Thursday, September 30, 2010

knuckleheaded, hotheaded, ham-handed

I was interested in the occurrence of these words in the Asterisky Business article, specifically in their hyphenation.

The words appear in the following sentences:

In the fifth paragraph-
"...and then several more times in a ham-handed effort to get a roomful of sports reporters to retract or ignore his original use of the word."

And then in the second to last paragraph-
"I don't want Mr. McMackin punished for society's larger troubles any more than I want Prof. Henry Louis Gates or Sgt. James Crowley to bear sole racial responsibility for every inflexible cop or every hotheaded homeowner with an ego."

"And whether you believe it's the intolerance Crowley showed gates, or the intolerance Gates showed Crowley -- or the knuckleheaded intolerance Coach McMackin showed about lives different than his own -- it all gets you to the same place."

In each instance the word serves as an adjective, so why the difference in hyphenation? This is a good example of the evolution of words and how they change from two separate words, to hyphenated words, to a closed form. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary "ham-handed" and its derivatives are always hyphenated. "Knuckleheaded" is a closed compound.

Merriam-Webster lists "hotheaded" as a closed adjective but demonstrates its hyphenated use in the example: "He wrote a hot-headed letter." lists both versions, "hotheaded" and "hot-headed." This leads me to believe that there is not yet a consensus on the form of this word, and it is an example of the in-between on an evolutionary scale. Because it appears in the same paragraph as "knuckleheaded" the un-hyphenated form is appealing.

I'm still developing my understanding of compound adjectives and when they should be hyphenated, so please comment or correct me!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


... are hard!

I know; this post doesn't pose a question, but I just wanted to convey my frustration regarding the treatment of numbers in a manuscript. This is some hard stuff!

After attempting to tackle Exercise G on page 192, I realized that I had never squared off with a more formidable adversary than those pesky numbers and the seemingly myriad rules that govern their use.

Curse you, numbers, for (naturally) being so complicated to work with!

As Alpha 5 from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers used to say, "Aye-yi-yi-yi-yi!"

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Grammar Vandal

So, I found a blog by this woman that has apparently has made it her mission to make fun of and deride businesses that dare violate the rules of grammar, spelling, etc. It's good reading! There's interesting stuff such as a diagram of one of Obama's more complex sentences, a spelling error on an American Eagle t-shirt, a selection of quotes from a really crazy argument about grammar on Facebook, and other such smirk-worthy items. Here is one of her posts that made me chuckle:

"This is my new favorite entry on my new favorite Web site,

Today, I was flirting via text with a coworker. Things started getting heated, and I wanted to send her a sexy picture. I asked if she had any suggestions. She said, “Your nuts!” She meant, 'YOU’RE nuts.'... FML."

Here, we see very clearly the relation between grammar fail and epic fail.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


"The man hung out under the tree yesterday."
"The man hanged out under the tree yesterday."

The verb “hang” is very interesting in that it has two past tense forms, “hung” and “hanged”. These words are commonly misused and interchanged, though they actually have different applications. The word “hung” is actually the correct past tense form of “hang” in every situation except one, when death is invoked. The correct usage for the word “hanged” is applicable only when someone has cold, dangling feet.

So basically, you don’t ever want to say, “I hanged out under the tree yesterday.”

On another interesting, slightly unrelated note, the same can be said about the words “shocked” and “electrocuted”. The word “electrocuted” implies death.

Numbers are confusing....

I just did a Google search to find some of the rules for writing numbers and numerals and I was confused. Below are two links to a the ones that I felt most closely matched one another. I didn't know that so much thought could be put into spelling or not spelling numbers. Whoa!

After reading these articles, I still don't think that I know when to spell numbers out for people. Just reading the post by Richie Mae really got me thinking. There are some clear rules there, but there are more rules in the articles I read.

Also, thinking back on this same post, I went and looked at a math book that I still had and couldn't believe that the what Richie said was totally true. Math books are inconsistent in naming their naming of numbers.

More about numbers…

A post by my student Ritchie Mae will be of interest to those who want to know when to spell out numbers and when to use digits. Please note that she asks about other things as well, so the responses to her post cover additional matters.

To know or not to know…

Tisha commented on Cindy's post about Orhan Pamuk. I thought her comment was worth special attention, so I'm copying it here and responding below:
Thanks, Cindy. Although I read Snow, too, I knew nothing about Pamuk. Probably because I had only that book to go on, I read the his circling back to statements about writing in one's own room as characteristic of his style; my memory of Snow is that the protagonist's life in the book also proceeded in a very circular fashion. He, too, kept returning to his room, going to have tea, looking out the window, etc. And the book seemed to proceed very deliberately, just as the lecture did.

This makes me wonder if it is an advantage for an editor to know a writer's history, including political and social entanglements, or whether it is better, or easier on the editor, not to know much about the author, but just to approach editing a piece with a minimum of information about the author.
In my experience, it's not necessary to know much about the author. However, if the work is about a certain political or historical period, it does help to know something about that period.

In most cases, you will know little about the author, and what you know about him or her will be far less important than what you know about the work. Understanding the author's intention, meaning, style, audience, and so forth is always critical to editing a manuscript well; knowing something about the author usually is not.

Capitalization Confusion

Since I wasn't in class Thursday I'm not sure whether or not this was discussed, so I'll mention it anyway. I felt like I really knew the rules of capitalization until I attempted the exercise on page 164. Some of the words were pretty clear, like lower-casing "Staff Secretary," but others really threw me, "Deputy Undersecretary of the Army" for example. I think the context made this exercise a little bit more difficult. Did anyone else feel this way?

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Slightly altered for posting here, this extract is from an essay that the journal I work for will be publishing in a few months. Note that statistical data are reported here, so most of the numbers are in digits.
In addition, large increases in dog populations bring another set of problems. According to a 2004 study conducted by the Association for the Prevention and Control of Rabies in India (and sponsored by the United Nations’ World Heath Organization), approximately 17 million people in India are bitten by dogs each year, or roughly one person every two seconds. Nationwide, the vast majority of the victims belong to “poor” or “low-income” economic groups (75 percent), and in rural areas the consequences fall especially heavily on these poorer groups (80.3 percent).

While dog attacks are by themselves significant, dogs in India are also the primary vector for the transmission of rabies to humans, accounting for approximately 96 percent of all transmissions. There are, therefore, fears that the incidence of rabies in India may be beginning to climb as a result of the increasing number of dogs. It is estimated that already 60 percent of the world’s rabies deaths occur in India: approximately 25,000 to 30,000 per year, or one death every thirty minutes. While vaccinations are available for rabies, and seem to be reaching many people, the total number of deaths from rabies is decreasing only slightly—perhaps due to the enormous number of people being exposed to the disease in recent years. It should not be forgotten that rabies causes a horrifically painful death. The guide of the British Medical Association (BMA) notes, “Once clinical symptoms of rabies appear, there is no known cure and the victim is virtually certain to die an agonizing and terrifying death.”

Like anthrax and dog attacks, rabies does not affect all social groups equally. The aforementioned 2004 study concluded that not only are more people from “poor” or “low-income” socioeconomic groups bitten, but these people also account for 87.6 percent of all those killed by rabies. In addition, most of the victims are adult males, and the study noted that their deaths frequently place additional economic hardships on families.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Orhan Pamuk

Dear Classmates,

Please feel free to edit me. I am in the class to learn what I don't know, and to establish the mistakes that I've been making all along.

I want to elaborate on the controversies that surround Orhan Pamuk, as I understand them. I would also like to provide support for the comments that I made in class about the tone of the ancillary document discussed.

Prior to his acceptance of the Nobel Prize (2006), Pamuk’s contemporaries accused him of plagiarism (2002). According to reports, certain story lines, specific paragraphs, and particular ideas found in Pamuk’s My Name is Red and The White Castle are the original works of other authors. Pamuk rebuffed the allegations, but received an eternal black eye as a result of the claims against him. Apparently, he is both loved by some and hated by many in his native country.

Orhan Pamuk was the first writer from a predominately Muslim country to win the Nobel Prize for fiction since 1988, when Naguib Mahfouz of Egypt took home the honor. After receiving this prestigious award, Pamuk was interviewed by a Swiss Newspaper. It was during this interview that litigious issues emerged. Despite Turkey’s censorship around national crimes against humanity, Pamuk made comments during his discussion with the reporter about how Turkey was responsible for the deaths of over 1 million Armenians. -The Armenian Massacre, was the premeditated and methodical destruction of the Armenian population, by the Ottoman Empire, during and immediately after World War I. (The word genocide was conceived as a result of the Armenian carnage.) The Turks ruthlessly killed over 1 million Armenians, according to historians. - Pamuk said that his country was in denial about their role in the slaughter. His efforts to air the country’s dirty laundry instigated criminal charges against the Nobel Prize winner - for "insulting" the parliament, the military, and the nationals. However, about a year later, and after much legal wrangling, the charges were dropped.

When I was reading the transcripts from the public lecture given by Pamuk, I couldn't shake the feeling that he was addressing his contemporaries in a passive-aggressive way. He spends a lot of time explaining his own process as a writer as if he is trying to defend himself against the allegations of plagiarism, for example. In the first paragraph when talking about the writer he says, “it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words.” By portraying this image of being shut away from society, Pamuk suggests that he could not be influenced by outside sources because he spends his time in self-imposed confinement. The transcript, in my opinion, is littered with this circuitous oration. Pamuk uses this platform to address the well-publicized contentious issues also.

In the last paragraph he begins his ending thoughts with “A writer talks of things that everyone knows but does not know they know. To explore this knowledge, and to watch it grow, is a pleasurable thing…” Because of the suppression in Turkey about the Armenian incident, the nationals were prohibited from even considering the concept of the crimes committed on the Turkish soil during World War I. As I said earlier, it was this horrific event that prompted the international community to name the crime, “Genocide” also known as “Crimes Against Humanity.” The International Criminal Court was not in existence until after the World War II and Nuremberg, the birthplace of the Nazi party, and consequent post-war tribunals set up to address War Crimes and other crimes against humanity. So, Turkey was never held accountable for their atrocities. In his interview with the newspaper, Pamuk merely pointed out the pink elephant in Turkey’s living room. In his public lecture in 2006, as the newly crowned Nobel Prize recipient, he did it again.

On a separate note, one of my all-time favorite books is Snow by Orhan Pamuk. He is a phenomenal writer.


I was looking up a word on the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and fell in love when I came across this video. This link is to a video that discusses the plural of octopus, but the editors of Merriam-Webster have put together a lot of short videos discussing different word usages. Enjoy!

(Also, I think I will say octopodes from now on to inspire discussions of etymology!)

More about our recent discussions…

A picture of our friend Orhan Pamuk, and herewith a few thoughts about his speech…

I find that I keep returning to Cindy's statements that Pamuk is controversial and that she detected some defensiveness in his speech. It occurred to me this morning that the parenthetical text we were looking at yesterday was perhaps inserted after the speech was written. That is, perhaps while Pamuk was delivering his lecture, he had the thought expressed in parentheses, and this was inserted into the printed version that circulated on the Internet. Let's look at that passage again:

The angel of inspiration (who pays regular visits to some and rarely calls on others) favors the hopeful and the confident, and it is when a writer feels most lonely, when he feels most doubtful about his efforts, his dreams, and the value of his writing--when he thinks his story is only his story--it is at such moments that the angel chooses to reveal to him stories, images and dreams that will draw out the world he wishes to build.

Notice an apparent contradiction here: the angel "favors the hopeful and the confident," but it is when the writer "feels most lonely...most doubtful about his efforts, his dreams, and the value of his writing" that the angel will bless him or her with inspiration.

It seems to me that Pamuk--and perhaps this is his particular gift--is recording his thoughts and musings as they form, leading us to where he is led. I am sure there is editing, but in the hands of someone so skillful, thinking is a highly trained horse, taking him--and us--to new places without faltering, falling, or getting lost. To someone like this, a thought formed in an instant--for example, when giving a public lecture--has a place in the whole scheme of exploration, revelation, and conclusion.

What is the significance, though? Is he simply saying the equivalent of "Gee, I'm a lucky dog to get regular visits from the angel" or "Tough luck to those who are rarely visited"--or is it something else? Even though the words are few and quite ordinary, I think he might be commenting on his place in the literary world in relation to that of others--and on the fact that to some degree, it is outside his control, an occurrence for which he should be neither praised nor envied.

The parenthetical text might be the result, as I said earlier, of some editing done after the speech was delivered; or it could reflect his making a point that is important to himself but less so to others. By the use of parentheses, he therefore both reveals and conceals.

Today is National Punctuation Day

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I, too, have been interested to learn about Eleanor Gould Packard. One of the most interesting things, I thought, was her abhorrence of indirection, which former New Yorker editor Harold Ross is said to have shared. I had never heard of indirection and wasn't sure what it was, but this morning I read an obituary in the Star Advertiser that I think has two good examples in the first paragraph:

"After she died this month, a frail 89-year-old alone in a flat in the British seaside town of Torquay, Eileen Nearne, her body undiscovered for several days, was listed by local officials as a candidate for what is known in Britain as a council burial, or what in the past was known as a pauper's grave."

Is this indirection? If it is, I can see why it might be annoying. (Eileen Nearne was awarded a number of medals for her work with the French resistance during World War II.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hard to believe...

SOUTH BEND — If you ever wondered how much difference just one letter can make when it comes to a message, ask the thousands of people who drove by a digital billboard near the intersection of Ironwood and Indiana 23 between Thursday and Monday morning.

The ad urged people to go to the “” website for a look at the “15 best things about our pubic schools.” That’s right, the billboard said “pubic” instead of “public” schools. The letter “L” had been left out of the word public.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Punctuation matters too!

Lisa L. posted about when to capitalize a word; and how the meaning of a word can change depending on whether or not a capital letter is used. The same can be said about punctuation. The meaning of a sentence can be drastically altered by the arrangement of the punctuation.

Written by Richard Lederer and John Shore, "Comma Sense - A FUNdamental Guide to Punctuation," relies on humor to teach the principles of punctuation.

“‘Writing well is important for business, but it also can be crucial in love,’ the writers warn. “Do you want to say, ‘I would like to tell you that I love you. I can’t stop thinking that you are one of the prettiest women on Earth,’ or ‘I would like to tell you that I love you. I can’t. Stop thinking that you are one of the prettiest women on Earth.’? As Lederer and Shore say, ‘Punctuation can mean the difference between a second date and a restraining order.”"


One of many explanations can be found at

More about Eleanor Gould Packard...

After reading "Grammarian, Copy Editor, Magazine Legend" by Janny Scott, I thought I would do more research on Eleanor Gould Packard.

Wow, what an amazingly gifted, focused, and dedicated, woman.

E.B White gives Eleanor credit for her for her contributions to the second edition of "The Elements of Style." (The first edition was written by William Strunk Jr.) In her obituary, which she contributed to before her death, her boss called her "indispensable."

"“My list of pet language peeves,” she once told The Key Reporter, the Phi Beta Kappa newsletter, “would certainly include writers’ use of indirection (i.e., slipping new information into a narrative as if the reader already knew it); confusion between restrictive and non-restrictive phrases and clauses (‘that’ goes with restrictive clauses, and, ordinarily, ‘which’ with nonrestrictive); careless repetition; and singular subjects with plural verbs and vice versa.” She was a fiend for problems of sequence and logic. In her presence, modifiers dared not dangle. She could find a solecism in a Stop sign.""

I stand in awe of such talent.
I recently wrote a short blog for HONOLULU magazine on-line. I was reporting on specials that the bars are having for football promotions. The Yard House was having specials on bloody mary, mimosa, and other cocktails. At first I capitalized them all. I was following the e-mail the manager had sent. Then I was not sure if they should or shouldn't be. I had to go ask the editor. She said it was not in their style to capitalize the names of drinks, even if it is their proper name. Made sense after, but I am glad I asked.

I always turn to the Grammar Girl for her Quick and Dirty Tips.
So here’s the Quick and Dirty Tip on random or vanity capitalization: don’t.

One reason capitalization matters is that a word’s meaning can change depending on whether it's uppercase or lowercase.

“See those three domiciles over there? Well, I live in the white house.” That’s quite different from, “I live in the White House [capital W, capital H].” That White House is where the president lives.

In English, we capitalize words that are proper nouns—that is, they describe a specific thing or entity. They could be a title, a name, or a specific place such as the president's residence: [THEE] White House.

We lowercase words that are considered common nouns—that is, they can be used to describe many things, such as any one of the multitude of white colored houses in the world.

(As an aside, I'll note that in German all nouns and certain pronouns get uppercased; now there's a gratuitous “Das Kapital” reference just waiting to be made. And so I made one.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Classifieds Need Editing, Too

This ad was seen in the current issue of Ka Leo:
Work Wanted
Looking for a part time offer where you can earn
extra income at your own flexible schedule plus
benefits that takes only little of your time.
Requirements -
* Should be a computer Literate.
* 1-2 hours access to the internet weekly.
* Must be Efficient and Dedicated
contact us with your resume for more details and
job information at

Hurry.don't wait! This great opportunity is limited
so contact All Beauty Cosmetics Inc. today!
So, I think it's fair to say that the classifieds don't get edited! Let's see what we can do with this...
Help Wanted
Looking for a part-time job with benefits where you can earn
extra income on a flexible schedule that only takes a little
of your time?

Requirements -
* Should be computer literate.
* Access Internet 1-2 hours weekly.
* Must be efficient and dedicated.

Email your resume to Heather at
for more information and details.
Hurry, don't wait! This great opportunity is limited.
Contact All Beauty Cosmetics, Inc. today!
I'm assuming that the email address is correct, but it might be a good idea to verify it with the submitter, too. As a suggestion to the submitter, I think it might be a good idea to make the email address something a little less confusing. I think she's going for e-heather-all-beauty-cos-inc, but it's easy to see how readers might see the word "ethereal" or "e-health" that might cause the email address to be misentered.

Otherwise, most of the corrections were related to word ordering and inconsistencies in punctuation and capitalization.

Parentheses Problem

Recently, I've been encountering a new way to format a parenthetical sentence. And I was following the book's explanation for this new structuring, till I found this (p. 76-77):
  • Last year popular fiction accounted for half of all books purchased. (Business and self-help books were the second largest category.)
  • Last year popular fiction accounted for half of all books purchased (business and self-help books were the second largest category).
From what I've read, it looks like the period would be on the inside of the parentheses if the sentence was "its own complete" sentence; otherwise, it would be outside. Yet, the only difference between the sentences is format, not content. Does this mean that the definition of "complete" sentences at some point becomes subjective and that subsequently the placement of parenthetical sentences also becomes subjective? Thanks :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How About Comic Book Copy Editing?

The other day I was re-arranging things in my room and came across an old comic book of mine. It then occurred to me, being that I am taking this editing class, I wanted to know how these get edited. I looked on the internet, inputting my query into a few different search engines, and came up empty handed. I don't know who copy edits comics, but I assume that the type of editing that occurs is very light due to its creative nature. I also noticed that the language used in comics is sometimes made up. I promise this will be my last inquiry into this subject, but who edits these types of publications?

"Is Spelling Important?"

In light of our recent spelling test, which surprisingly stumped me repeatedly, I thought I'd post this piece. Oh yeah, and I'd get more A's in spelling if the only requirement was to put the letters provided in the correct order.

Here is an [unsigned] article which is making the e-mail circuit. It tries to prove that all of us read with a whole word approach.

"Can you raed tihs?

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid; aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.

The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

If you can raed tihs forwrad it."

Read more about this at

How Does I Engrish?

While looking for something to post for the week I happened to rediscover the wonders and joys of The website portrays failures of English that exist in our world and have been perfectly captured and documented in there natural habitats. At the expanse of others, it serves to remind me how difficult our language, and all its nuances, can be, even things that we take for granted, such as, the proper use of commas. Its also hilarious. Grammer is hard!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Stein and punctuation

Lisa posted an excerpt from a Gertrude Stein piece, which gives me a nice opportunity to post this from our textbook. (I spliced the bottom of page 72 with the top of page 73.)

Punctuation Saves Lives! (Another illustration of commas with direct addresses)

Facebook, it seems, proves to be a venerable buffet of errors in punctuation, grammar, and spelling. This morning, I came across this little gem (whose author shall remain anonymous!):

"Damn we going to eat good people!"

Ignoring the incorrect use of the present progressive in the author's verb, your eyes might be drawn to the more hilarious problem at work here—eat good people! Because of the way this sentence is written, it appears that the noun phrase good people is the direct object of the sentence's main verb, eat. A direct object is the element in a sentence that directly receives the action of a verb—it answers the question of "what?" or "whom?" In the case of this particular sentence, the direct object would answer the question of "eat what?" or "eat whom?"

That's right: eat good people. In other words, we are going to eat people who are good.

Most readers of that sentence, however, would probably safely assume that the author is not revealing his or her cannibalistic tendencies, but is rather addressing an audience, whom he or she refers to as people. The author is telling people that we going to eat good or, more correctly, that "we are going to eat well." To avoid causing certain readers to spit out their Special K cereal during their casual perusals of social networking Web sites, the author should make it clear that he or she is directly addressing an audience by inserting a comma to separate the addressee from the rest of the sentence. Thus, the sentence would read, "Damn we going to eat good, people!"

There. Now we know that people aren't going to be eaten.

Oh, and on a somewhat related but somewhat less important note, one should also insert commas to set off interjections in sentences. Words like "yes," "no," "hi," and "bye" as well as emotive expressions like "ugh," "ahem," "wow," and "gosh" are interjections. Damn, which is a markedly more intensified variation of "darn," would fall into the interjection category—it's a word that, as Wikipedia puts it, expresses an isolated emotion related to the rest of the sentence. Anyway, with commas properly in place to set off interjections and direct addresses, the sentence above would read, "Damn, we going to eat good, people!"

So, remember, folks: A comma is sometimes the only difference between an innocent call for joyful merriment and a merciless command to evoke humanity's most ignoble instincts!

"Let's eat, Grandma!" vs. "Let's eat Grandma!" Which one do you mean?

Friday, September 17, 2010


Samantha used this wonderful word in her analysis of the business letter. Here are two meanings from my computer's dictionary:
  • a particular part of the range of a voice or instrument : his voice moved up a register | she plays a basset horn and relishes the duskiness of its lower register.
  • Linguistics a variety of a language or a level of usage, as determined by degree of formality and choice of vocabulary, pronunciation, and syntax, according to the communicative purpose, social context, and social status of the user.
Register in the context she created no doubt means the second, but I like the idea of it suggesting both: the voice on the page striking the ear of the reader in a way determined by language use.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Style and "Truth" in Autobiography

I was reading today from Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson's Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives and came across two things that were relevant to topics we have covered in class.

The first is an excerpt from Gertrude Stein's Everybody's Autobiography that has a vastly different style from anything we have seen in class and would certainly be fun to edit (if it needed it).

It is funny this knowing being a genius, everything is funny. And
identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself
to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course
you do not believe yourself. That is really the trouble with an
autobiography you do not of course you do not really believe
yourself why should you, you know so well so very well that it is not
yourself, it could not be yourself because you cannot remember
right and if you do remember right it does not sound right and of
course it does not sound right because it is not right. You are of
course never yourself.

This passage, besides being hilarious, really made me think how challenging it would be to analyze and maintain the style while editing.

The second thing that I came across was the idea of Autobiographical Truth, which relates back to our discussion that we had on James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. This isn't really related to editing at all, but I found it enlightening and wanted to share. Smith and Watson refer to autobiography as "an intersubjective truth" that requires the reader to bend their version of truth while reading. Although I don't think they would necessarily agree that purposely altering truth for the purpose of selling more novels is an ethical decision, they do state that, "any utterance in an autobiographical text, even if inaccurate or distorted, characterizes its writer." Food for thought.

A Quick and Dirty Crash Course in Infinitives

In light of my brief attempt to define infinitives today while discussing our style analysis of Pamuk's speech, I feel compelled to spend one blog post articulating more clearly what is meant by "infinitive" and providing some examples of its use.

An infinitive is the original, most basic form of a verb. It consists of to and a verb's base form. (To, of course, is what most of us would identify as a preposition, as in to the store, but when it precedes a base form of a verb to form an infinitive, it's called a "particle" instead.) Here are some examples of infinitives:

to walk
to play
to give
to eat
to be

The metaphor I use in explaining infinitives is to think of an infinitive as the "basic" model of a verb that you receive when you purchase one from an online retailer. The verb arrives in your mailbox "packaged" as an infinitive and accompanied by instructions showing you how to "mold" the infinitive into a number of different verb forms. These forms are what grammarians call the principal parts of a verb, and every verb has five. Let's look at an example—here are the principal parts of the verb give:

Base (or Present): give
Present Third-Person Singular: gives
Past: gave
Past Participle: given
Present Participle: giving

For something a little more challenging, let's try the most widely used verb in the English language: be. What makes be slightly harder to work with is the fact that it can be more extensively conjugated than other verbs. While every other verb has a base and one additional present form, be has three additional present forms. Further complicating matters, it also has two different past forms. Here's how this verb would be mapped out:

Base: be
Present: am (first-person singular), is (third-person singular), and are (second-person singular or plural as well as third-person plural)
Past: was (first- or third-person singular) and were (third-person plural)
Past Participle: been
Present Participle: being

Anyway, remember—when you order a verb from an online store, it arrives in your mailbox packaged as an infinitive, but you can feel free to mold it into other forms (any of the principal parts) to fit your sentences' needs.

Okay, now, what about the infinitive itself? How is that used in sentences? There are three ways.

1. Using an infinitive as an adjective.
An infinitive can function as an adjective in a sentence. Here's an example:

In light of my brief attempt to define infinitives today...

This probably looks familiar! Yes, the first sentence I wrote in this post contains an infinitive (to define), and it is functioning as an adjective. It modifies the noun attempt by telling us which attempt I'm talking about. Remember that adjectives modify nouns by describing them or specifying them, and specifying which attempt I mean is precisely what the infinitive to define does. Also, don't be fooled by an adjective's post-noun position. Recall that sometimes adjectives can and do come after the nouns they modify.

2. Using an infinitive as an adverb.
An infinitive can function as an adverb in a sentence. Here's an example:

Clark went home to relax.

Here, the infinitive to relax is fulfilling the role of an adverb by telling us why Clark went home. Remember that adverbs most often modify verbs by telling how, where, when, or why an action takes place, and telling why Clark went home is precisely what the infinitive to relax does.

3. Using an infinitive as a noun.
As I briefly pointed out today, an infinitive can function as a noun in a sentence. Here's an example:

To stay is a bad idea.

Here, the infinitive to stay is acting as a noun and can therefore fulfill the role of subject in this sentence. When you look at a sentence like this and try to determine the role of the infinitive, it may be helpful to read it to yourself while substituting the infinitive with a pronoun like "something." Thus, the sentence would read, "Something is a bad idea." That "something" would be, obviously, a noun as well as the subject of the sentence (since you can see that the only thing remaining is the predicate).

So, there you have it! I hope this has made infinitives at least somewhat clearer for you! If you have any further questions about infinitives and their uses, feel free to ask in the comments. :)


Lisa's post reminded me that I wanted to go over the letter in terms of its aims or purposes. I see four:
  1. Follow up on the job performed for the customer.
  2. Thank the customer for choosing the company.
  3. Request two things from the customer: (a) that he or she post comments on the Internet about the company; and (b) that he or she refer family and friends to the company.
  4. Build customer loyalty.
If the writer had concentrated on these four things and devoted one paragraph to each, he would have had a better letter.

A few other thoughts: I calculated that it would cost around $20 a month to send this letter to forty customers (if the company gets two every day). About $18 would be spent on postage and $2 on stationery, assuming a ream of nice paper cost about $25. Most of the businessman's expenses could therefore be spent on having a professional edit or rewrite the letter.

Spelling is for the bees...

I thought this was interesting because it had two things we've covered in class: spelling and James Frey, author of A Little Million Pieces.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Diane von Furstenberg Studio
440 W 14th Street, NYC
7:00pm Canapes 'n Cocktails
Buzzless Bidding Silent Auction
8:00pm Bee

Ben Greenman returns to defend the coveted aluminum foil
crown against a swarm of usurping spellers.

Brave Spelling Bees so far:

Jonathan Burnham (Publisher, HarperCollins) Sloane Crosley (HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER) Nancy Franklin (The New Yorker) James Frey (BRIGHT SHINY MORNING) Ben Greenman (WHAT HE'S POISED TO DO) Tyehimba Jess (LEADBELLY) Tayari Jones(THE UNTELLING) Dave King (THE HA-HA) Philip Lopate (NOTES ON SONTAG) Patrick McGrath (TRAUMA) Bernice McFadden (GLORIOUS) Jay McInerney (HOW IT ENDED) Rick Moody (THE FOUR FINGERS OF DEATH) Michael Musto (LA DOLCE MUSTO, The Village Voice) Francine Prose (ANNE FRANK: THE BOOK, THE LIFE, THE AFTERLIFE) Tiphanie Yanique (HOW TO ESCAPE FROM A LEPER COLONY) And More!

Emcee: Bob Morris (ASSISTED LOVING)

Judge: Jesse Sheidlower (Editor-at-Large, OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I read through everyone's posts about the badly written letter we are to edit. I think the one thing that has been overlooked is that this is a solicitation letter or request. I worked for a firm that sent these out regularly after business had been completed. That being said, they are usually a template situation that are made to cut and past names into certain points of the letter. What this plumber is trying to do is get referrals. A complete rewrite is almost necessary to make it flow better.
As for the beginning, I think the "Aloha!" should be completely taken out. I do not think that is how a business letter should even start.

The Letter...

I am mortified that any company would send something like this out to its customers or the general public!!! I agree with Samantha in that I am having extreme difficulty simply copyediting, rather than tearing this piece apart and rewriting (something I had alluded to earlier when it came to editing papers). I'm truly frustrated because there are so many basic grammatical mistakes that it seems almost impossible to even distinguish a starting point!

Response to Samantha

Samantha, I tried to use Photoshop's tools to give you an idea of how this might be tackled. Here is what I came up with--a little bit clumsy but understandable, I think. Of course, this is just one possible solution among many.

Note: I can't remember if I covered the double slanted line after the delete mark in line 2; probably not. It is like a ditto mark and simply means to repeat; in this case, it means delete twice in this line.

Moving Large Sections of Text

I am looking at the business letter we were assigned to edit and having a difficult time drawing the line between editing and rewriting. I have been trying to make changes by moving and combining sentences and now I am wondering what is the cleanest way to indicate those changes. We have already seen a few examples of how to move phrases, etc. but how, for example, would I best indicate the following change:

Aloha! We just wanted to follow up with you on how are you and if everything is coming along satisfactory with your tub installation job, which we did for you on January 22 of this year.

Aloha! We wanted to follow up on the tub installation job we did for you on January 22 of this year to ensure that everything is coming along satisfactorily.

Aside from some of the more minor edits, what is the cleanest way to move a large chunk of text without rewriting it?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


See this Wikipedia entry for a discussion of the word Jeff McGregor used in his editorial on Coach McMackin.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Newspaper editing

I asked my friend George Beetham Jr., a longtime newspaperman and the editor of The Review, if he would write a response to Ricky's post. He sent this reply.

Newspaper editors work with stories written by staff writers as well as news releases from a variety of sources. News releases from outside sources are very likely to receive heavy editing to fit the piece to the newspaper's style. While stories written by staffers should be ready to go into print, editors frequently need to rework stories. You will see evidence of this from time to time, particularly when paragraphs have been moved around by a copy editor who didn't bother to go over his or her own work very well. (For example, sources referred to in a second reference, or last name, before being introduced with their full name and title.) While the story may have required reorganization, an editor needs to be aware of what was changed, why it was changed, and what effects the change may have on the rest of the story. Stories that come in on deadline may get a cursory edit for that edition, but get extensive reworking for a later edition on the basis of information obtained after the earlier edition went to press. Ledes may be reworked to reflect new developments with earlier paragraphs repeated verbatim later in the story. At some point the editors may opt for a complete write-through to incorporate later developments and make a story more readable.

There really are no hard-and-fast rules for newspaper editing. It depends on the story, how well it was written originally, how much time the editor has, and how information comes into the newsroom. Invariably, copy editors working under deadline pressure ought not to undertake major structural changes unless they have time to go over the edited work thoroughly to avoid the glitches noted above. I have seen published accounts of a candidate running for public office with the office he was seeking not mentioned until late in the jump, by which time a reader would be seething at the incompetent boob who wrote the piece. It might not have been an incompetent writer, but an incompetent editor.

Last, it would be well for newspaper editors to go over the story with the writer to discuss changes and why they are necessary. Besides helping a reporter grow in the craft, it gets the reporter's expertise into the editing process to avoid editing mistakes. There is not always time for this process to take place, but there should be.

Inserting images

Lisa C., Cindy, and whoever else is having trouble inserting images: I found that the insert-image function does not work in Firefox; however, it is fine in Safari and Chrome. You might try switching to another browser and see if that does the trick.

Grammar News

The New York Times has a nice site called Grammar News, with links to articles, books, and blogs. Several items on the site are relevant to our topic of how, and how much, to edit. One in particular is “Let’s Kill All the Copy Editors” (, written by a manuscript editor at a university press. It stresses that editors and authors need to learn to cooperate.


A good explanation of dashes from a good source.

Style elements

I had told Ashley I'd post something Frank Stewart, the head of my office, wrote in response to her post. Here it is (edited a bit, of course). Tomorrow, I'll bring an article to class that illustrates his points.

We can think of several elements, all contingent on the particular "style" the author is using in a particular circumstance, for a particular audience and function. What are the "style" elements we see in a particular piece of writing?
1. Level of diction (big words, Latinate words, slang words, foreign words)
2. Sentence structure (long sentences, short sentences, complex, simple, fragments, parallel and formal)
3. Punctuation (dashes instead of semicolons, full stops rather than commas or semicolons, exclamations)
4. Paragraphing (short or long, for emphasis or whole thoughts)
5. Tone (serious, silly, sarcastic, witty, lofty)
6. Person (first, second, third; one rather than you or we)
An editor can try to maintain the "style" of the author when editing. The objective usually is not to impose a style, but to help the author to maintain her own situational style by making her aware of what it is, and as an editor conforming to it as much as possible. Bad grammar, typos, ill-considered tone, illogical punctuation and paragraphing are not a "style" except in special circumstances. Surely an author doesn't need help with editing a work when the author uses those kinds of elements and wishes to retain them.

The Glamour of Grammar

While reading a New York Times piece about the new edition of The Chicago Manual, I came across this link. Be sure to read this article. It will revive the grammar fan (or fiend) in you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Editing Within Different Mediums?

Reading the bit about “One Paragraph, Three Ways” was very interesting, as I had never thought about the importance of preserving the author’s style when editing. However I was wondering if copyediting in different mediums call specifically for different degrees of editing "heaviness". For example, it would probably be safe to assume that maintaining authorial style would be very important in a novel, and so a light copyedit would be used to revise the piece. But what about magazines, newspapers, or web pages? Are there any standards that are restrictive of the medium that the editor must work in?

Still learning

I've never known how to properly use a semicolon. Hell, I don't even think I ever used one and I'm a English major. In the end, it took illustrations; I'm twenty-five.

PS: I'm guessing the semicolons placement on the keyboard dates back to when people actually knew how to write.

"Nit-picker's Bible"

So, Google News has informed me that the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style has just been released and is generating a lot of buzz. Well, buzz for a bunch of grammar nerds anyway. So, here are some of the facts I found interesting while reading this 3 PAGE homage:
  • The Chicago Manual of Style has 11,000+ fans on FB.
  • The preferred spelling of the term "U.S." has been updated to: "US."
  • The proper citation for Wikipedia is now included.
  • The rule for sequential punctuation marks has been rethought - "Chicago says it is now OK in certain situations to use a comma directly after a question mark or exclamation point."
  • People seem to do more than just respect this book - they love it. They adore it. They want to make little half-text, half-human babies with it.
Overall, it was kind of interesting to read some of the ways that copyeditors think about this book. It's clear that it's one of their most vital tools. During editing tests they're often given this book and nothing else to reference. I've had to use it, but it certainly hasn't taken on the significance for me that it has for others. Not yet, anyway :D

Editing Student Essays

I wish I had read "One Paragraph, Three Ways" many years ago when I began tutoring students for SAT and SSAT. I felt that most of the time I was completely rewriting and reworking their essays to fit my style. After reading this section I realized that what I should have been focusing on was their style, maintaining internal consistency within their essays. The author notes that by resisting the urge to rewrite someone's writing, the copyeditor will be able to "devote more of [their] attention to [their] primary responsibilities." Rather than change the writing around to fit the editor's voice, a copyeditor should devote time and energy into finding mechanical errors, internal inconsistencies, and grammatical mistakes.

Editing English as a Second Language

The article "One Paragraph, Three Ways" brings up the important point of maintaining authorial style, but I'm curious how one goes about doing this when English is the writer's second language. How do you balance the need to maintain the author's style when there are severe errors in the author's writing that require sentence structure to be altered or even re-written?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A few comments and questions...

"One Paragraph, Three Ways" touched on a big issue I have while informally editing friend's papers: maintaining the author's style. When I come across sentences that are poorly written or that I feel need to be rewritten altogether, it is extremely hard for me not to impose my own style. This becomes especially difficult if I run into many sentences that fit this description.

Obviously this applies more in a teaching scenario, as opposed to a professional copyediting setting. However, I am curious as to how to best edit a paper in this situation.

Friday, September 10, 2010

When do I...

The text we read was interesting in that it made me come to better understand when to edit the text. During the first week of classes, I was honestly tempted to change the author's text. As the article stated, however, there are a large amount of questions that include how to continue the author's style. It brought me to thinking about the legality of editing it after we discussed the publishing process in class yesterday. How does the author get input in what changes are included when the publication goes to print after they receive the galleys?

Diacritical marks

A nice explanation of diacritical marks from a designer's point of view.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

For openers...

I'll open the discussion on "One Paragraph, Three Ways." I found the conclusion quite provocative: "you will neatly sidestep an issue that often troubles novice copyeditors: 'How do I maintain the author's style?' That issue will not arise if you focus on copyediting—not rewriting—and if you explain problems to your authors and ask them either to resolve the problems or to select among the alternatives you are posing."

It could be true that, most of the time, beginning copyeditors will not have to be concerned with an author's style. However, sooner or later, they will be editing someone's work and will come across a sentence or a passage that needs revising. At that point, they will have to think about the author's style and how to fix the syntactical or logical problem without disturbing it.

Let me add that in our office there are many kinds of copyediting. We don't only copyedit the work of our authors. We also copyedit catalog text for our publisher, UH Press; e-mail messages to authors that need to be diplomatic while explaining fairly complex matters (my boss and I send such things back and forth to each other); procedures for our staff; grant applications and reports; promotional materials, such as information sheets, flyers, and ads; fund-raising letters; and so forth. Sometimes these materials require a certain voice or style.

Of course, junior staff members usually don't work on these things; however, we will occasionally give them a small writing task or ask them to review grant applications and reports. For example, we recently asked a graduate student on our staff to work on catalog copy for UH Press. She drafted the text after my boss explained to her what he felt was special about our forthcoming issue, which pieces he especially liked and why, etc. A creative writer, she was sensitive to what he was saying and how he was expressing his feelings and thoughts. She came up with something quite unusual. My boss edited it and then gave it to me. I did some significant editing to a few parts, and he edited the text again. After all that was done, some of her contribution still remained. We were all pleased with the results.

Of course, there is always tomorrow, and it's likely that the copy will be edited again :-)

P.S. I want to point out that in the first paragraph of this post, there is a quotation within a quotation. You use double quotation marks for the enclosing quotation and single quotation marks for the enclosed one.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"To" vs. "Too"

I noticed an error in the second paragraph of the post "Factual queries". I've added a link that explains clearly the difference between "too", the adverb and "to", the preposition.

Here is the original post:

"I assume the copyeditor shouldn't spend to much time looking for factual errors. On the other hand, our editor sometimes recognizes errors of fact in my newsletter, for which I am very grateful!"

I was not familiar with "to" as an anaphor, so I've included that information.

To is an anaphor. Sorry! Anaphor is not commonly taught, but it’s an important use of to and one that’s often confused with too, because it can come at the end of a sentence. An anaphor is simply a word that stands in for another word or group of words.There is one type of anaphor that you’ve probably heard of: pronoun. A pronoun stands in for a noun or noun phrase. Well, pronoun is a member of the anaphor group. Yes, group: there are other words that can act as anaphors, and the particle to is one of them.

Here’s how it works:

First a phrase beginning with an infinitive appears, say:to get up early and catch the bus to the fish market

Then, there’s a reference back to it in which to stands for the entire phrase so it doesn’t all have to be repeated. In these cases, to usually ends the sentence.

Gillian plans to get up early and catch the bus to the fish market, but I certainly don’t plan to.

THIS IS NOT A DANGLING PREPOSITION! It can’t be, because it’s not a prepositional use of to!

But, because the to comes at the end of the sentence, where we are used to seeing too meaning “in addition,” we may unthinkingly substitute one for the other.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Celebrate puncutation

Apostrophe's: Abused Mark's of Punctuation!

Those of you who read a lot of students' papers (say, if you're a peer writing tutor or something) or who just spend a lot of time on Facebook will likely run into a piece of composition that resembles this:

I did so many thing's today! First I had egg's and waffle's for breakfast, and then I gathered my book's and thing's for school. I found out I had to read several chapter's because my teacher's will have lot's of test's for us over the next few day's. Then my friend's met me after I ran some errand's, and we went to two different party's! I only had three drink's, but I still had my parent's pick me up. I would hate to crash into all those car's on the road's!

It is staggering to see how misued—nay, abused—the apostrophe has become. More and more commonly, the apostrophe is egregiously deployed to make plural nouns when, in fact, making a noun plural typically involves nothing more than adding the letter "s" to the noun sans the apostrophe.

Turning a singular noun into a plural noun? No problem. Just add an "s."

Granted, pluralizing a noun becomes just a tad trickier when the noun is supposed to undergo a bigger change, but whether you like it or not, still no apostrophe is needed. The example above, for instance, has party's, whose correct plural form is "parties." Ugh.

Okay, now that I've addressed simple plural nouns and their incompatibility with apostrophes, let's take a look at what apostrophes are actually meant for.

The first use of an apostrophe is to mark a noun—whether singular or plural—as possessive. Here are some examples:

When the noun is singular, the apostrophe is followed by an "s," as in
The cat's bowl or
Bruce's car or
The school's headmaster.

When the noun is already plural, the apostrophe follows the "s," as in
The books' covers or
His dogs' leashes.

The second use of an apostrophe is to indicate omitted letters in contractions. Here are some examples:

Don't = Do not
Won't = Will not
Shouldn't = Should not
It's = It is
They're = They are

On a related note, occasionally apostrophes are used to omit letters in informal writings, such as when the writer is attempting to reflect the idiosyncrasies of slang or a regional dialect, as in
I'll be gettin' there soon! or
He's just killin' time and chillin'.

And that's it: the two main uses of the apostrophe in the English language. Unless you're using the apostrophe for one of these two purposes, please leave the poor thing alone.

The Wolfperson & Punctuation

Another gem from THE NEW YORKER.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Factual queries

I am curious about the copyeditor's role, if any, in addressing factual errors as opposed to "querying factual inconsistencies" as Einsohn mentions. (I assume the author's spelling Oe's name two ways is a "factual inconsistency.") Regarding your last post, it would have taken Memminger only a minute or two to check whether the UH editor was a he or a she, but if his piece was copyedited, should the copyeditor have checked this? If you are copyediting a piece that contains URLs, should the copyeditor be checking each URL?

I assume the copyeditor shouldn't spend to much time looking for factual errors. On the other hand, our editor sometimes recognizes errors of fact in my newsletter, for which I am very grateful!

Are copyeditors ever directed to check for factual errors, or particular kinds of factual errors under light, medium, and heavy editing?

Period piece

Sunday, September 5, 2010

To edit or not to edit: that is the question…

When I read Lisa's post about nineteenth-century writing, I was reminded of one by a former student. Here was my response to my other student:
Well, remember that the copyeditor and author are engaged in a formal relationship. If no such relationship exists, you do not have to comment. Sometimes friends bring us their work to look at; they are hoping that we will be impressed with the work and will praise them. Because we are not in a professional or formal relationship with them, we need not comment if we feel that such comments won't be appreciated or have any beneficial effect. We can instead make the choice to protect the friendship by saying something like "I really don't feel I'm the right person to evaluate this. Maybe it would be better if you asked Mr. or Ms. X?"

In the case of the copyeditor-author relationship, the author has agreed to consider the copyediting in exchange for having his work published. If, in the course of copyediting his work, you question his style, diction, metaphors, etc., it is your right to do so. You are supporting and enforcing the publication standards of your employer.

If the author is offended and/or rejects your copyediting, it is possible that publication of his work will be reconsidered.
It is also possible, as I've said before, that the acquisitions editor will (1) decide that your editing won't be used or (2) enter into a dialogue with the author that will result in a better piece.
In the case Lisa is talking about, the author is long dead and his work has already been published. If it is quoted, it must appear as it was printed, and no copyeditor "corrects" his spelling, word usage, etc. (I put the word in quotation marks because what is incorrect to us might have been correct in the author's time.) Now, if you are copyediting an author who is very much alive and who uses unusual spelling, punctuation, grammar, and so forth, what you do is determined by several things. Einsohn talks about these in the first chapter of her book. I'll go over some of her points here.

P. 3: "Heavier intervention may be needed, for example, when the author does not have native or near-native fluency in English, when the author is a professional or a technical expert writing for a lay audience, or when the author has not been careful in preparing the manuscript." Note that here Einsohn is talking about a manuscript that not only can be made to conform to a certain standard but should be made to conform.

P. 4: "Copyeditors who work for publishers are usually given general instructions about how light or heavy a hand the text is thought to need." Here Einsohn is talking about what the publisher decides should be done to a manuscript. The publisher may decide that the unusual spelling, etc., are an integral part of the book and cannot be separated from the narrative. In that case, the publisher will instruct the copyeditor to edit lightly. For example, if "there" is being rendered as "thar," the copyeditor will need to correct it when it appears otherwise. In the passage Lisa quotes, "linendrapery" is used, but if the word appears as "linen drapery" elsewhere, Lisa might correct it, noting in the margin that the correction has been made and referring to the previous instance so that there's no question why she did what she did.

P. 4: "In addition to having a good eye and ear for language, copyeditors must develop a sixth sense about how much effort, and what kind of effort, to put into each project that crosses their desk." This sense is called editorial judgment, and the copyeditor acquires it only after working for publishers and with authors for a while.

P. 5: On this page, Einsohn lists such elements of mechanical editing as spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, punctuation, treatment of numbers and numerals, treatment of quotations, use of abbreviations and acronyms, and use of italics and bold type. When I said a couple of times in class that consistency of treatment equals style, I was referring to these elements. When the copyeditor makes the manuscript internally consistent, these are the things that he or she focuses on.

P. 5: "The mistake most frequently made by novice copyeditors is to rewrite portions of a text (for better or for worse, depending on the copyeditor's writing skills) and to ignore such 'minor details' as capitalization, punctuation, and hyphenation. Wrong! Whatever else you are asked to do, you are expected to repair any mechanical inconsistencies in the manuscript." Note that here the temptation for beginning copyeditors is to make the manuscript with non-standard spelling, etc., conform to what they have been taught. Most of the time, of course, you will be expected to do just that. Every once in a while, however, the publisher will not want you to do that. When you are given a manuscript that should be treated in a special way, it should be made clear to you what is expected.

P. 7–9: "Ideally, copyeditors set right whatever is incorrect, unidiomatic [not natural to a native speaker], confusing, ambiguous, or inappropriate without attempting to impose their stylistic preferences or prejudices on the author.…[T]he 'correct' usage choice may vary from manuscript to manuscript, depending on the publisher's house style, the conventions in the author's field, and the expectations of the intended audience.…Copyeditors are expected to correct (or ask the author to correct) locutions [style of speech] that are likely to confuse, distract, or disturb readers, but copyeditors are not hired for the purpose of imposing their own taste and sense of style on the author. Thus when reading a manuscript, the copyeditor must ask, 'Is this sentence acceptable as the author has written it?'"

Words with double consonants

English spelling has always confused me with regard to double consonants. I almost always double-check the dictionary when writing words like "embarrassment" or "caroling" (vs the variant British spelling "carolling"). I was wondering if there was any kind of rule for the double consonant in English?

In my quest to answer this question on the internet, I found this list of frequently misspelled words:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bathroom Graffiti Grammar Refresher

No "call xxx-xxxx for a good time" or "Waimanalo PRIDE" scribbles on this bathroom door in Moore Hall. Instead, here we find a handy reminder that seems to have been born out of some student's grammatical frustration. Ah, college is an interesting place, isn't it? :]

Friday, September 3, 2010

19th Century British writing

I'm doing some reading for another class from Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (first published in 1851) and I came across the following passage that just made my wannabe-editor head spin.
He brings the greengrocery, the fruit, the fish, the water-cresses, the shrimps, the pies and puddings, the sweetmeats, the pine-apples, the stationery, the linendrapery, and the jewellery, such as it is, to the very door of the working classes; indeed, the poor man's food and clothing are mainly supplied to him in this manner.
The use of so much alternate spelling and hyphenations was a little overwhelming, and I honestly don't think 'linendrapery' is a word. It wasn't in any dictionary that I could find.

So, if we are ever called to edit an historical text that includes words that don't exist any longer (or that the author possibly made up?), do you let it stand?


If you are wondering what happened to the responses to the posts, please check the comment line. If responses have been made, the comment line will show the number.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Staff Hierarchy

After discussing the inter-workings of different editing staffs today, I began to wonder where and how certain people fit into the hierarchy. For example, I understood a literary agent to be someone who is proficient in editing skills; however, it seems as though this position is redundant and unnecessary. What is the real purpose of a literary agent, and how would one really be of use in an author-publisher relationship?

A favorite cartoon from THE NEW YORKER


Listed in the references section of the sidebar is a good source on hyphens. It's a bit long and goes into more detail than you probably want at this point, but I'd suggest scanning it. There are good examples of what we've been covering in class.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Copy Editing vs. Proofreading

Hi Pat,

Could you please differentiate between Copy Editing and Proofreading?


Child vs. Son

Rereading the exercise, I was reminded of Lisa's comment about the use of child and son in the Kenzaburo Oe review. Here is the sentence in which the son appears: "As he plots the child's murder, he finally realizes that he must take responsibility for his son." Lisa is correct in pointing out that we don't in fact know that the son is the brain-damaged child. It would have been better if the author had written "brain-damaged son." As the copyeditor, you could certainly cross out child and replace it with son.

BTW, you may want to know that Oe received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1994. To read more about him, see Wikipedia.

Question about "decrees, suits and countersuits"

I read this sentence a little differently - I read it as if "depositions and decrees" were opposed and "suits and countersuits" were opposed. A similar example might be "the ins and outs, rights and wrongs, of the situation." If they were meant to be coupled like that, would the punctuation have been right as it was?