emwords: Recommended reading

Working words is a book of friendly ‘chats’ about writing, editing, freelancing, the ethics of being an editor, answers to some common English grammar questions, and a lot of fun ‘itchypencils’.

‘Itchypencilitis’ is the curse of editors and authors – it’s that feeling of helplessness that you get when you see something misspelt, an apostrophe in the wrong place, meaning obscure, and you are driving and can’t write it down. Itchypencils are great fun to see and to think about afterwards!

The first edition was published by the Canberra Society of Editors in 2011.  A revision of this top seller is now available. To learn more, and to buy your copy of the new, fully revised Working words, click on the book image – leads to [Lacuna] Publishing – or contact us to request further information.

Here is a review of the book, reproduced with permission from the former Society of Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) (UK) (now CIEP), originally appearing in Editing Matters (Feb 2020) members’ magazine of SfEP (UK) – reviewer: Lindsey Thornitt:

(c) 2020

Working words E Manning Murphy, Lacuna Publishing, 2019 (revised edition), 268pp, £17.99 (pbk), ISBN 978 19 22198 36 3

REVIEWED BY Lindsey Thornitt

I wish I had found this book earlier!

Working Words by Elizabeth Manning Murphy is a highly engaging text that provides a comprehensive yet light-hearted view of what it means to be an editor, the steps it takes to become one and how to set up your business for success.

She also discusses ethics and legal considerations for editors, project management, preparing quotes and responding to clients, how to incorporate an indemnity clause into a contract, and home office setup. These are all things that are invaluable for people just starting out; I’ve never found so much useful information on starting an editing business in any other book, and that’s only the first 80 pages. The following chapters provide reviews of basic grammar, punctuation, style, plain English, editing for second-language English writers and more. Each instruction is easily accessible and accompanied by readily transferable examples.

Working Words is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it for any new or intermediate editor venturing out on their own. The text is playful and engaging, and written in a conversational style that is never dry. The Itchypencil moments are humorous and educational, offering a candid glimpse into the professional editor’s world, both behind the desk and out and about in everyday life. I plan on keeping this one within easy reach on my reference shelf.

Please go to Enquiries to ask about permission to republish any part of this review.

EW2 cover + shadow


Do you wish there was an easy way to learn to write emails and reports effectively? Did you miss out on learning about sentence and paragraph structure? Is English a second or third language for you? Is it hard to tell people you supervise at work that their writing could be improved, yet not know quite how to explain it? Would you like to be able to write effectively yourself, and be able to help others do the same?

Then Effective writing is the book for you. This new edition is a complete update on the first edition that was popular for many years (see below). It includes writing emails, material for websites, text messages for the workplace, and much more that wasn’t in the first edition. It was published by [Lacuna] Publishing in 2014.

To learn more, and to get your copy of Effective writing, click on the book image – leads to [Lacuna] Publishing – or contact us to request further information.


These two books are the latest in a long line of books Elizabeth has written since 1962. Here are some more:

  • The better letter, Qantas, Sydney, 1962 – a booklet about better letter writing, a mini style guide for Qantas staff worldwide at the time
  • Secretarial projects – 1, Pitman, London, 1967 – book and tape – realistic office practice
  • Secretarial projects – 2, Pitman, London, 1969 – more of the same with different employers
  • The Secretary in Australia, Pitman, Melbourne, 1971 – contributed 3 chapters
  • The Australian Secretary, Pitman, Melbourne, 1986 – complete update of The Secretary in Australia (sole author)
  • Letter writing simplified, Pitman, Melbourne, 1987 – with Gladys Snodgrass – revised edition of the Snodgrass first edition of 1966
  • The job-hunter’s guide, Pitman, Melbourne, 1988 – guidance for job-seekers
  • The Australian secretary – 2nd edn, Pitman, Melbourne, 1989 – major rewrite
  • Effective writing: plain English at work – 1st edn, Pitman / Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, 1989 – the precursor of the second edition shown at the top of this page; with a UK edition (1991), reprints sold for 25 years
  • Working words – 1st edn. Canberra Society of Editors, Canberra, 2011 – the precursor of the revised edition shown at the top of this page.

New: booklet series

Elizabeth is currently (2019) working on a series of booklets on a number of aspects of writing, editing, business, English grammar and related topics. Watch this page!!

Other reading

For details of books on business practices, other books about words, effective writing and plain English, and for outlines of training (including Grammar in a nutshell workshops), coaching and mentoring in writing (academic, workplace and fiction), editing, setting up a freelance business, contact us