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Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  344 ratings  ·  30 reviews
The essential guide for all writers. With over 700 examples of original and edited sentences, this book provides information about editing techniques, grammar, and usage for every writer from the student to the published author.
Paperback, 219 pages
Published 1986 by Houghton Mifflin Company (first published September 11th 1985)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Meg
Oct 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Useful examples and very comprehensive...to a fault at times. I appreciated the level of detail, but I couldn't read more than one or two sections at a time before feeling overwhelmed. Still, it's practical and has plenty of tips on how to make your writing easier to understand.

Consider using it as a tip of the day book that you jump into every morning, though. It's certainly not something you can read cover to cover in a sitting.
Timons Esaias
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beyond Strunk & White, there are few classic references for the basic copyediting that so many authors are ill-equipped to do. Line by Line is one of the classics, and it's something one should read through every four or five years. (I say that having only poked around in it, previously. This is my first time going cover to cover.) Just as I do, for instance, with Strunk & White.

It addresses the very basics of effective rhetoric at the word and sentence level (alas, it does not rise to
...more
Jay Cruz
Oct 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
For a book on editing your own writing, I found it a very difficult read. It can be a useful reference -it has more than enough examples- but its dense pace, again, for a book about editing, is inexcusable. Here's one example so you can see what I mean:

"Although the correlative conjunctions must precede parallel parts of the sentence, the terms that make up these pairs do not invariably function together. Each can operate alone. In particular, you can use not only without necessarily going on
...more
Jb
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
The topic is dry and so are some passages of this book.
But the benefits are immense for a non-native speaker like myself.
The most important lesson is: Be careful and review a lot.
Chapter on punctuation is hard to read but very valuable nonetheless. First time being told the exact rules governing those pesky semicolons and dashes.
Rheea
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I will never look at sentences the old way after reading this book. A must book for everyone and anyone who wants to get better at parsing and editing.

Like swimming and running, editing can be hard work, but "it's fun to work hard at what you like doing."

"Trim sentences, like trim bodies, usually require far more effort than flabby ones. Shaping an attractive sentence from a formless mass of words is a copy editor's high."
Sally Duros
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: editing
This was my go-to book when I was starting out as an editor and then through my years of developing as a writer and editor. These days as a college instructor I recommend it to my business students along with Strunk & White. These two books should be life-long bookshelf companions to any communicator who is serious about the journey of becoming adept at writing.
Krystol
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was really good. It was easy to understand and I was able to see my own mistakes with writing. I would recommend this book to all writers and college students.
Jeffrey Fisher
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Valuable but dry at times, as to be expected.
Kati
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Even in writing this, Im thinking about what the book advised for editing your own writing. So while it was supremely boring, the book does improve your review skills. ...more
Ivan Labayne
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: practical-guides
very helpful stuff for copy-editing gigs
Marc Mayerson
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The single best book that improved my writing. Teaches how to self-edit.
Who Watches
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Here comes the contrarian review: this book is one of the best on style that you will find--and trust me, I've read many. The only stipulation, which others have rightly pointed out, is that this book is often tough going. The negative reviews are understandable given the difficulty of this "introductory" book, but so long as you have a modicum of grammatical competence, you'll discover Cook's advice to be of greater depth than that found in most other style books. Simply put, this book gets ...more
Jae Jae
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-editing
"Line by Line" teaches you how to (copy)edit your own work--or that of others. It covers tightening wordy sentences, turning weak verbs into strong ones, achieving parallel structure, and making sure subject/verb and pronoun/antecedent match. The book also has a chapter on punctuation, an explanation of sentence parts, and a list of words that are often misused.

It's a good book on copyediting and grammar. Not always easy to read, but it provides plenty of examples, most of them taken from
...more
Steven
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
As another in a long line of writing advice books, it's simply OK. The aim of this book, as it more or less relates to the writer, is one of phrasing and word choice for the purpose of meaning. If you're writing essays or collegial papers this book will be relevant in the advice that it offers. I would not recommend this for anyone attempting fiction writing, as style and approach are different ball games.

Good enough to hold on to as a reference guide to double check certain issues your grammar
...more
Quiver
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good guide to fixing syntactical issues in prose. Sorted according to issue, comes with examples and explanations. Not overly heavy on grammatical terminology, although there is an Appendix that summarises the basics.

A bit too fond of analysing its own writing, that is, of referring to a sentence two lines up as an example of the phenomenon that sentence discusses. It saves space, but feels like molasses on the wings of an agile reader.

Even though useful to read once, I'm not convinced it will
...more
Vanessa Ricci-Thode
May 22, 2015 rated it liked it
I honestly couldn't finish reading this. It's dull and outdated and nitpicky. A lot of the grammar rules in here have changed, and while it's got an abundance of good examples, you're probably better off finding a more recent grammar book, or a new edition of a style guide. For a writer, it's probably not terrible, but as an editor, there was absolutely nothing new here that I haven't learned in much more interesting books.
Karen
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: copyediting
I really just skimmed this, so the stars should be taken with a grain of salt. It looks like a fine book, but didn't appear to be adding anything to the collection of copyediting/style books I've been reading, so I'm going to pass. I've mostly just marked it read and assigned middling stars so I'll remember that I did look at this one, and not keep repeatedly adding it to my "to read" list every time I come across the reference.
Holly
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads, editing
Useful. MLA style. I appreciated the logic and "wordiness." Intended audience: scholars submitting nonfiction manuscripts to university presses. I'll return to the Glossary of Questionable Usage when I have usage questions.
Michelle
Jan 22, 2014 added it
Shelves: school
A good point of reference, I'm not sure reading it straight through like I did was especially helpful (and indeed I stopped about halfway through; for me it would serve a better reference for specific purposes I might look up).
Randy Hulshizer
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Good overview for the nonfiction self-editor.
Debra
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Highly recommended for those who are never sure what the grammar checker is flagging. The glossary of word usage is a nice addition.
Powersamurai
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Powersamurai by: Cat Nakamichi
Shelves: writing, language
An invaluable book for all translators for editing their own work and knowing what traps to avoid while translating to cut back on editing time later.
Joey Gamble
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An excellent guide and desk reference, one which judiciously points the writer toward a more subtle and precise relationship with his or her own writing.
Al Macy
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
Heavy duty grammar. It is definitely hard work to read this, but worth it.
Julie
May 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-challenge
Tough read but an excellent resource.
Ashley
Nov 14, 2015 marked it as on-pause
Recommended by Constance Hale
Michael Jarvie
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a hard-core MLA-approved guide that will test your grammatical knowledge. An indispensable resource book for the serious writer.
Mark
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not a great book to read as far as enjoyment goes, but super in what it sets out to do. Although dated, still a great reference and good read.
Madly Jane
One of the necessary books for writers of all books.
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