The Perils of Outsourcing Your Writing

Every community has its spelling vagaries. Here in Sarasota, we have two community “secrets” that, if you don’t know them, will immediately expose you to laughter and ridicule.

The first is that Michael Saunders is a woman. There’s that old story that goes around about a guy at a cocktail party who brags about how well he knows “Mike”: “Yeah, he and I are real tight.”

The second is a spelling thing. It’s St. Armands. Plural. Don’t ask me why; it just is.

Here are two headings from a realtor’s website that demonstrate that his or her writer just ain’t from around here:

The St. Armand’s Office Virtual Window

Luxury downtown living close to beaches & St. Armand’s Circle.

I got this off one of those pay-per-click ads, which I clicked on, called the realtor, and informed her of the mistake.

Those ads aren’t cheap! Don’t be cheap! Hire locals who know how to spell!

And, writers, when in doubt about a spelling issue, go to some authoritative source, like a chamber of commerce.

Never edit an editor.

Listen, when someone proclaims that he or she is an “editor” of any stripe, give that person a little credit. No matter what, we give you carefully considered writing.

Let me put it another way: If you find a mistake in my writing and tell me, you are my new best friend! I mean it. I’ll heave a sigh of relief. I’ll be so happy and grateful!

But don’t take my writing and (I really hesitated there and successfully resisted using the F-word) make mistakes in it. You know, like (oh! I almost used it again!) make a mess of it by introducing your own mistakes into my polished prose.

I promise you, I’ll be livid.

Here’s what I wrote.

Liz Coursen is an award-winning author, editor, and book coach from Sarasota, Florida, where she owns EditNation.com. Liz is the author of 17 books, including The Book Tourist: Seven Steps to a Wildly Successful Book Tour; Self-Editing for the Modern Author; and Shade in the Sunshine State: Reflections on Segregation in Florida. In 2017, in addition to speaking engagements in the US, Liz presented editing and writing programs in Milan, Zurich, and in five different cities in India. In November 2018, Liz presented editing workshops at WordPress conferences in Portland, Maine, and Seattle, Washington, on back-to-back weekends.

That’s it. That’s what I wrote.

Here’s what they printed:

Liz Cousens owns EditNation.com. Liz is the author of 17 books, including The Book Tourist: Seven Steps to a Wildly Liz Coursens is an awardwinning author, editor, and book coach from Sarasota, Florida, where Successful Book Tour; Self-Editing for the Modern Author; and Shade in the Sunshine State: Reflections on Segregation in Florida. In 2017, in addition to speaking engagements in the US, Liz presented editing and writing programs in Milan, Zurich, and in five different cities in India. In November 2018, Liz presented editing workshops at WordPress conferences in Portland, Maine, and Seattle, Washington, on back-to-back weekends.

I have a couple of questions, but I guess the obvious one is simple: Does my host not know my name? There are two incorrect spellings of my last name in this bio, so someone deliberately altered the text from what I sent, and was not even consistent in the mistake.

And then there’s the jumbled hash at the beginning. It makes no sense. How the hell did that happen? I’ll tell you: sloppiness.

And what in the world is going on with all that downright incorrect use of italics? Mine was perfect! Perfect!

I know this rule, too, damn it: Always double-check what your host is doing. Another way to phrase it is never trust a host. Another way to phrase it is that no one will ever mind your business like you will. And, should. That’s the thing. I assumed competency, and everybody knows what they say about “assume.”

Who makes these kinds of mistakes?

NEVER EDIT AN EDITOR UNLESS YOU ARE RIGHT. And even then, ask for permission. Lots of times, you’ll be wrong.

Discouraging Writing

It really is discouraging to read writing like the three examples below. I’m just going to paste and comment.

Members of the organization that have attended these conferences in the past know what a great learning experience the writer gets from attending.

  1. I just cut the sentence in more than half, but if you have the original, you’ll know who wrote this.
  2. Here’s my problem: “members” are not “thats.” A “member,” to my mind, should be a “who,” like so: Members of the organization who have attended these conferences in the past know what a great learning experience the writer gets from attending.

Specify length (example: full-length novels (this means over 80,000 words); short novels (under 80,000 words); novellas (under 50,000 words)

Yes, this is a fragment, and it’s totally acceptable because this is an item in a list. But what’s not acceptable is falling behind in your parenthesis count: Where’s that last parenthesis, hmm? (I saw that right away. Not to toot my own horn.)

Speaking of “not,” not to trample on the writer’s feelings, but you never put a colon after “for example,” “include,” “includes,” or “including.” I thought everybody knew that.

In addition to her work as a literary agent, she also has a new publishing imprint to work one-on-one with authors. where she acquires books that tell literary and compelling stories with a focus on writing about place.

Trust me, this is the way this looks.

First of all, folks, it’s one-to-one. Okay? One-on-one is a basketball strategy; it’s also an expression for having sex. In a business use, 1-2-1 is totally acceptable, and that’s actually my favorite way to express this concept–it’s short and impossible to misinterpret. I don’t like 1:1, which is architectural. Anyway, that’s not what really bothers me about this sentence.

What really bothers me about this sentence is the period after “authors.” What comes after “authors” is a sentence fragment, so what the writer plainly meant to do was put a comma after “authors.”

(Well, hang on. We have no idea of the frame of mind of this author when writing this horrible sentence. There are no excuses.)

Don’t go away, there’s more! That period (regardless of right or wrong) meant that the “W” in “where” should have been capitalized. But, it’s not. In my Word doc, there’s a red line under “where.” Which means we’re in what I call “red-line Word” territory, when Word is right (and that’s not always the case!) and saves your bacon.

That’s why this kind of sloppiness infuriates me. If I copy/paste into Word, the first thing I see is a red line. I go to investigate. Why didn’t these authors?

I am a professional editor, but, gimme a break! This is Editing 101. Who is so arrogant that he or she doesn’t take that last look? Many’s the time I’ve been grateful to Word!

Takeaway from this post: Use Word!

What horrible writing. You bet there’s more, but it’s past time to get on to other things!