Quoting Bible Passages: Some Time- (and Money-) Saving Tips

If you're a Christian nonfiction writer, chances are you quote the Bible frequently.* And that means your editor, or perhaps your proofreader, must check your quotes and verse references for accuracy. Depending on how many passages you quote and how you handle them, you'd be surprised how much time that can take. If you're an independent author, it can translate into an added cost to you. But you can significantly reduce the time involved by following these four simple, commonsense tips:

1. Use one popular Bible version as your go-to for quotes. The NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT, NKJV, and NRSV are all examples of translations commonly chosen for their accuracy and readability. When you use only a single version, you need not state it in your verse references; just make sure the Bible publisher's copyright blurb appears on your book's copyright page.

2. If you do use other translations besides your primary translation, as is often the case, then do so sparingly, and have a good reason when you do. You need not show your primary translation in citations, but when you use a secondary translation, you should say which one. For example, if you use the New Living Translation in quoting Isaiah 35:9, indicate it thus: (Isa. 35:9 NLT). Your editor can't check the accuracy of a quote unless he or she knows which version you've quoted from! Don't make your editor have to hunt. Hunting takes time. And time, as you know, is ----.

3. Avoid using archaic or "novelty" translations as your primary Bible version. These include the King James Version, The Message, and the Amplified Bible. They're fine as secondary translations, but for your default translation, your readers will appreciate one that is easily readable and a true translation, not an interpretation. You may love your venerable KJV, but remember, your first concern is to serve your readers, who will probably find "You meet him with rich blessings" (Ps. 21:3 ESV) more understandable than "Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness."

4. When using the NIV and the Amplified Bible, make sure you know and indicate which edition you are using. Both of these Bibles were updated somewhat recently, the NIV in 2011 and the AMP in 2015, and because their previous editions remain in widespread circulation, the older and newer editions frequently get mixed together. It's therefore not enough to simply say NIV or AMP in your citations. Which NIV? Which AMP?

If you resort both to the online NIV or AMP and to your trusty old leatherbound, hardcopy edition--as a lot of writers do--then it's a cinch that you're mixing the earlier and current editions. You've got to distinguish between them, because the differences are often substantial. Your best bet is to choose one source for your quotations, whether online or print, and stick with that source. In any case, know which version of the NIV and AMP you're quoting from in any given instance, and make sure you indicate it in your citation if it isn't your primary translation. For example, if the NIV 2011 is your primary translation, then treat its predecessor, the 1984 edition, as you would a secondary translation, thus: (John 3:16 NIV 1984).

Keep these four simple pointers in mind and you'll save your editor time and headaches, yourself some silver, and your readers a bit of head scratching.


* Not to say fiction writers don't also quote the Bible, but their use of Scripture is typically far lighter than in a book on, say, biblical counseling. Novelists can nevertheless profit from this advice as readily as nonfiction writers.

Gold Medallion Finalist: Reflections on a Book and a Journey

A few weeks ago I received word from my friend Steve Barclift, managing editor for Kregel Publications, that a book I had edited was one of five finalists in its category for an ECPA Gold Medallion.

The reason I didn't rub my eyes when I read Steve's email is because, really, who does that? Inside, though, I was, like, "Whaaa? Did I read that right or do I got dirt in my peepers?" The Gold Medallion is a tremendous honor in evangelical publishing, and even though a different book was chosen for the award on May 2, just making it to the finalists' circle is a huge deal.

My surprise had nothing to do with the book's merits, which are considerable. Messed Up Men of the Bible: Seeing the Men in Your Life Through God's Eyes has struck a fortissimo chord with female readers who want to better understand and support the imperfect men whom they love and who love them. The coauthors, Tina and David Samples, speak to relational issues between men and women in a unique way by bringing to life the Bible's colorfully flawed males. It's encouraging for a messed-up guy like me to know that I'm in such good company as Moses and David and Peter.

The Bible doesn't gloss over people's sins. Its villains are villains for obvious reasons, its heroes reach for a nobility that rises above their often serious weaknesses, and the stories of those heroes are written with the ink not of human perfections but of God's mercy and grace. David and Tina make all of that plain and show how it relates to our own lives. Their book is superb.

Still—me the editor of a Gold Medallion finalist? Pinch me, I'm dreaming.

But then, why not me?

Because, after all, God.

Because how like my heavenly Father to take a messed-up son who has wrestled all his life with self-doubt and the fear of failure, and to encourage that son, and to bless him through the years with people like Steve who saw something good in him and opened doors that changed his life. Because how like God to give a Gideon like me hope, and incremental success, and a sense of personal ability, and to cause me to grow in a profession that, in the past, I never imagined for myself.

Not that it happened by accident. I have faced my fears and forged through them, simply because my only other choice was to curl up and die. I have studied hard and worked hard, and I have sacrificed and persevered, and I continue to learn, and I do my utmost to serve my authors well. But beyond those things, I have the sense that there is much that happens behind the scenes that I just don't see. In the broad sweep of life I'm still pretty dumb, and all I'm really doing is walking through doors, barely aware of their implications, hardly cognizant of how my doing so catalyzes latent realities, causing seeds to germinate into green shoots which, over time, become strong, fruiting plants. Faith involves a process over which my Father presides unseen, as he did at the world's creation, bringing order and blessing to chaos.

Five years ago, with fear and trembling, I hung out my shingle as an editor, and my first book was something I still feel proud of. Since then I have edited scores of books for publishers and independent authors. I am grateful to all of my clients—to you if you're among them. I am thankful that you entrusted your creation to me. Now to think that two of you have been cocandidates for a Gold Medallion . . . wow!

Congratulations, Tina and Dave, for writing a great book. It, and you, deserved such recognition, and I am pleased to have served you as your editor. It's not about awards, is it. It's about women and men learning how to love each other better, and about seeing each other through the eyes of Jesus, and about God's kingdom ruling more fully in our hearts.

Two Ways to Save Money in Editorial Costs (for Independent Authors)

As a self-publishing author, naturally you want to save money. Unless your pockets are lined with sable, you're concerned about your budget. So am I. As an editor, I want to help you keep your costs down if I can. Of course, I'll be happy to spend all the time in the world on your manuscript to do the job right—provided you compensate me. Because like you, I have bills to pay, and the maxim that time is money applies. So if you'd like to save yourself money by saving me time, here are two helpful tips.

1. Document your sources fully. When you quote from a book, magazine, or other print or online source, provide a citation with complete publishing information. If you don't, and if I have to research that information myself in order to show it properly in your endnotes, the time I spend will cost you.

What does complete information look like? Consult this resource (courtesy of The Chicago Manual of Style).

2. Avoid using quote compilations. Whether they're online or in print, collections of quotes are not dependable sources. They work great for speaking but not for writing, which requires thorough and accurate documentation. When you use trustworthy sources (e.g., you quote Twain directly from, say, Huckleberry Finn, not Goodreads), you make my job easier and cut your costs accordingly.