Friday, July 31, 2009

Copyediting Quiz

Adapted from exercises in Michael L. Murcock's Writing Clearly and Effectively--

1. Change the word demonstrate into a shorter word.

2. Change the phrase in view of the fact to one word

3. Rewrite Thank you for your description of the merchandise.

4. Change to a positive statement or question All staff members are directed to report to the meeting at 4:00 sharp.

5. Choose the correct word and rewrite the following: His opposition to the proposals (convinces, convince) me that they are weak.

6. Correct the following sentence for correct grammar and conciseness: Accomplishment of only minimal progress was achieved by the company because the company was a victim of poor examples.

7. Correct any grammar errors in the following sentence: The used car only had miner problems.

8. Correct the punctuation problem in the following sentence: Strike three youre out

9. Correct any grammar errors in the following sentence: Martha must have forgot to pay the electric bill.

10. Correct any errors in grammar and clarity in the following sentence: The reason for his poor performance is because of the fact that he is lazy.

Remember, the first person who sends in correct quiz answers will receive one hour copyediting free--that's a $25 value!


Murdock, Michael L. Writing Clearly and Effectively. Washington, D.C.: Transemantics Incorporated, 1987.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: Pinky Pye

Jerry and Rachel Pye look forward to another summer of fun in Cranbury, but when the politicians in Washington call on their father, the famous bird man, for help, they find themselves and their parents moving to Fire Island. Their soon-to-be-four-year-old uncle Bennie, famous for being born an uncle, accompanies them, along with the New York cat Gracie and the famous dog Ginger. There they acquire another family member, the kitten Pinky, who not only learns to type but also helps them discover why Uncle Bennie's pet crickets keep disappearing and solve another even more puzzling mystery.


Estes, Eleanor. Pinky Pye. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1986.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Conciseness is important. You'll lose readers if there are too many words for the meaning. I give examples of unconcise sentences, then the sentences corrected. The examples are all from publications, but I'm not including documentation this time!

1. "The Nature Center on the north side has been turned into a Welcome Center manned by volunteers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday."

The north side's Nature Center is now a Welcome Center staffed by volunteers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

2. "Sixty of the 150 original beachside camp sites have been salvaged fronting the road that runs east-west."

Sixty of the original beachside campsites fronting the east-west road have been salvaged.

3. "Or, take your kitchen, for example."

Consider your kitchen.

4. "Oak kitchen cabinetry reaches to high ceilings, and a hanging pot rack above accents a large central island, also of Ipe wood."

Oak kitchen cabinetry reaches to high celings, and a haning pot rack above accents a large central Ipe wood island.

5. "Wildlife is abundant in the rolling hills surrounding the cave, providing you the opportunity to catch a glimpse of a whitetail deer, turkey, or other Ozarks' wildlife."

The rolling hills surrounding the cave provide you with glimpses of whitetail deer, turkey, or other Ozark wildlife.

6. "In addition to the three major lakes in our rea, anglers also have the opportunity to fish for rainbow trout in the clear waters of Spring Creek in Tuscumbia."

Besides our area's three major lakes, Anglers can also fish for rainbow trout in the clear waters of Tuscumbia's Spring Creek.

7. "At KA-DO-HA Indian Village, you will be able to gaze backward into time and see beautifully molded and decorated pottery, pipes and expertly chipped flint, all fashioned by hand by these artistic people."

At KA-DO-HA Indian Village, you will gaze back in time and see beautifully molded and decorated pottery, pipes, and expertly chipped flint, all hand-crafted by these artistic people.

8. "The Beck Building galleries are classically proportioned and designed as a vast sweep of rooms that lead from one collection specialty to the next."

The classically proportioned Beck Building galleries lead from one collection speciality to the next.

9. "The most complete collection in the world of Mr. Handy's personal papers and artifacts are housed in the museum."

The museum houses the complete collection of Mr. Handy's personal papers and artifacts.

10. "Deva is the Roman fortress built almost 2,000 years ago which now lies buried beneath the hustle and bustle of modern day Chester."

Deva, the Roman fortress built almost 2,000 years ago, lies buried beneath the hustle and bustle of modern Chester.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Copyediting--What To Start With

What to start with when you read a text for the first time? Nearly everything. Fix problems as you come to them, but be sure to read all of each sentence before you try to fix what looks like a syntax problem, because sometimes a sentence can look like it's incorrect when it really isn't--don't try to predict, just read, and fix the problem if there is one.

When you finish correcting any problems in the details, go back and look for global problems--lack of cohesion, an introduction that doesn't quite work, transitions that don't bridge from one idea to the next very well, a conclusion that stops abruptly or trails off, lack of organization of ideas, a change in tone, wandering verb tenses or an inconsistent use of pronouns, etc.--then fix those, and after that, give the whole thing a once over in case you missed something.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chapter Review; Last Lines Quiz Answers

Today's review is of a chapter--"The Philosophy of Composition" in Richard D. Altick's The Art of Literary Research.

As in the rest of the book, Altick gears his information to scholars and critics, particularly of literature, but this chapter focuses on the act of composition itself. Altick encourages readers to write lucidly and gives examples of what to do and what not to do. He discusses introductions, transitions, conclusions, organization, and, because he is writing to people who use secondary information, quotation and documentation. He cautions against rambling: "Say what you have to say, and when you've said it, quit" (Altick 210). He reminds his readers to think of their readers: "Never leave the reader uncertain to your--and his--destination or the relevance of each statement to your purpose . . . The sentences and paragraphs should fit as tightly as the teeth of a zipper" (Altick 213). He reminds writers to rewrite for clarity in their thinking and their writing because "it sharpens insight into the meaning of what has been said, suggests new sources of data, perhaps makes it possible to extend the argument a further step" (Altick 214). His concluding sentences on conclusions is a good example of his subject: "Instead, it should sum up without seeming to do so; it should be a coda, not an abstract, and it should leave the reader with a satisfying sense of gain--new information acquired, an enlarged historical apprehension, a stimulating critical perception" (Altick 218). Altick finishes up with four useful reminders for all writers:
"1. Accuracy of facts.
2. Soundess of reasoning.
3. Clear explanation of the topic's significance.
4. Unaffected, terse, LUCID prose" (229).


Altick, Richard D. The Art of Literary Research. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1981.

Last Lines Quiz Answers

1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
2. Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson
3. Emma by Jane Austen
4. The Egoist by George Eliot
5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
6. Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
8. Step To The Music by Phyllis A. Whitney
9. Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
10. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Friday, July 24, 2009

Last Lines Quiz

1. Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?

2. Then everybody began to talk in a great hurry.

3. But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

4. But taking a glance at the others of her late company of actors, she compresses her lips.

5. I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists has risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.

6. Perhaps, so she liked to think, his career was biding its time, again like Grant's in Galena; his latest note was post-marked from Hornell, New York, which is some distance from Geneva and a very small town; in any case he is almost certainly in that section of the country, in one town or another.

7. The outlet to Deception Pass closed forever.

8. And now there was a special rhythm to their walk, as if they kept step with faraway music.

9. And over the river in the purple durance the echoes bided their time.

10. In your rocking chair, by your window, shall you dream such happiness as you may never feel.

Remember, the first person to send in the correct answers will receive one hour of free copyediting--that's a $25 value!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

From Design To Eternity by Robert L. Hausmann

Robert L. Hausmann’s
From Design To Eternity: Thoughts To Consider As Life Progresses

In Hausmann’s From Design To Eternity: Thoughts To Consider As Life Progresses, he writes from a solid Biblical foundation on such topics as the origin of the universe, the unity of the Godhead, the authority of the Bible, salvation, men’s roles, women’s roles, worship, baptism, faith, maturity, and problems encountered in life and other topics. He covers each topic with tract-like economy, spending one-to-two-and-a-half pages on each topic and finishing with a question for readers to ponder in view of their own life. The information he provides is enough to answer basic questions while guiding the reader to the Bible for more detailed discussion and instruction.
p.s. I designed the cover.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Good Conclusions

Good conclusions wrap up everything well so the readers don't feel like they've been dropped off a cliff. Good conclusions hark back to something that has gone before, yet without redundancy, and finish with a summary that can include a new way of thinking about the subject. The concluding paragraphs of Garrison Keillor's "How To Write A Letter" is a good example:

"Probably your friend will put your letter away, and it'll be read again a few years from now--and it will improve with age. And forty years from now, your friend's grandkids will dig it out of the attic and read it, a sweet and precious relic of the ancient eighties that gives them a sudden clear glimpse of you and her and the world we old-timers knew. You will then have created an object of art. Your simple lines about where you went, who you saw, what they said, will speak to those children and they will feel in their hearts the humanity of our times.

You can't pick up a phone and call the future and tell them about our times. You have to pick up a piece of paper" (140).


Keillor, Garrison. "How To Write A Letter." We Are Still Married. New York: Viking, 1989.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Organizing the Info

We've finished brainstorming. Now it's time to organize the info, to decide what we'll discuss first. Sometimes this won't be difficult because the topic will determine the organization, such as a paper on a process, or a journey. Or perhaps you are comparing and contrasting two things. But sometimes, many times, we aren't writing that sort of paper. And it can be difficult to decide in what order all the info goes, and because it's difficult, because I need this reminder more than any other, I'll end this blog with a quote from William Zinsser's On Writing Well:

"Different subjects call for different approaches. Your job is to present your material in the way that serves it best: to find the right voice and the right framework. Maybe you should be strongly present in your story; maybe not. Usually the material tells you at the start how it wants to be narrated. But after that the writer must be in charge, shaping and organizing. Organizing is the most unsung and untaught of the writing skills, but it's just as important as knowing how to write a clear and pleasing sentence. All your clear and pleasing sentences will add up to chaos if you don't keep remembering that writing is linear and sequential, that logic is the glue that holds it together, that tension must be maintained between every sentence and every paragraph, and that narrative--good old-fashioned storytelling--is what should pull the reader along without his ever noticing the tug. The only thing the reader should notice, subconsciously, is that you have made a sensible plan for the trip and know where you're going. Every step should be inevitable" (Zinsser 244).


Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. 4th ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Zinsser's Writing Places; First Lines Quiz Answers

Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher by William Zinsser

With grace, elegance, and the conversational tone welcome from his other books, William Zinsser takes us to his offices at the New York Herald Tribune, at home, Yale, the Book-of-the-Month Club, rented rooms in New York Business buildings, and abroad as we follow his progress as writer and teacher. But this is more than a memoir, more than travel writing, more than an introduction to On Writing Well. We learn about the writer and the writing--the relationship to readers, the subject, and writing process as the writer works and the craft itself that comes down to language and its use, no matter what technology we employ.


Zinsser, William. Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Answers to the First Lines Quiz

1. Romola by George Eliot
2. Howard's End by E.M. Forster
3. The Star of Gettysburg by Joseph A. Altsheler
4. Betsy and Joe by Maud Hart Lovelace
5. The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
8. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
9. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
10. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The first person to send in correct answers to next Friday's quiz wins a free hour of copyediting on anything that is not homework!

Friday, July 17, 2009

First Lines Quiz

First Lines--Novels

1. "More than three centuries and a half ago, in the mid springtime of 1492, we are sure that the angel of the dawn, as he travelled with broad slow wing from the Levant to the Pillars of Hercules, and from the summits of the Caucasus across all the snowy Alpine ridges to the dark nakedness of the Western isles, saw nearly the same outline of firm land and unstable sea--saw the same great mountain shadows on the same valleys as he has seen today--saw olive mounts, and pine forests, and the broad plains green with young corn or rain-freshened grass--saw domes and spires of cities rising by the river-sides or mingled with the sedge-like masts on the many-curved sea-coast, in the same spots where they rise today."

2. "One may as well begin with Helen's letter to her sister."

3. "A youth sat upon a log by a clear stream in the Valley of Virginia, mending clothes."

4. "At the top of Agency Hill, Betsy Ray turned Old Mag off the road into the shade of an elm."

5. "This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child."

6. "Buck Mulligan came from a stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed."

7. "I address these lines--written in India--to my relatives in England."

8. "There are some fields near Manchester, well known to the inhabitants as 'Green Heys Fields,' through which runs a public footpath to the little village about two miles distant."

9. "Of late years, an abundant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England: they lie very thick on the hills; every parish has one or more of them; they are young enough to be very active, and ought to be doing a great deal of good."

10. "On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York."

Thursday, July 16, 2009


You've got your paragraph. And now it's on to the next paragraph. So you need a transition--you don't want to jolt the readers. One way to transition is to repeat words. Another is to repeat the subject matter in different words, as in the following example from an article by Laura Ingalls Wilder about the building of the house on Rocky Ridge Farm:

"At last came a time when The-Man-Of-The-Place proposed that we add another box room with a stairway, a loft and a fireplace. He could get most of the materials from the farm, he said, so it would not be very expensive.
But someway the idea did not appeal to me. I could do very well with two boxes, but two were enough. As usual when we disagree, The-Man-Of-The-Place and I talked it out. There was material on the farm to build any kind of a house, I argued, so why not build a real house instead of an addition that would make it look like a town house in the poorer suburbs? That kind didn't belong on a farm, I insisted. It wouldn't look right among the trees, with the everlasting hills around it" (Wilder 53).

In this example, no words are repeated, but with the word idea, the subject is, and so the transition from the paragraph about one way to make the place they lived in more liveable to the paragraph about building a house from the start is made, and made smoothly.


Wilder, Laura Ingalls. A Little House Reader: A Collection of Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder. William Anderson, ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gone-Away Lake and Return To Gone-Away Lake

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright tells the story of the adventurous summer Portia Blake and her brother Foster spend with their cousin Julian Jarman who lives with his parents near Gone-Away Lake. They explore the outdoors and discover not only new plants and animals but new friends. Their friends include the elderly Mrs. Minniehaha Cheever and her brother Pindar Payton, who each live in the Gone-Away area. Other friends include neighborhood children who also get to know Mrs. Cheever and Mr. Payton. Together with their new friends, Portia, Foster, and Julian learn about the area and its history and make history for themselves. At the end of summer vacation, Portia and Foster's parents arrive for a visit before taking them home, but the visit yields the greatest surprise of all.
Return to Gone-Away picks up the story of the Blake and Jarman families and their friends as the surprise of the earlier book yields more adventures at Gone-Away. Better still, the adventures lead to a mystery that promises an even better surprise.

I also recommend Elizabeth Enright's The Saturdays, The Four Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, and Spider Web For Two.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Starting To Write

You've got your topic, your audience . . . so now what? How to get those ideas down on paper? Brainstorming is one way: just let your mind concentrate on the topic and write down your thoughts. Here's an example--the brainstorming I did about this blog:

"The first two blogs were written at the computer. The first was about the copyediting blog and copyediting in general. The second discussed the reasons for copyediting and included the G3/FBurney conversation about proofing from The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes and two samples of my copyediting work. The third blog will be a review of the book The Elements of Style. The next will be a book review. I'm not sure about the rest. I know I want to discuss the two Zinsser books I have, plus the Gordon books, and Altick. I'm also going to include the book reviews/evaluations of the Star books I've reviewed/evaluated. And then other books. And then I also want to discuss writing and why it's not just for English majors and how you need to know how to write a good resume, cover letter, thank you for the interview letter, and now no matter what sort of job you have, you might need to write something . . . casual writing is fine for e-mails and letters to friends and relatives i.e. writing that uses slang or abbreviations or dialect words, but for formal things like job application letters, etc., you need to learn to write Standard English. I could also blog about diff aspects of writing, the nuts and bolts of it--what makes a good sentence, sentence variety, diff sorts of problems like grammatical errors, syntax errors, word usage/language awareness errors, then go on to discuss errors of cohension and organization, etc. . . . anything that'd crop up in an English Comp class, and all this interspersed with book reviews. First I'll use the reviews of Star books interspersed w/ reviews on writing, then I'll go on to other books like my favorite kids' books authors--Wilder, Lovelace, Montgomery, Enright, Alcott, Estes, Lenski--and then review more writing/grammar books, and then other books like Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling, the Brontës, Eliot, etc., history books, etc. I need to organize topics/days of the week, though."

Don't worry about anything in brainstorming, except perhaps being able to read your handwriting or making sure you saved the file . . . just get your ideas written down so you'll have some basic information for reference when you start writing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Solutions to Friday Quiz; Book Review

For some reason, I was not able to copy and paste from Friday's post to this so I could type in the solutions, nor was I able to copy and paste from another application the quiz with solutions, so I decided to add the answers to Friday's blog so you won't have to keep scrolling back and forth. If anyone can explain why I haven't been able to copy and paste on this and provide a solution, please let me know; I have usually been able to copy and paste when necessary.

William Zinsser's On Writing Well

William Zinsser instructs readers on different types of writing and grammar rules while taking them through the writing process from first idea to finished product. In Part I: Principles, he focuses on the aspects of composition applicable to any type of writing, including the relationship between writers and readers, conciseness, and word usage. Part II: Forms covers the larger concerns such as the introduction and the conclusion and different types of subjects, including regional, science, business, sports, and criticism. Part III: Attitudes emphasizes what happens after writers finish the first draft as he gives instruction and reassurance on word processor use during the rewriting process, how writers can trust their material to tell them when to omit passages, and details on the decision-making process. Throughout the book he uses examples to illustrate his instructions and explains them well. Some examples are from writing read by everyone on occasion, such as workplace memos, and others from specific works. Zinsser has new ideas for the readers but he gives these in a conversational "we're learning together" tone that, along with the information itself, makes this book helpful to anyone who wants to learn to write well.


Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. 4th ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Copyediting Exercise

Something different for a Friday . . . a copyediting exercise, taken from exercises in Michael L. Murdock's Writing Clearly and Effectively. I'll post my solutions on Monday.

1.Translate this group of words into one word: due to the fact that

2. Rewrite by reducing or rearranging words: The order for Model X2 may have been misplaced by the Shipping Department, which is sometimes overloaded with orders during the first week of the month, and the overloading causes confusion among the employees there.
The confused Shipping Department employees, overwhelmed by orders, may have misplaced the Model X2 order.

3. Make the following sentence into a positive statment or question: Are you concerned about your sloppy, ungrammatical writing?
Make sure you write grammatically and concisely.

4. Rewrite the following sentence to correct errors in grammar and clarity: The sloppiness of her work was a specific factor cited as a reason for her dismissal.
They dismissed her because of sloppy work.

5. Correct any errors in this sentence: Will you wave your rights to keep the boundary line?
Will you waive your rights to keep the boundary line?

6. Correct the punctuation: Stop the meeting Its break time
Stop the meeting. It's break time.

7. Correct the wrong word: His mood on Friday had an affect on his productivity.
On Friday his mood had an effect on his productivity.

8. According to our records we are in receipt of your letter under date of July 8.
Our records show we received your July 8 letter.

9. Your appointment waiting to see you.
Your appointment is waiting to see you.

10. There is an air conditioner in the office, so the air keeps cool and fresh.
The office air conditioner keeps the air cool and fresh.


Murdock, Michael L. Writing Clearly and Effectively. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Transemantics Incorporated.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

An Example of a Good Paragraph

What makes a good paragraph? Proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, and also composition, structure, cohesion, and imagination.

To explain, I use an example from G.K. Chesterton's The Victorian Age in Literature in which he discusses Charlotte Brontë and her novel Jane Eyre. But if you haven't read the novel, you'll want to skip the following paragraph and the rest of this blog entry because there are spoilers--I'll be writing more about good paragraphs in another blog entry, so check back next week for more information about why good paragraphs are good.

"In any case, it is Charlotte Brontë who enters Victorian literature. The shortest way of stating her strong contribution is, I think, this: that she reached the highest romance through the lowest realism. She did not set out with Amadis of Gaul in a forest or with Mr. Pickwick in a comic club. She set out with herself, with her own dingy clothes, and accidental ugliness, and flat, coarse, provincial household; and forcibly fused all such muddy materials into a spirited fairy-tale. If the first chapters on the home and school had not proved how heavy and hateful sanity can be, there would really be less point in the insanity of Mr. Rochester's wife--or the not much milder insanity of Mrs. Rochester's husband. She discovered the secret of hiding the sensational in the commonplace; and Jane Eyre remains the best of her books (better even than Villette), because while it is a human document written in blood, it is also one of the best blood-and-thunder detective stories in the world" (Chesterton, G.K. The Victorian Age in Literature, 49).

Chesterton simply writes of Charlotte Brontë's importance to Victorian literature and he could have done so this way--

Charlotte Brontë was important to Victorian literature because she combined romance and realism. She did not use romance like is discussed in the story of Amadis of Gaul or realism like in Dicken's The Pickwick Papers. She was from a humble background and started with that in her writing. Her novel Jane Eyre begins with realism about Jane's home and school, then switches to romance at Thornfield Hall and pure excitement when she writes about how Mr. Rochester is married already and that his wife is insane. This combination and contrast of the commonplace and sensational makes her works special, particularly Jane Eyre because even though it talks about things that people can relate to, like difficulty at school, there is also the detective story aspect when we find out what is really in the third story of Thornfield Hall.

But he didn't, fortunately for him and the rest of us.

The paragraph works as Chesterton wrote it because of its transition in the thesis sentence and the imagination with which he elaborates on the thesis. He begins his explanation of Charlotte Brontë's importance by using a sentence with an active verb, "reached," and describing what was reached--"the highest romance through the lowest realism," while employing the implied metaphor of a journey (Chesterton 49). Then he goes on to define that by continuing with the journey metaphor with "She did not set out," and by setting up a contrast through references to the romantic story Amadis of Gaul and the prosaic Mr. Pickwick of Dickens' The Pickwick Papers. From there he takes the information back to Brontë to explain in a few details her own prosaic background that makes her venture into romance surprising, and all the more because she used herself and her background as not only the starting point for romance but the origin. Then Chesterton turns to the book itself and the realism and romance within it, again using contrasts to show how those instances of prose and romance work together to make the novel effective. After those details, he sums up Brontë's writing in general and her novel in particular, contrasting again the prose and romance in the work though in different words that reinforce the paragraph's theme: "because while it is a human document written in blood, it is also one of the best blood-and-thunder detective stories in the world" (Chesterton 49). It's not difficult to see how metaphor, allusions, vivid description, a careful use of comparison-contrast structure, and imagination makes this paragraph cohere much better than my imagination-less rewriting.


Chesterton, G. K. The Victorian Age in Literature. London: Oxford University Press, 1966.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Certain Victory by Dr. J. C. Davis

What follows is the first of a series of reviews on books not connected with writing. Works reviewed will be non-fiction and fiction, poetry and plays. This first book review is an excerpt of an evaluation written when I worked for Star Bible.

In Certain Victory, Dr. J. C. Davis writes of Jesus’ Second Coming and the certain victory that Christians will have on that day. He carefully goes through the Scriptures, putting them in proper context, as he discusses the general topic and subtopics. He begins by introducing the topic in general, then goes on in successive chapters to discuss the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that brings to Christians, and how the Scriptures refute false teaching of the Rapture, Premillenialism, the Thousand-Year Reign and the man-made religion of Islam. In the next few chapters he discusses heaven and hell, four views of hell and what the Scriptures teach, what heaven will be like, gospel certainties, and how Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

This book seems to be based on a series of sermons because it is repetitive in spots and conversational in tone, but those things aren’t a drawback: the repetitions only impress on the reader what has been discussed and the conversational tone makes the subject matter and author more approachable--it is like the author is speaking directly to the reader, kindly and seriously. Another thing that makes the book helpful is its focus on Scripture. Davis uses hardly any secondary sources to make his point. He also turns to the original text, but in a matter of fact way and using transliteration rather than the words in the Greek alphabet; the reader will not be intimidated.

Several things make this book helpful and necessary--his focus on Scripture that draws people back to the Bible, his timely discussion of end times and Islam, the explanation of Greek words, his discussion of heaven and certainties, and his emphasis on knowing Jesus as opposed to simply knowing about Jesus.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why Learn To Write?

Why learn to write?
Well, we need to--for school, obviously, since so much homework involves writing, but there is also work. We need to learn to write an effective resume, cover letter, thank-you-for-the-interview letter, and any other writing involved in the job search. We also need to learn to write for the job, because no matter what sort of job we have, there's the possibility of having to write something, be it memo, report, or presentation, and poor writing skills will not impress our employer, no matter our talent for our particular job. It is fine to use slang, abbreviation, or dialect words in e-mails or letters to friends--I certainly do--but when it comes to formal occasions, we need to know how to write Standard English, just like we need to learn how to speak Standard English on formal occasions such as job interviews, meetings, etc.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Strunk and White's The Elements of Style

William Strunk was The Elements of Style's original author and E.B. White revised it later, making some changes and adding the section on style. Four of the book's five sections list rules and discuss them, including incorrect and correct examples. "Elementary Rules of Usage" covers basic grammar and punctuation rules. "Elementary Principles of Composition" discusses how to organize information. "A Few Matters of Form" focuses on the mechanics of page makeup and punctuation. "Words and Expressions Commonly Misused" contains what the title says, though the information is dated--some are not as common today, and some misused words and expressions commonly misused today are not listed. "An Approach to Style" features instructions, ruminations, and encouragement on developing a particular style, with warnings to keep the style appropriate to the subject matter. The book's quick reference format, readable style, conversational tone, helpful information, and examples of incorrect and correct examples make it useful for beginning writers and veterans who need a reminder.

P.S. E.B. White . . . yes, it's that E.B. White, the author of Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and
The Trumpet of the Swan :)

Bibliographic information: Strunk, William, Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. 3rd edition. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1979.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Global Problems

As well as details like typos, incorrect grammar, incorrect punctuation, etc., there can be global problems in a text. These include lack of cohesion and organization: the information may be grammatically correct, but it's simply in the wrong place in the paragraph or the text and these problems also hinder the readers. The following example contains all sorts of errors, but I want to use it to illustrate global problems:

Editing Sample


Whether one arrives by car bus, plain, train or boat, the skiline will took your breath away. A single visit to New york will tell you why the city is both loved. And hated by so many people. And the streets seem so durty. cans and bags and newspapers lay in the guters an on the sidwalks, or somtimes fly acros you’re path. even the people who do not speek English won’t smile or say excuse me or give one good directions. The thril will only be hightened when you walk. Down the canyons formed by skyscrapers. look in the shop windows. go to the theatre, or a museum. stroll in the nayborhoods where no one speeks english. You starts to notise the noise of trafic and get annoyed at crowds. But all is not perfect--far form it. You has the same love-hate feelings as everyone else does. after a few days, when you’re reactions balance out.

In the revision, I have corrected the problems, including the global ones:

Edited and Revised

A single visit to New York will tell you why the city is both loved and hated by so many people. Whether you arrive by car, bus, plane, train, or boat, the skyline will take your breath away. The thrill will only be heightened when you walk down the canyons formed by skyscrapers. Look in the shop windows. Go to the theatre or a museum. Stroll in the neighborhoods where no one speaks English.
But all is not perfect--far from it. You start to notice the noise of traffic and get annoyed at crowds. Even the people who do not speak English will not smile or say "Excuse me." The streets seem so dirty. Cans, bags, and newspapers lie in the gutters, on the sidewalks, or sometimes fly across your path. When your reactions balance out after a few days, you have the same love-hate feelings as everyone else does.

So when you ask someone to copyedit your work or if you are copyediting someone else's work, remember to look for these global errors and correct them, for the writer's and readers' benefit.


Unfortunately I cannot remember the source of this editing sample, though I think I received it years ago from someone who taught composition.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why Copyediting?

From The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes comes the following adecdote excerpt:


The king had some valuable advice for the diarist and author Fanny Burney.

He laughed; and enquired who corrected my proofs?
'Only myself,' I answered.
'Why, some authors have told me that they are the last to do that work for themselves. They know so well by heart what ought to be, that they run on without seeing what is. They have told me, besides, that a mere plodding head is best and surest . . . and that the livelier the imagination, the less it should be trusted to. Madame d'Arblay, VI" (Longford 317).

Now, whatever you think about George III, he was right about proofing: "They know so well by heart what ought to be, that they run on without seeing what is" (Burney, qtd. in Longford 317). We know what we want to say, and our mind slots it in without us realizing it, so it is very difficult to proof what we've written and we always need someone else to read our work.

Copyediting is also important, and to begin I use more secondary information (with some names changed) in the form of a letter some friends received when they lived in an apartment and gave to me because they knew I could use it:

Dear Sir or Madam:

As we all know the Village at Central Park is a beautiful apartment complex which offers many amenities. However, one deficiency in the apartments is affecting most of us almost daily; the shower heads are positioned below most people’s heads, which makes taking a shower incredibly awkward and uncomfortable, compels the user to bend down and thus may cause back ache.

We, Bendi-stretch Advantage Company, feel that we have found a practical, inexpensive solution to this problem. We have developed a new, useful shower extension which was designed to free the user from the unhealthy necessity to bend down while taking a shower. Now, the user has the choice and flexibility to adjust the shower head height to his/her individual need.

We are happy to offer you this quality item absolutely free of charge for 5 days in your own shower. This free distribution is a part of our marketing research plan which is done in order to elect the correct marketing strategy for our newest product, understand our important customer needs and improve our quality service.

If you are interested in taking advantage if this exclusive offer, we will place our unique shower extension in your shower and will provide you with a market research questionaire to answer about your personal experience with it. The product placement procedure takes just a few minutes.

For showing you our great appreciation for trying our product and helping us conduct our marketing research, we will also give you a free gift out of a variety you can choose from.

To gain all these benefits, all you have to do is to call us at (817) 555-71 11 in order to set up the installment at a time convenient to you. If, after trying the shower extension, you decide to keep it, you will be elegible to own it for its wholesale price which is below similar but not identical products in the market. For this market research we need only a limited number of applicants. If we have covered our limit by the time you contact us, plese accept our apology. However, for such occurences we keep extra free gifts and we will happily give you the free gift mentioned above just because we appreciate your interest.

We thank you very much for your cooperation and are very confident that you will benefit greatly from this highly useful product.

Thank you again.

Jon Doe
Bendi-stretch Advantage Research

It is difficult to copyedit what we've written, even for those of us who have writing skills, and not everyone has the same skills, so we need someone to look at our work to make sure it is clear and concise for the readers. The following revision of the "Bendi-stretch" letter shows how copyediting works:

Edited and Revised

Dear Resident,
The Village at Central Park Apartments provides many comforts and amenities for its residents. However, there is one problem that affects us on a regular basis: improperly positioned shower heads.

We developed a practical, inexpensive solution to this problem: the “Bendi-stretch Shower Head Extension.” This flexible shower head adjusts to any height and thus frees you from the bending and stretching that can cause backache.

We want to offer you the use of this product free for 5 days, with free installation provided at your convenience. We request that you fill out the accompanying questionnaire; customer feedback helps up fulfill customer needs for quality goods and services.

To show our appreciation for your participation, we give you the choice of a free gift from our catalogue.

To set up an appointment for installation of the “Bendi-stretch Shower Extension,” call us at (817) 555-7111. If, after 5 days of free use, you decide you want to keep this product, you can purchase it at the wholesale price.

Only a few applications are needed. If the number is filled when you contact us, please accept our apology and choose a free gift from our catalogue in appreciation for your interest.

We hope you will take this opportunity to try the “Bendi-stretch Shower Extension.”


Jon Doe
Bendi-stretch Advantage Research

I'll let the example speak for itself. I know that we're apt to "File Thirteen" any direct mail, but we never know if something might be read, and since we never know, we need copyeditors to look over our work to make sure there aren't any problems or to solve any problems that are there.

Work Cited

Longford, Elizabeth, ed. The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


The title of this blog was inspired by my cousin's cooking blog (lots of good recipes, by-the-by). I like to cook too, but I also like to copyedit. No, make that love to copyedit. I've been known to copyedit travel brochures while on vacation, just to get some copyediting in. And some of the travel brochures have needed it. And travel articles in magazines. I am not one of those "correct people's grammar in conversation" types--I am very anti that because it's rude and gives English majors a totally unjustified bad rep. What I'm interested in is clear, concise communication for readers, any readers of any thing, be it book, article, brochure, letter, or even memo. Or even the direct mail that sometimes doesn't get much of a read because it's something we didn't ask to receive.

My interest in good communication for readers began in childhood, though I did not realize it then. When I wasn't with family or friends or watching tv, I was reading, and that was simply another form of entertainment. I read the My Book House Books series my parents bought for me at the State Fair, and kids' books--fiction and biography--with an occasional foray into the World Book Encyclopedia just for a change. Later I moved on to young adult fiction, more non-fiction while continuing with biographies, and poetry and plays. All that reading gave me a knowledge and instinct for what makes a good sentence and a not-so-good sentence, a knowledge and instinct for what readers should expect out of whatever they happen to be reading. Later on, my schooling gave me more knowledge and more practice writing, which also helped. I really don't remember what I copyedited first. But I soon realized that I loved that task.

Why do I love copyediting? Besides making sure a text communicates properly, my love for copyediting has to do with the creativity and problem-solving mystery of it all. Now, problems like subject-verb agreement or typos are clear cut--you fix the agreement, retype the word correctly, and that's it. But if a sentence is really snarled, or there are what one of my profs called "wandering verb tenses," or the pronouns go from singular to plural and back again, there's more than one way to fix the problem, and that's where the creativity and problem-solving mystery of it comes in. It's like, perhaps more prosaically, fixing a plumbing problem or filling the potholes in a road. It's like carving out what's unnecessary, to reveal the text. It's like putting a puzzle together and being able to change the pieces without changing the picture. It's challenging, creative, and fun.

But that's not all there is to it. Read this blog tomorrow for why copyediting is important. And have a good day!