Another “editor” who sucks!

I am constantly and consistently amazed when I go to a self-proclaimed editor’s website and find a morass of mistakes in his or her content. I don’t get it. How can someone who plainly doesn’t understand the rules of good grammar and correct punctuation hang out a shingle trumpeting “I’m An Editor! I’m An EDITOR!” and then take your money (!!), when it’s obvious to any Tom, Dick, or Harriet that he (or she!) is clueless about basic principles? Can’t conjugate verbs correctly, doesn’t know rules about hyphens, misspells words, uses the wrong word—and you call yourself an editor? Gee, I find it very irritating!

Here are some terrific examples of someone who says he’s an editor, but who needs a lot of schoolin’.

1) During the past eight years or so, I’ve been working full-time as a free lance ghostwriter, copy-editor, and proofreader.

Then you should know that “freelance” is one word! And, buddy, listen to this:

You are a full-time editor, which means you edit full time.

Generally speaking, a hyphenated compound adjective loses the hyphen when it follows the noun it’s modifying. I thought all editors knew that!

2) Some of the greatest examples of ingenuity when it comes to words has been by Bible translators.

“Has” is the problem here. “Some” means more than one, and more than one have been…

3) Their years of service span a dangerously fascinating period of Chinese history, and their first years there were synonymous with the final years of Hudson Taylor’s ministry in China.

“Synonymous”? Really? “Similar to”? “At the same time of”? “Simultaneous”? I don’t get it.

4) This year-long collection of insightful devotionals is arranged by monthly themes—topics ranging from basic Christian truths to in-depth and thought provoking quests.

Please put a hyphen between “thought” and “provoking.”

5) Dig into the cross-generational themes of:  childhood pleasures, adolescent growing pains, grown-up lessons in maturity, and, finally, the Christian’s victory over death.

No colon after “of.” If you didn’t have “of” there, you could put a colon after “themes.”

6) Emily has a heart problem, her dad was burned badly in a fire and kids make fun of her at school.

What? There are three things in this list; three things that are unrelated. The missing serial comma doesn’t help.

7) If you don’t want thousands of books molding in your garage you may want to go POD.

“To mold” is not correct here. “To mold” means to shape, like Jello or a piece of plastic. There is no such verb as “to mold” in the sense of growing mold or mildew. “Moldering,” however, means to decay, to deteriorate, as in “John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave….”

This is sort of the worst example, even though all of them demonstrate a lack of basic knowledge. You need an editor who has read deeply, broadly, and reacts strongly when the wrong word is used.

8) There is definitely an ideal situation for using print-on-demand. If you’re short on time or don’t possess the know-how to do all those details involved in producing your own bona fide book, then you may want to consider Print-on-demand. 

Well, a cursory once-over would show that “print” is both lowercase and uppercase in the same use. Wrong!

9) If you want ideas for things like book cover design that you can just pick and have  implemented immediately then choose POD.

Comma after “immediately.” And, even though you can’t see it, trust me: there were two spaces between “have” and “implemented.” (Spell-check saw them!)

10) That is the most remarkable writing in the world- – -the pure, honest stuff from deep inside.

Yes! Those are three hyphens after “world,” and there are no circumstances when three hyphens are used for anything. Geez!

11) Your publisher then submits your book to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. They begin to coach you regarding how to publicize your book.

Since when is “your publisher” plural; in other words, why is “they” there?

This is really sucky writing. I’m all for people learning, but this is not professional editing by any stretch.

Parsing the New York Times editorial board

Well, as it happens, I do have a punctuation suggestion! Well, a few, actually.

Let’s look at this sentence:

A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; it means that multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

1. The first thing I see is the brilliant use of every day (two words). I just submitted an article to a speakers e-zine about the differences between every day and everyday (one word).

2. The second thing I see is the semicolon.  Does this use follow what I believe about semicolons: that each “side” of the semicolon must be a complete sentence. (The way I think of this concept in my mind is as an old-fashioned teeter totter with each side evenly balanced.) The first part is definitely a full sentence. What about the material to follow? Can I decide when I get to it if this is a correct use of a semicolon? No. (But I am hopeful!) So, I am going to hold that decision in abeyance until I decide whether or not the material following the semicolon is a complete sentence. Is it?

3. Is this a complete sentence?

It means that multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

I don’t like it. At first blush, I don’t like it. It really has a colon “feel,” as opposed to a semicolon, actually, because colons are used to explain and elaborate, and also as a substitute for the word “namely” or the phrase “that is to say.”

4. The next thing I notice is the  “multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe” part. “Officials” is plural and “had” matches and the plural pronoun “they” is correct, so that’s okay. But why those commas?

What’s better? No commas? Yes, no commas is better. BUT! You know what’s really better? Dashes! Yes! Let’s try dashes!

it means that multiple government officials—and a federal judge—had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

Wow! I’m impressed. Yes, those dashes are dandy. It pushes air out at “and” and provides a breath at both ends.

5. Now, let’s look at this last bit:

had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

“Evidence” and “crime”…one crime.

“They” is repeated.

“The lawyer”…singular.

How about:

it means that multiple government officials—and a federal judge— believed that they’d find evidence of a crime there and they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

6. Better. But that last bit is bothering me. How about

they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy the evidence

Does that feel excessive?

Or how about this:
evidence of a crime there and that the lawyer might try to destroy that evidence.

I like that. So, here it is:

A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; it means that multiple government officials—and a federal judge— believed that they’d find evidence of a crime there and that the lawyer involved might try to destroy that evidence.

Now, let’s circle back to the semicolon? Is the reworked second part a full sentence? I don’t like it as a full sentence. It’s the “it” that’s bothering me. It bothers me. How to work around the issue? How about this, New York Times editorial board:

A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day. A raid on a lawyers office happens only when multiple government officials—and a federal judge— believed that they’d find evidence of a crime there and that the lawyer involved might try to destroy that evidence.

Is this true? (It’s the “multiple” that’s disruptive.) It’s much more declarative, but maybe can’t be checked or maybe even known. Anyway, is there anything else I can do?

An F.B.I. raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; in this specific situation, it meant that multiple government officials—and a federal judge— believed that they’d find evidence of a crime at the lawyer’s office, which they further believed might be destroyed by that lawyer.

Do you like “meant” (past) better than “means” (present) when paired with “believed.”

I think I do.

Here’s how I’d write it:

An FBI raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day: in this specific situation, it meant that a bunch of government officials—and a federal judge— believed that there was evidence of criminal activity at the lawyer’s office, evidence they further believed might be destroyed by that lawyer unless they acted immediately.