form (e.g., “e-mail”), and then finally are accepted and commonly used as a single word (e.g., “email”). “Online”—yes, one word—has a similar story.

Stylebooks have evolved on matters of “e-mail,” “e-commerce,” “web-site,” and “on-line” as these terms have become a part of our everyday lives. Capitalization is lost, and hyphens are thrown out with yesterday’s floppy disks. Now, “email,” “ecommerce,” “website,” and “online” are the recommended forms of these words.

Unless you’re still printing your words on your dot matrix printer, I highly suggest you follow suit.

May 24

Writing Tip 172: The Free Gift?

Free Gift Inside

This poor lady. She’s waiting for her free gift. Did it come today? Will it be as exciting as she hopes it will be? My fingers are crossed for her!

Have you ever had to pay for a gift? If so, the giver was kind of terrible and you were a bit too naïve.

Shouldn’t gifts be free? And if something is given for free, isn’t it pretty much a gift?

Visit today for your free gift; Earn a free gift with your purchase; Discover your free gift inside.

We all know people get excited about the word “free,” but this redundancy simply isn’t necessary. Use “free” or use “gift,” but never both combined. Please.

At what point in history did “free gift” come to be?

The answer may surprise you. Read the rest of this entry »

May 18

Writing Tip 171: “Wind” vs. “Wend” (and the hijacking of “Went”)

Wind vs. Wend frog

Is this frog wending his way home?

Have you ever wondered why the past tense of “go” is “went”? No? Well, are you at least a little bit curious now that I pose the question?

It all goes back to a word-hijacking centuries ago, when there were two major terms one could use to denote traveling from place to place. One could “go,” or one could “wend.” “Going” was more direct; “wending” was sometimes less so, but I’ll get back to that.

Returning to the confusion between “wind” and “wend”…

Yes, “wend” is a real word, not a typo.

Yes, it is the correct word in the idiom “to wend one’s way.”

Yes, it’s a bit old-fashioned, but it pops up enough that it’s worth a conversation. Read the rest of this entry »

May 10

Writing Tip 170: “Dived” vs. “Dove”

"Dived" vs. "Dove"

A character in my new work-in-progress just dove into this beautiful mountain lake in Slovakia. Yes, she dove. With all her clothes on. A ribbon from her grandmother coming loose from her hair when she hit the water. (Have I mentioned I’m excited about my new book?)

What flows more naturally to your ear? “She dived into the water” or “she dove into the water”? One of these constructions has been correct since roughly 1300, and the other was first misused about two centuries ago. Do you know the difference? And more importantly, does it even matter?

  • “Dived” was the original past form of the word “dive,” and to many (largely British) audiences, it still holds the title as the correct form.
  • “Dove” came to be in the 1800s, following the past-tense pattern of the verb “drive/drove.” Today, “dove” is the more common form in both speech and written text in the U.S. and Canada.

But just because it’s more common, is it right? Read the rest of this entry »

May 03

Writing Tip 169: “Centered Around” vs. “Centered On”

“Centered Around” vs. “Centered On”

It’s all about finding your center. (Or something like that.)

Where is the center? In the middle, right? So how can the center be around something? Aren’t these two concepts  a bit of an oxymoron when placed next to each other? You’re either at the center or you’re around. Will everyone please stop saying and writing “centered around” now?

If you really feel the word “around” calling to you, try out “revolve around” instead. Maybe it will make you feel better.

“Centered on” is the proper phrase here. (At least in American English. Oddly, in other parts of the world “centre on” and “centre around” have become largely interchangeablethough “centre on” is still regarded as the proper form of the phrase. But note the spelling change of “centre” in these cases. Unless you’re spelling it like the Brits, stick to “center on.”)

It’s rare the Americans are the stricter grammarians, isn’t it?

Apr 26

Writing Tip 168: “Instill” vs. “Install”

"Instill" vs. "Install" - androidIf your grandmother installed certain values in you, I have to ask… are you an android of some sort? Was your kindness downloaded? Was your generosity transferred via a floppy disk? Do you see the difference a single letter can make?

  • To instill means to establish something in one’s mind over time. You instill feelings, ideas, or attitudes.
  • To install means to put in position (physically or digitally) ready for use. You install programs, equipment, or machinery.

Catching an “instill” vs. “install” typo always makes me want to ask probing questions. But I won’t. I’ll hold back. At least, I’ll try really, really hard to.

Beep. Beep. Boop. Happy writing.

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