Own your pronouns.

As an editor, you edit a manuscript once. Then you go back and read it again. Things you missed the first time now become obvious. It’s sort of like weeding a garden.

Here’s something I missed the first (and second, and third) time around.

Everyone was carrying extra ammunition for themselves or for the machine gun, bazooka, and mortar teams.

So, I’m reading along and bam! I realize that “everyone” is a singular noun and my client has paired it—yes!—with a plural pronoun.

Well, in this day and age, the default is “everyone was carrying extra ammunition for him- or herself”; the old suspended hyphen rule kicks in.

But wait a sec! Hang on to your hats! Stop the presses! There were no women there, so…the pronoun is “himself.” Absolutely and unequivocally. I’m a huge feminist and subscribe to a certain level of political correctness, but, baby, I’m more concerned with accuracy than anything else.

Own your pronouns.

Wassup at CNN??

To quote Lt. Ripley, “Have IQs suddenly dropped since I’ve been gone?”

I love CNN; shoot, I read the site multiple times a day, but the editorial quality there has taken a nose-dive that is unacceptable at one of the world’s premier news sources.

Why, just this morning I saw this:

This fact makes it obvious that either the President or someone close to him is responsible for the extra, arcing black line that was added to a hurricane forecast map which Trump held-up to show that federal weather experts had warned that Alabama was in the path of the lethal Atlantic storm named Dorian.

What, pray, does “held-up” mean? The closest meaning it could have, thanks to that hyphen, is the past tense of “hold-up,” which could also and more appropriately be spelled holdup. A child would know that that hyphen is wrong. He “held up” something, whether it be a forged map or the corner liquor store. The author is supposedly a book author, not a journalist, but that gives him even less of a pass. Yikes.

But that wasn’t the only profound punctuation or grammar issue I saw in my three minutes of reading and skimming. There was this gem, that sets the collective noun rule at naught:

Crew of doomed diving ship tell investigators they tried to save passengers

Sorry, Charlie, “crew” is a collective noun. A crew tells investigators. And it’s not a “they.”

Crew of doomed diving ship tells investigators about rescue efforts

Crew of doomed diving ship details rescue efforts (“attempts” would be good here, since the “efforts” failed.

Let your punctuation and grammar slip, and pretty soon we have a forger as commander-in-chief. It’s a slippery slope, people.

Crazy illiteracy at “HealthZap”! Worst writing in HISTORY!!

Ad HealthZap

Dog Saves Pregnant Owner By Smelling Her Belly

At first, no one was able to understand the reason behind this dog’s weird behavior but when they did, it changed them as a person forever.

Dog Wont Stop Braking At Pregnant Owner; Shocking HealthZap

Just by reading that first “teaser,” I know that “HealthZap” is not a credible source of information about health, well-being, wellness, or, really, anything. “No one” is a singular noun, so you can’t use “they,” which is a plural pronoun. And then there’s my favorite part: “them” referring to “a person.” Christ on a sidecar; who are these people???

And the second teaser reinforces my first impression. “Wont” is actually a word, but what was meant is “won’t,” and then…since when does a dog “brake”?

“HealthZap” could tell me that the sun rises in the east, and I’d want a second, and then a third, opinion. Why get up in the morning if you are going to write like this? Worst writing in the history of the planet!

Who is minding the store at Forbes.com?

Answer: No one.

Take a look! See some seriously sloppy editing. Mistakes all over the place. At Forbes! Forbes!

Many successful people attribute at least part of their success to having a mentor. The right mentor can provide advice and connections that help their mentee reach heights that would be impossible alone.

Here are some pieces of advice on mentorship, with perspectives from successful tech professionals who have seen its benefits firsthand.

How to build a strong mentorship relationship.

1. Mentorship requires intentional investments of time and energy; you get what you put in.

Being a mentee is not a passive role. When you have a mentor, it’s your job to define your own goals, cultivate the relationship, seek out advice, attend meetings or events you’re invited to, and so on.

“Building a strong network of mentors requires commitment of time and energy, but with these types of relationships, you absolutely get out of them what you put in,” says Andrew Rubin, cofounder & CEO of Illumio. “The more you know yourself, what you are good at, what you are not, the more value you and your mentors will get out of the relationship. Then make time to invest in those relationships.”

Says Brett Caine, CEO of Urban Airship, “Mentor relationships must be tended to and are constantly evolving. Those experiences and discussions culminate in a stronger bond to navigate more complex life or business discussions in the future.”

2. Experienced perspectives are invaluable for young careers and companies.

While mentorship can be valuable at any stage of a career, it’s especially important when the mentee doesn’t have as much personal experience in the industry. With a mentor, they can benefit from the insights gained through years of experience–without having to spend years of trial and error themselves.

“When I first started my career, I discounted the importance of experience,” says Mark Schulze, cofounder of Clover & VP of Business Development at First Data. “A strong mentor has the experience to help a startup avoid the pitfalls and identify possibly paths to success. Often entrepreneurs feel like there isn’t time, but the time and trouble you can save by working with a good mentor is invaluable.”

Vivek Ravisankar, cofounder and CEO of HackerRank, still experiences this firsthand in his career. “As a first-time founder, I look to people who have lived through the experiences and challenges that I face every day in building and scaling my company. I’ve found it invaluable to have a board of advisors who have experience scaling companies and can provide valuable, actionable advice.”

3. The best mentors are the ones who can fill gaps in your skillset. Don’t seek a mentor who’s your clone.

Every entrepreneur has their own strengths and weaknesses. And while mentors can certainly help make the strengths even stronger, it’s usually even more valuable to have someone who can give advice in areas where you’re struggling.

“Entrepreneurship is essentially about constantly learning, and having great mentors is crucial to learning fast,” says Jyoti Bansal, founder and CEO of BIG Labs. “In particular, it’s important for for a mentor to supplement the strengths that the entrepreneur brings to the table. For example–I came to the game as a strong technologist, but had to learn about the science of enterprise sales, finance/operations, etc. An entrepreneur should always select a mentor that fills the gaps in his/her experience and skill set.”

4. You don’t always have to follow a mentor’s advice–but listen to it and evaluate it.

One important thing to understand about mentorship is that the mentor can’t live your life for you. They’re there to provide advice and perspective and make you think differently–not make unilateral decisions for you. “Counsel need not always be followed, but should always be carefully considered,” advises Caine.

“The role of the mentor is to make you reflect, not to give you advice or answers. Helping you ask the right questions–that’s real mentorship,” explains Marten Mickos, CEO of HackerOne.

5. Anyone can be a mentor–even without knowing it.

If you go through life with the perspective that you have something to learn from everyone you meet, you’ll collect a lot of informal mentors along the way.

“In my own life and career, I have had numerous mentors, most of them accidental, and many of them unaware that I saw them as mentors,” says Mickos. “At one point I decided that any person I meet will be treated by me as a mentor for the time the interaction lasts. In an Uber or Lyft, the driver can be my mentor for a few minutes. Among friends, I seek out mentorship moments. I even have fantasy mentors, i.e. I envision myself being mentored by someone I admire (for instance, Winston Churchill) and I try to figure out what questions that mentor would ask me. It works!”

6. Diversity of mentorship is important.

It’s common to have one person you regard as a primary mentor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek out a variety of perspectives on a more informal basis as well.

Susan Liu, Principal at Scale Venture Partners, says, “At Scale Venture Partners, half of our investing partners are women and all of the men are naturalized citizens. Having such a diverse set of mentors has helped me realize that there isn’t a cookie-cutter for success in VC, or any industry for that matter. This gives me confidence in my own career path, and has helped shape the way I think about investing and entrepreneurship.”

Rubin also encourages seeking out mentors who bring other perspectives to light: “I always encourage people to find mentors who you not only trust to be sources of counsel throughout your career, but also who bring a different point of view to your own.”

7. There are specific things you can do to being a good mentee.

Often, people consider the “burden” of mentorship to be on the mentor. But mentees can take responsibility for cultivating the experience of mentorship too.

“The biggest difference between people having a successful mentor relationship boils down to initiative,” says Tyler Perry, partner at Bateman Group: “Many thoughtful pieces have been written about how to be a good mentor, but there is less attention on how to be a good mentee. When I look at those that I have mentored and those that are getting a lot out of the program have some clear similarities:

  • They thoughtfully select the right person.
  • They establish the framework of the relationship.
  • They work at the relationship.
  • They are prepared with specific questions, areas for feedback, and requests for support.”

8. Mentorship is beneficial for the mentors too.

Finally, just as the responsibilities of mentorship are shared by mentees, the benefits are shared by mentors.

“The most successful mentorships are the ones that are a two-way experience where both sides benefit from the relationship,” says Caine. “In these relationships, the mentor experiences satisfaction and new perspectives by providing guidance and insight to the person seeking advice, while the mentee gains the benefit of experienced advice.”

“We tend to think that mentorship was designed to help the mentees, the up-and-coming. But mentorship helps the mentor too,” adds Mickos. “To be a mentor makes you a more understanding human being. It keeps your mind young and your skills fresh. Successful people who don’t start to mentor others will over time lose touch with their own excellence. Mentoring someone connects you back to the original you who became so excellent.”

Turns out it’s a common mistake in BRITISH ENGLISH as well!

It’s been my observation that the most common mistake in American English is the old it’s versus its mistake. Turns out, it’s a pretty common mistake in British English too! And this from a “educational” website; just one of several British English punctuation, grammar, and spelling mistakes.


Killer Biography!

Do you enjoy reading biography? Then run, don’t walk, to abebooks.com and pick up a copy of Madame An Intimate Biography of Helena Rubinstein, by Patrick O’Higgins. The story is terrific, but the writing…my dears, the writing is outstanding. Out. Standing.

The first thing I did was look up Mr. O’Higgins, to see if he was still living. Alas, he died in 1980, but wow! What a writer! What a vocabulary! What wit! Brilliant! A must-read!

In fact, I’ll make it easy. Here’s a link:


Compliments of CNN.com: How NOT TO use commas!

Ah, the joys of reading CNN.com. I appreciate CNN. I do. But, a lot of the time, its punctuation leaves something to be desired. Or, in the case below, its punctuation left something out.

Here’s the sentence:

The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

This is textbook. Material enclosed by a pair of commas (or one, if it comes towards the end of a sentence) is referred to as parenthetical information; that is, information that’s nice to know but is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence/for the sentence to make sense. Parenthetical information can be removed from the sentence and the sentence still makes sense.

If the CNN.com sentence had commas in the right place, you could remove all the material inside the commas and still have a sentence that makes, well, sense. Does it? I don’t think so!

The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne, the Duchess of Cornwall.

That’s an epic mistake! Here’s the way the sentence should read:

The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Take out the parenthetical information now, and you have a sentence that makes perfect sense:

The princess is a well-known international figure, being close friends with the heir to the British throne and his wife.

A writers group that can’t write

It’s not particularly funny when you arrive at the website of a so-called “association” of writers and find beaucoup mistakes. It just isn’t.

Here are a couple of easy-to-spot mistakes on one group’s introductory, thanks-for-joining email.

The Florida Writer’s Association is comprised of all volunteers.

You can sign up for Bobbie Christmas’s Writers Network News at Writer’s Network Newsletter to get information about events, news, competitions, jobs, questions, answers, agents, and markets, as well as editing tips and writing prompt.

Attend the annual Florida Writers Conference at a lower member rate. Early Bird registration opens on April 1, 2018. To find out more about this year’s stellar line-up go to 2019 Annual Conference.

Reduced advertising rates in The Florida Writer magazine are available to you in this publication which reaches over 1,500 readers.

This weekend I’m supposed to attend a meeting of the National Speakers Association’s Central Florida chapter. It’s almost a tank of gas (the Honda is waiting for parts, so it’s the Plan B car, and that’s a $60 tank), the cost is almost $80, and I have to bring my own lunch (which I don’t mind). The guest speaker had several mistakes in his posted promotional material, which may or may not be his fault, but if it’s not then he hasn’t learned the #1 rule of speaking, and that’s never trust your host. However, a cruise through his business website reveals the fact that he copy/pasted directly from the website, mistakes and all. And he’s going to tell me that he’s an author, has written more than 10,000 articles and blogs (the mind boggles), and that writing books is important for my speaking career. Gee, ya think?

I’d have to leave at 6:30 and would be back at around 3:30. On the gotta-go side is the fact that I’ve dovetailed my entire schedule to attend. Plus, there will be people there who I like very much. Plus, I want to show support for my chapter. On the negative side is that I’m so busy editing books that people actually care about that I can’t see straight.

I guess the bottom line is simple: Would I be better served taking that beautiful chunk of uninterrupted time and focus on my work, focus on people who care about their writing and are paying me to make them look professional or do I go up and hear someone tell me stuff I already know. Hmmm. Sort of an easy answer, huh?

People are busy. Your writing reflects your professionalism. If you can’t write, hire an editor, but be careful who you hire, ’cause there’s an awful lot of people running around who claim to be editors who ain’t.