Monday, May 10, 2010

I Need Copyediting!!!!!

Ok someone give me something to copyedit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have not gotten to do any poor grammar correcting, punctuation fixing, sentence unscrambling, language awareness adjusting copyediting lately!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Somebody send me something! Please. :)

Monday, April 19, 2010


Style is what distinguishes one piece of writing from another, but more especially one writer from another. Henry David Thoreau's style is different from Henry James' which is yet again different from G.K. Chesterton's. Jane Austen's style is a rippling stream or bubbling pool and Charlotte Brontë's is an erupting volcano. Style must occur naturally. If it is put on, the reader will notice, and be put off. As Zinsser writes, "Sell yourself, and your subject will exert its own appeal. Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Proceed with confidence, generating it by put will-power. Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it. Use its energy to keep yourself going" (26).


1. Whose work is this? "We became--at least I became--dressy. It was the age of the "knut": of "spread" ties with pins in them, of very low cut coats and trousers worn very high to show startling socks, and brogue shoes with immensely wide laces. Something of all this had already trickled to me from the College through my brother, who was now becoming sufficiently senior to aspire to knuttery. Pogo completed the process. A more pitiful ambition for a lout of an overgrown fourteen-year-old with a shilling a week pocket money could hardly be imagined; the more so since I am one of those on whom Nature has laid the doom that whatever they buy and whatever they wear they will always look as if they had come out of an old clothes shop. I cannot even now remember without embarrassment the concern that I then felt about pressing my trousers and (filthy habit) plastering my hair with oil. A new element had entered my life: Vulgarity. Up till now I had committed every other sin and folly within my power, but I had not yet been flashy."

2. In what novel do the following characters appear? Clara Middleton, Vernon Whitford, Sir Willoughby Patterne

Answers to the previous quiz
1. A more concise version of this sentence would be Many people attended the subscription series' third concert.
2. The characters Sir Harry Otway, Mrs. Butterworth, and Mr. Floyd appear in E.M. Forster's A Room With A View.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Clutter and Conciseness

Clutter is simply too many words for the meaning. Sometimes it comes in the form of too many overused expressions, or passive verbs, or too many prepositional phrases, or garbled sentence structure. However it appears, it clogs up things and makes it difficult for the reader, and, ultimately, the writer, because what's the good of writing when your writing doesn't communicate properly?


1. Make this sentence from an Elements of Style example more concise: "The third concert of the subscription series was given last evening, and a large audience was in attendance" (25).

2. In which novel do the following minor characters appear? Sir Harry Otway, Mrs. Butterworth, Mr. Floyd

Answers to the previous post's quiz:

1. I will always remember my first visit to Boston.
2. The characters Mr. Skimpole, Mr. Krook, Miss Flite, Mr. Carstone, and Mr. Bucket appear in Charles Dickens' Bleak House.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Back To Blogging

For a variety of reasons (including more work duties, among them project management and more web content writing), I haven't blogged in a while. But I need to start blogging again.

To help me get started and provide a framework for my blog, I'm going to study again and take my framework from William Zinsser's On Writing Well and Strunk and White's Elements of Style. And I'd like to bring the quiz back, tho' perhaps with one or two questions at the end of each blog.

William Zinsser discusses simplicity in chapter two of On Writing Well. Why clog up the piece with too many words that obscures the meaning and makes the reader impatient? The reader
is more likely to finish a clearly written piece than a difficult one. Strunk and White point out that the passive voice, negative or noncommittal statements, too many loose sentences, and simply too many words for the meaning makes writing too complicated (18-25).


1. Make this sentence more concise: "My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me" (Strunk and White 18).

2. What novel includes the characters Mr. Skimpole, Mr. Krook, Miss Flite, Mr. Carstone,
and Mr. Bucket?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

National Grammar Day

I just read on the 'net about today being National Grammar Day.
Another way to phrase it is "National Write Clearly For the Readers Day," because that's your goal when you write. And my goal when copyediting is to make sure that writing is clear.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Yes it's been ages . . . .

Yes it's been ages since I've blogged . . . I've been busy with my ongoing gig as a part of a creative services team (which includes copyediting and copywriting) via telecommuting, and other things . . . and other things currently include a reformatting gig and some intermittent volunteer copyediting.

I've sort of run out of things to write about but then again I really need to blog consistently, about good writing and problems and solutions.

Good writing first. Here's a good example, from William Zinsser's On Writing Well:

BREEZINESS. There is a kind of writing that's so seemingly relaxed that you think you hear the author talking to you. E.B. White was probably its best practitioner, though many other masters of the form--James Thurber, Lewis Thomas, Virgil Thomson--come to mind. I'm partial to it because it's a style that I've always tried to write myself. The common asssumption is that
it's effortless. Just the opposite is true: the effortless style is achieved by strenuous effort and rewriting. The nails of grammar and syntax are all in place; the English is as good as the writer can make it, and the total piece has a design that pulls the reader along from start to finish (Zinsser 123).

Now, this paragraph exemplifies what he's writing about: the grammar is correct and used with effect, and the writing is relaxed, unfolding the definition of breeziness sentence by sentence, beginning with examples and then getting down to what's most important--the thought and work that goes into it and the effectiveness of the careful design.

Now for the problems and solutions . . . this is just plain ol' incorrect: an apostrophe with a decade or century written as a number instead of words, as in 1800's when the context doesn't call for a possessive, as in My great-great grandfather was born in the 1820's. Written correctly, the sentence reads My great-grandfather was born in the 1820s.

Here's an example of both: The 1860s were a turbulent time in Searcy County, Arkansas.
1861's violence culminated in the arrest of seventy-one members of the Arkansas Peace Society who were chained and marched to the county seat Burrowville (later renamed Marshall) then to Little Rock.

Now, I don't know of anywhere else, other than that sentence I just wrote, of a sentence being started with a year. But those sentences do illustrate the proper use of an apostrophe with a year.

And, by the by, I was writing about something that really happened--seventy-one members of the Arkansas Peace Society, including my great-great grandfather and his brother, were put in trace chains and marched from their homes to the county seat then to Little Rock in the winter time, all for being loyal to the Union. My grandmother (1906-2002) said her father said he would never forget the sight of his father marched off in chains. A copy of a copy of a copy (etc.) of a photo of my gg-grandfather in his Union army uniform (yep, he joined the Union later on) sits on my desk.


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

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What Works

After so many posts about what doesn't work, it's time to have some posts about what does work, and why. Eventually I'll find a well-written article on the 'net and post the link. I do
know of one very well-written article--a superb comparison/contrast article about EastEnders that appeared in Vanity Fair in the early '90s, but that was so long ago that it's not even in their online archives (yes, I checked . . . just in case).

Here's a sentence with correct punctuation: "After all, Alfred ruled in the late 800s and then only in Wessex, a southern English kindom centred on Winchester."

There aren't any problems in the above sentence. A comma follows the introductory phrase, and a comma precedes the explanatory clause. The only thing different is the spelling of centred, and that only because this sentence is from an article in a magazine about Britain.

More positive examples tomorrow.


Hargan, Jim. "The England That Alfred Made." British Heritage (September 2004): 36.

Monday, January 4, 2010


"Choose from a delicious Italian, Mediterranean, and Tex-Mex dishes, hot and crusty oven baked pizza, sizzling steaks, and, of course, expertly prepared Gulf Coast seafood."

Sometimes a hyphen is needed . . . as in the case of "oven baked pizza," in which two words are paired to describe what sort of pizza: Choose from a delicious Italian, Mediterranean, and Tex-Mex dishes, hot and crusty oven-baked pizza, sizzling steaks, and, of course, expertly prepared Gulf Coast seafood.

"Explore more than 25-acres of lush indoor and outdoor gardens."

And sometimes a hyphen is not needed, as in the case of "25-acres" because the information tells us how many acres of gardens there are, rather than describing particular gardens, and so the corrected sentence reads Explore more than 25 acres of lush indoor and outdoor gardens.