Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grammar Tip: Which vs. That


Disclaimer: The rule I am about to explain has not always been the rule—it is, however, the current, generally accepted way to handle which vs. that.
Which and that both introduce dependent clauses (that is, a group of words that on its own does not create a complete sentence).
Which introduces clauses that are unnecessary to complete the main idea of the sentence, but rather add on more information; these are always set off with a comma and followed by a comma if necessary:
She ate an apple, which was red.
That introduces clauses that contain necessary information to fully convey the main idea of the sentence and are not set off by commas:
She spent the money that her grandmother gave her on balloons and candy.
Which = nonessential, use commas
That = essential, no commas
Pretty straightforward, right?

Friday, May 27, 2011

There's Something in the Water

Researching and writing this article convinced me to buy a water filter system and switch to drinking tap water. If you've never looked into this issue, check out the article. Interesting stuff!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Word Wednesdays: Sofalizing

First of all, yes, I know it's Thursday, but I didn't do a word yesterday and I like this one!


noun


def.: socializing via the Internet or phone from the comfort of your sofa

as in

I spent most of Saturday sofalizing with friends who live in different parts of the country—I love Skype!

Usually I define tried-and-true words on Wednesdays, but I came across this word at Walk in the WoRds and it tickled my fancy; check out their post for other interesting tidbits about this word and its practice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In Honor of Towel Day

Apparently every year, die-hard Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans celebrate Towel Day in memory of Douglas Adams. Awesome. This book is so much FUN to read...if you haven't yet, you should.

In honor of the author, his book, and his day, a quote:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have.
 Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble‐sanded beaches of Santraginus Ⅴ, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand‐to‐hand‐combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Editing Tip: Four Ways to Edit Your Own Work

Editing my own writing is by far the hardest editing I do; it's so much easier to fill in missing words or accept muddy ideas in my writing because I already know what I'm trying to say—I don't have to figure it out from only what's on paper. So to make sure my writing says exactly what's in my head, I usually do one of the following.

  1. Reread, reread, and reread. To effectively edit your own writing, you should take the time to read through it several times. Try looking for different, specific types of errors each read-through. Focus on sentence structure one time, word use the next, and spelling and punctuation the next.
  2. Edit a hard copy. It's incredible what a difference it makes in how effective your editing can be  to see what you wrote on a piece of paper. Print out your document and read it to catch errors you might have missed on the computer.
  3. Take a break and read it again. Sometimes the best way to edit your work is to take a break from it. This allows your brain to rest and gives you the ability to approach your piece in a fresh way. How you write and what you write often depends on your mood and surroundings; changing it up by taking a break can do wonders on identifying errors. 
  4. Have someone else read it. This isn't really editing your own work, but it can be very helpful! Have a friend or someone who is good at the technicalities of writing read through it to see if he or she can pinpoint errors you missed.
I don't always use all these tips to edit my own work, but even using one of them can help you be a better writer. If you're still not satisfied with your piece—or you really want to go that extra mile to "perfection"—you can always get a professional to look at your work. Contact me for a quote!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Book You'll Never Read

I'll admit it...I've got plenty of books that I "should" read and even "want" to read, but that somehow never get read...

As for Mr. Eco's self-description, I would use the exact opposite for myself—a reader, not a writer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Expandable Stories


Came across this at The Digital Reader and thought it was so neat that I had to share.
As he points out, I’m not sure it has any practical purposes (except for teachers?), but as a word geek, I think it’s fun to play around with!
The original, illustrates-what-it-is sentence can be found here. To make your own, go here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Do Editors Do?


Sometimes, people aren't completely aware of what the terms editing and proofreading encompass, even if they do know they've been told they're important. If you're considering hiring someone to help you through the editing or proofreading process, read on to see what you can expect (or ask for) from each type of service.

Editing

Editing can be divided into three categories: developmental editing, substantive editing, and copyediting. 
Developmental Editing: Think of developmental editing as a helping hand for authors; this type of editing provides guidance and suggestions for organizing, researching, drafting, writing, and rewriting a piece of work from the very beginning, perhaps before anything has even been written down. 
Substantive Editing: When an editor gets involved later in the process, after everything has already been written down and tentatively organized, he or she is most likely going to focus on substantive editing. This entails fixing organization issues, creating clarity, pointing out inconsistencies, and improving readability. It does not include fixing grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or checking references. 
Copyediting: Also known as line editing, copyediting’s purpose is to clean up the copy without toying with the author’s voice or style. A copyeditor checks grammar, punctuation, spelling, copyright issues, word usage, style consistency, and cross-references. 

Proofreading

By the time a work gets to this stage, there should be few errors left. Proofreading involves pinpointing any major errors that previous editors and the writer missed and examining the “finished” version for layout, color, consistency, page makeup, and type errors. It can also include checking front and back matter such as forewords, bibliographies, and notes for consistency with the main content.

Writing

What I write as a freelance editor goes beyond what a typical author writes when he or she decides to tackle a subject and get it published. An editor’s writing can include, but is not limited to, ghost writing, rewriting an author’s unclear text, rewriting an ESL author’s less-than-pristine English, and creating such items as articles, instructional modules, PowerPoint presentations, press releases, and product reviews. Oftentimes, an editor’s writing is unattributed—at least, to the editor.
An author can request one, all, or a combination of the different types of services, and pricing changes depending on which service(s) is required.
However, each of these services requires exceptional knowledge of English, grammar, and rhetoric, an instinctive understanding of what the author is trying to say (regardless of what he or she is saying), and a willingness to devote the time and energy necessary to create the perfect details in every piece of work.

Interested in talking with me about how I can help you with your work? Email me or fill out the contact page and I will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Homonyms Happen: Acolyte & Accolade


During my morning scroll through my RSS Feed yesterday, I glanced at Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, acolyte. Feeling a little self-satisfied at knowing this one, I immediately identified its definition as “praise” and looked at MW’s definition to confirm. I was then surprised (and humbled) to see—I was wrong. A little digging led me to realize that I had made the homonym mistake! Although neither of these words are very common in day-to-day English, I’m posting them to hopefully save someone else the humble-pie lesson I had yesterday.
Acolyte: a person who assists; a follower
Accolade: a ceremony, acknowledgment, or mark of praise
How to remember the difference? An acolyte is a “lighter (lyter)” version of the person they’re helping. Someone who has received accolades is likely to get laid (lade) for their accomplishment. (Hey—I didn’t say it was a sophisticated system; just an effective one!) 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Word Wednesdays: Anastrophe

noun
def.: reversing word order for rhetorical effect
as in
While it may seem as if Yoda was obsessed with anastrophe, a trait that immortalized many of his lines, some have argued that his unusual word order was not intentional, but rather a result of English not being his first language.
If you want to explore this further, *B-LING* offers an in-depth look at Yoda’s syntax.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Names You Should Know


Names You Should Know: Albert Camus

Authored: The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus, and more

Important Because: Camus was the second youngest recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature; a philosopher and a journalist, Camus’ theories about the meaning of life (that is, life’s absurdity) became very popular and are often associated with existentialism, although he himself rejected the association.

Important to Me Because: I’ve always had a fascination with philosophy and the influence it has on people’s lives. I’ve decided that, if for no other reason, I am too innately an optimist to accept Camus’ theories.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

λ♥[love]


Christine begins her song with these lines:
Let me have your heart and I will give you love
The denotation of my soul is the above
So just as λx[x+1] is a function that we can define as “give me a number and I’ll return that number incremented by one”, so λ♥[love] is a function that we can define as “give me your heart and I’ll give you love”.
I love this!! More explanations of the song, the words it uses, and more at the link above. :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Homonyms Happen: Discrete & Discreet


Some homonyms are easy—for example, flour and flower. Others…well, even for native English speakers, not so much. This is the first in a new series that explains homonyms and offers ways to help remember which is which.


Discrete: separate, distinct
Discreet: intentionally unobtrusive; careful to not over-share


A professor from college taught me the trick to tell the difference between these two—it’s in the e’s:
In discrete, the e’s are separated by a t (they are separate and distinct from each other).
In discreet, the e’s are together (they hold each other close—what discreet people do with secrets!).


Using both in a sentence: Discreet people often have their own discrete pieces of information that, if all combined, could form one very juicy novella.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Word Wednesdays: Ersatz

adjective
def.: to be a substitute, usually inferior and artificial
as in
My husband and I are in the process of buying a house; one of the builders in the area is promoting their neighborhood by advertising that every home comes with artificial turf, but I think I’d prefer no grass to ersatz grass!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Delicious Food Quote


If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony. 
- Fernand Point
I bet he was talking about sushi, for which I am definitely in the mood today!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Homonyms Happen: Breath & Breadth


Came across this one today in a book review I’m editing:
The cases and stories in this book provide a wide breath of patient experiences.
Breath: air inhaled or exhaled during breathing
Breadth: comprehensive quality
I suppose it’s not really a homonym—since you should pronounce the “d” in breadth—but apparently it’s close enough to confuse this writer! Let’s hope the book is more error free than the review. :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weak Words Need to "Grow a Pair"


As authors, you write because you have something to say. It can be a difficult battle to convince an audience that what you’re saying is important; the last thing you need is to trip yourself up by using wimpy language.
While recently working on an instructor’s manual, I started to notice that the authors were undermining their expertise—and therefore the incentive to use not only their manual but also their textbook—by consistently using weak words: some, somewhat, rather, quite, and a bit, to name a few.
Authors tend to use words such as these because they are not comfortable stating an idea as an absolute; while this can be appropriate, these words are often over-used with the adverse effect of making an author sound—yes, I’l say it—wimpy.
To illustrate: notice how the second sentence in each of these says the same as the first but sounds stronger and more authoritative.
EXAMPLE 1
Students somewhat have a problem writing rather long research papers, and it might be a bit helpful to have them start sooner rather than later.
Students, we find, have a problem writing long research papers, and it is helpful to have them start the process by week three of the semester.
How does one “somewhat” have a problem? Either you do have a problem, or you don’t have a problem. How is something “a bit” helpful? Either it is helpful…or it isn’t. And, finally, when is “sooner rather than later”? The authors, instead of offering specific, concrete advice, give themselves an out for offending readers, but in the process they water down their writing and their advice.
 EXAMPLE 2
I can somewhat see your point, but you are a bit overzealous.
I can see your point, but you are overzealous.
This example really shows how the weak words water down the point the speaker is making; both serve as “back doors”—the somewhat to avoid agreeing with the other person and the a bit to avoid offending the other person. While they may serve a purpose in heated verbal arguments (among friends, for example, or between two married people), they have no purpose in effective, concrete writing.
If as a writer you are uncomfortable writing something without using weak words, it is better to not write it at all. Help your writing “grow a pair” and abolish weak words!