Editing: Why bother?

Gee, why bother to breathe?

When you use your language with authority, then by gosh and by golly, you look like an authority. With authority comes credibility, and with credibility comes that most important coin: trust.

A couple of weeks ago, I took my car to a car wrapping service to get a quote. Tooling around Sarasota with “EditNATION.com” emblazoned on all four sides of my Honda (not the Porsche!!) is like an editor’s wet dream because a) everybody needs an editor, and b) no one knows how to find a good one. In fact, I liked the slogan “…because everybody needs an editor” so much, I got the .com and made it my tag line. (One of my tag lines, anyway, because I have a couple, depending on the audience: “…because good writing makes you money” for business-related projects and “…because good writing makes you look smart” for individuals.)

So the guy snapped pictures of the Honda and a couple of days later back came the mock up, with a tag line that read “…because everybody need an editor.”

Lemme ask you a question: Do you think that business got my business? Do you? Not taking those, what?, three seconds? four seconds? to review my mock up cost that business a thousand or so bucks. That’s $250 per second.

Do the math, everyone. Good writing makes you money, and bad writing costs. It’s just dollars and common sense.

How to use a semicolon, Part II

The second main use of the semicolon is to separate items in a list when one item has its own comma.

For example: My favorite books are Gone With the Wind, Alas, Babylon, and The Bronze Bow.

How many books are in that list? Three? Four? Not sure?

It helps to remember that the purpose of punctuation is to make things clear to your readers. So when one item in a list has its own comma, then you need to show your readers where each item starts and stops. In this case, not everyone knows that Alas, Babylon is the title of a terrific book by Pat Frank about the aftermath of a nuclear war in 1950s central Florida. There very well could be a book titled Alas and a book titled Babylon. You have to make things clear to your readers.

Punctuated correctly, that sentence reads like so: My favorite books are Gone With the Wind; Alas, Babylon; and The Bronze Bow.

Notice that you use a semicolon everywhere you’d use a comma, including the comma before the “and,”  which is also known as the Oxford or “serial” comma. I’m a big fan of the serial comma.

I’m all for keeping punctuation to a minimum, or, put another way, I’m for keeping punctuation to the “lowest” level possible. To me, a semicolon is a higher level of punctuation than a comma. I used to think that any sort of internal punctuation in an item in a list would trigger the semicolon rule, but now I don’t. The only way your readers could get confused is if one item has its own comma. An item in a list with a question mark, a colon, or even a semicolon would not confuse a reader; only a comma in an item in a list would cause confusion.

How to use a semicolon, Part I

There are two main uses of the semicolon (;): to join two complete sentences without benefit of a conjunction, and to separate items in a list when one (or more) of the items has a comma of its own.

In the first use, the trick is to imagine a see-saw. (Do we still have see-saws anymore? Maybe I should update my imagery, but this works so well!) So, each side of the see-saw is perfectly balanced, and in the middle is the semicolon: full sentence-semicolon-full sentence.

Example:

I ate the entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Chunk Fudge ice cream. It made me sick.

I ate the entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Chunk Fudge ice cream, and it made me sick.

I ate the entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Chunk Fudge ice cream; it made me sick.

As an author, there are reasons that you’d choose one of these options over another.

In the first example, with the two full sentences, you can almost hear the pause and believe that the second sentence is (possibly) the punch line.

In the second example, with the  comma and “and,” it seems like the “it” refers more to the eating than the ice cream.

In the third example, the one with the semicolon, it seems like the “it” refers more to the ice cream than the act of eating it. (You got sick because you ate this specific flavor of this specific ice cream.)

Bottom line: When you use a semicolon in this way, the material on either side of the semicolon has to be a full sentence. Not a full sentence? No semicolon!

 

 

 

I love you, Randy Rainbow!

Yes, it’s official! I have publicly declared my love for YouTube star Randy Rainbow in The New York Times!

Permalink: https://nyti.ms/2NdtCe5#permid=28486337

If you don’t know Randy, you need to!

“Hey, USA we just elected us a mean girl!”

Genius!!

Here are YouTube.com links to a few of my favorites, but, honey, trust me: they are all great!

Would you pay for this person’s advice?

Question: If someone advertised that he (or she!) is a WordPress “expert” and a “business adviser,” but misspelled the word “adviser,” would you have any confidence whatsoever that his (or her!) advice would be worth, well, anything?

Answer: Hell, no!

But, gee, that’s just what I saw recently on a LinkedIn profile of a self-proclaimed WordPress “expert.” I can’t post the entire sentence, since I just realized that when the sentence is “googled” this person comes up #1 with a bullet, but I can tell you that “adviser” was spelled “adisor.”

It’s kind of like a professional bio I edited recently and the person, who was in a branch of the U. S. military for 20 years, spelled “united,” as in “United States,” as “unted.” He (it’s a “he”) wants to be a professional speaker.

Question: How many misspelled words does it take to ruin your credibility?

Answer: Depends. If you’re an eighth-grader, I’ll cut you some slack. If you are a grown up and are marketing yourself as a professional, you get no slack, especially if the word should have been caught by spell-check.

In fact, if you can’t spell, not only would I not pay for your advice, I wouldn’t take it, even for free!

Yukking it up on LinkedIn

I know a lot of people—and a lot of people I respect, a lot—think that LinkedIn is the greatest thing since sliced bread. While I’ve never been enamored of the whole “connectedness” thing and the thought of having a million billion “followers” makes me feel like running for the hills, I’m learning that referral-based marketing is the way to go, and you can’t get a referral unless…you’re connected!

It’s been a slow process. I struggle.

But I struggle even more when, looking around LinkedIn, I stumbled across the worst “editing” information ever. It’s in LinkedIn education; I forget what they call it officially. It was horrible! Horrible! Jaw-droppingly bad. Even worse than Grammarly. (Yes! Even worse than Grammarly!) I found myself sending “crazy lady” feedback to LinkedIn on every page of this crap.

Here’s a sample page:

Pronouns need a clear antecedent .

An antecedent is the word which a pronoun replaces. example: jane arrived late. she had another meeting. (jane is the antecedent of she).

This person is supposed to be teaching me about punctuation and grammar, and there are seven—SEVEN—punctuation mistakes in this content.

  1. Extra space between “antecedent” and the period in the first sentence.
  2. Optional: I would have put the second use of “antecedent” in quotes or italics.
  3. Optional: I don’t like “which” and would have used “that.”
  4. Since when don’t we capitalize the first word in a sentence? That mistake was made four times!
  5. “Jane,” last time I looked, is a proper noun, and what do we do with proper nouns? Why, we capitalize them!
  6. Optional: I would have put both “Jane” and “she” in quotes.
  7. And the period should be inside the parenthesis.

And this is from an “instructor”? Give me a break! You should have seen what the “instructor” did with dashes! Jesus wept.

 

Barnes & Noble needed an editor! Geeky editing post.

Geeky-editing-post-about-commas alert!

I just came across these two sentences on the B&N website, ironically on one of its “here’s-how-you-put-your-books-in-our-stores pages.”

The annual, “The Writer’s Market”, is also stocked by most bookstores and libraries and it includes brief snapshots of many publishing companies and agents.  The current edition of “Literary Market Place”, published by Bookmart Press, and found in most libraries is another valuable resource.

Wow! Multiple mistakes! So, by dint of a little research, I was able to contact a very sharp guy on the B&N team who listened to what I had to say about the comma and quotation mark mistakes in these two sentences. Hooray for people who like to learn and strive for excellence! Even though I didn’t try to convert him to the italics-for-book-titles rule that I hold dearly, we did have a good conversation about commas! Here’s what I recommended:

The annual “The Writer’s Market” is also stocked by most bookstores and libraries, and it includes brief snapshots of many publishing companies and agents.  The current edition of “Literary Market Place,” published by Bookmart Press and found in most libraries, is another valuable resource.

Here’s the breakdown:

The annual, [no comma; the title isn’t parenthetical information] “The Writer’s Market”, [no comma; you should try not to separate the subject from the verb; PLUS, commas always are placed INSIDE quotation marks; and, looking at it clean, let’s go further and remove the “it”] is also stocked by most bookstores and libraries [without a comma here, you’ve got a run-on sentence] and it includes brief snapshots of many publishing companies and agents.  The current edition of “Literary Market Place”, [commas are always placed INSIDE quotes, so move it and we’ll keep it because it sets off the parenthetical information that follows] published by Bookmart Press, [I took this comma out; you have a two-part bit of parenthetical information here] and found in most libraries [comma HERE] is another valuable resource.

FINAL VERSION in B&N Style:

The annual “The Writer’s Market” is also stocked by most bookstores and libraries, and includes brief snapshots of many publishing companies and agents.  The current edition of “Literary Market Place,” published by Bookmart Press and found in most libraries, is another valuable resource.

FINAL VERSION in MY STYLE:

The annual The Writer’s Market is also stocked by most bookstores and libraries, and includes brief snapshots of many publishing companies and agents.  The current edition of Literary Market Place, published by Bookmart Press and found in most libraries, is another valuable resource.

(And, yes, “market place” is two words for those people; of course I looked it up!)

And, looking at it further, I’m not keen on the use of “most” (so wimpy) in subsequent sentences. Humph.

Tom Cruise and the Suspended Hyphen!

What a terrific example of the suspended hyphen rule, compliments of The New York Times:

The older Tom Cruise gets, the more fun it is to watch him risk death in elaborate age- and gravity-defying ways.

Yours in Good Grammar: “Breakthrough”

Yours in good grammar: The Space Makes the Case!

A “breakthrough” is defined as “a significant or sudden advance, development, or achievement that removes a barrier to progress; a person’s first success.”

“Breakthrough” is one of a group of words, like cleanup, login, setup, and standout, that is one word as a noun or adjective, but changes to two words when it is used as a verb. It can be tricky, so when you use a word like “breakthrough,” take a moment to decide whether you mean the concept of a “breakthrough” as a noun or adjective, or as “breaking through” in an active, verb sense.

A trick I’ve found that works is to ask yourself if you can add “a” or “the” in front of one of these words or one of these words combined with another; if so, it’s the one word noun or adjective. If you can add “need to” in front of the word, it’s actually the two-word verb. Take a look:

Noun: The nomination marks a major breakthrough.

Adjective: It was a real breakthrough moment.

Verb phrase:

I will break through to a new level this year.

I am breaking through to a new level this year.

At the conference, she broke through her fear.

This chapter has broken through to national prominence.

Problematic WordPress copy with answers, Part I.

These sentences are part of the 52-sentence group I pulled from a local “WordPress expert’s” site. I’m all for WordPress, and I understand that it’s “open source, ” etc., etc., etc., and that lots and lots of very cool people have flocked to the WordPress banner, but all too often these same people can’t write their way out of a paper sack. Moral of the story: Write your own content and get it edited by a professional. This content would make an eighth-grader blush.

Read on. More to come.

1. If you don’t see any times that works for you, you’ll be able to send us a direct message so we can coordinate and get you scheduled.

“…times that work…”

2. Schedule a 30 minute discovery call with us (for free!).

Hyphen between 30 and “minute” to modify “discovery.”

3. What you’re NOT doing is focusing your time and energy on creating new content and products for your community (aka: doing what you love!)

Where’s the period? And let’s stop capitalizing words for emphasis. If the word isn’t in a title, use italics for emphasis.

4. I love web design and development and I have been working with WordPress since it’s early conception.

Geez! Baby mistake! It’s for its. Get this right or go home. Plus, it’s a run-on sentence. Yucky all around.

5. I’ve experienced the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, of the startup world and I have gather useful strategies and procedures to help others gain success with their projects.

You have “gather”? I think not!

6. When I’m free, I like to go on bike rides, enjoy the beach and every once in awhile, catch a nice wave. 

Anybody ever tell you the difference between awhile (an adverb) and a while (a noun)? Guess not, but Word knew. This “WordPress” guy doesn’t even run his content through spell-check, the most babyish of tools. Plus, not to make a huge deal about it, stick a comma after “and.” There. All nice.

7. [He] was lucky enough to have had an advanced personal computer in his home ever since the first ones hit the market (Take that Generation Y!).

Rule: Lowercase the first word after the first parenthesis, unless it’s a proper noun.

8. [He] has always have had a passion for entrepreneurship and is not shy of working hard.

He “has always have had”? Anybody know the phrase proof read at this shop? Guess not.

9. He’s been through many business ventures and startups and has learned both from hard-knocks and from the success and failures of others first hand.

What’s the hyphen doing there? First you don’t use hyphens when you should, and then you use them when you shouldn’t…the sure sign of somebody who doesn’t know how to use hyphens! Plus, dude, four “ands” in one sentence with no benefit of a comma….Geez!

These sequential sentences feature one of my pet peeves!

10. That’s when she became focused on WordPress and an early adopter of responsive design (responsive design = that magic that makes your site transition seamlessly from full screen to any mobile device or tablet).  But, after a few years on the west coast, Florida was calling her back…and that’s when she met [him] and started focusing on WordPress and freelance web design.

Aaa, that ole “magic”! Yes, indeedy. More like…well, let’s stick to the task at hand. One of the most basic mistakes you can make in your writing is using repetitive words and phrases. There are lots of synonyms for “focus,” and there’s really no reason to use the word in sequential sentences. Plus, “West Coast” should be capitalized for clarity. Sloppy!

11. [Her] first experience with computers was watching (and sometimes helping) her dad build custom PC’s and networking solutions for local businesses in the 80’s and 90’s.

No. This is incorrect. There are several reasons I can think of when you’d need to express the concepts of 80s and 90s.

First, if you are talking about the decades, which, in this case, she is, that’s ’80s and ’90s. The apostrophe tells your readers that there’s something missing to the left of the concept. And watch that apostrophe if your font is directional: it should face out, not in.

Second, if you are referring to ages or temperatures, you should not use an apostrophe anywhere; it’s 80s and 90s.

12. I love seeing the shift in someone when they go from confusion or frustration to empowerment and it fuels all my work.

Lots to look at in this awful sentence! “Someone” is singular, and so has to be “he or she,” but it can’t be “they.” This is also a run-on sentence. Those are punctuation/grammar mistakes. This next is a biggie, and indicates poor writing: What’s the difference between “confusion” or “frustration”? Sure, they are slightly different, but not so different that they need to be in the same sentence. This is one of my pet peeves: equivalencies or near-equivalencies. Since you’re not likely to be “frustrated” without being “confused” first, I’d use “confused” and leave it at that.

13. After initially pursuing a career in music he earned his degree in English and Creative Writing with a minor in Business.

What a liar. Where’d he get his degree, Trump University? And stick a comma after “music,” big boy; that first bit is what’s called an “introductory phrase.” Glad to set you straight.

14. With the website, strategy and business savvy to help you take your business to the next level.

This isn’t a full sentence, and I can’t remember the context, but I do know that “to the next level” is hackneyed and should be banished from every self-respecting writer’s repertoire.

15. On a shoestring budget she built her own e-commerce site and blog for her business, learned about list building and email service providers, managed an active social media presence, and took a deep dive into content strategy and copywriting.

I’m so tired of “deep dive” I could puke.

16. From overwhelm to on fire.

Listen, people, “overwhelm” ain’t no noun! It’s a verb, yes, it’s an adjective, yes, but it ain’t no noun!

17. Your site is built to accommodate your needs, so whether you choose to integrate with LeadPages or create your own in-site sales or landing pages, everything you need is baked right in.

Another cliché! Spare me “baked in,” unless you’re talking about raisins, or, better still, chocolate chips.

18. Running your own business + website can be both incredibly awesome and supremely challenging.

Is there such a thing as “incredibly awesome”? I mean, we aren’t talking about the Divine here, or even Mother Nature. Give me a break! And then to follow by “supremely challenging.” Ugh.

19. One day you can be totally on a roll, cranking out content, ideas, plans and moving them forward. The next you can feel totally stuck or spinning….

Sophomoric writing.

20. “I thought adding this new feature to (or fixing this issue on) my site would be way easier, but now I’m stuck and if I spend another minute googling this sh*& my brain is gonna melt!”

“Way easier”? What are you, 12? Are you marketing to 12-year-olds? Because, if so, the bit about “sh*&” and “gonna melt” is perfect.

21. He was also writing as the editor for a digital magazine startup, and his experience provided an framework of understanding of the hows and whys of tools like editorial schedules and batch editing.

I don’t believe it. I pulled 52 mistakes from these “uber” developers’ website. Fifty two. That’s 52 more than I should have found, for people who claim to have writing degrees and experiences as copy editors and editors. What comes out of a bull?

22. Let’s face it, there’s a time when your favorite entrepreneurs group delivers the exact answer you need, and about a hundred more times when their answers only leave you spinning in circles.

A group is a collective noun, and it’s singular. Period. Which makes the “their” there (say that three times real fast!) flat out wrong.

This writing is really beyond the pale. It’s like, dude, um, you know, over the Styx and through the deep, dark woods into Hell. There is a special circle of hell for people who claim to be professional writers and take other people’s money to write professionally, but who are SLOPPY.