Weekend Wrinkle: Support a Copy Editor

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Copy editors, the unsung heroes of the writing world, are finally getting recognition. Unfortunately, it is because they face losing their jobs.

Hundreds of the New York Times employees walked out June 29 to protest the elimination of  the Times’ stand-alone copy desk where about 100 copy editors toil away to make the paper readable and accurate. Those folks have been “invited” to apply for 50 copy editing positions that will be available. (For an in depth look, see the Washington Post’s “Why hundreds of New York Times employees staged a walkout.” )

For years I have watched as copy editing positions were eliminated in favor of “streamlining” communication. The result has always been mistakes, confusion, and inaccuracy flooding through (not to mention hideously bad grammar and usage).

Modern communication, especially news, is focused on speed. The faster you can get the information out, the better. Copy editing slows things down.  Heck, you can always apologize for getting it wrong later on. We all know how well that works.

Copy editors make sure that what gets out is accurate, clean, and understandable. They can also save a publication’s butt by making sure potentially libelous phrasing and misinformation doesn’t make it out into pubic. (Can you say “Sarah Palin,” NYT?)

How many times has a copy editor saved you from an embarrassing mistake? I have a friend who will call me up to let me know I’ve made an error in this blog. Bless her soul for that! I’m sending out cosmic hugs to all you eagle-eyed folks!

Copy editors know that their best work is invisible. Readers can’t see what was cut, reworked, or fact checked. But, boy, readers sure notice when that work isn’t done!

With accusations of “fake news” being flung all over the place, why would you cut holes in your safety net by laying off copy editors, especially when you’re seen as the newspaper of record in the United States?

The best headline I’ve seen about this is from The Concourse on Deadspin.com: “The New York Times Is Killing Its Soul.”

 

Weekend Wrinkle: The Rise of The Nib

The NibIn the bowels of the government office building, intrepid copy editor Devon Taylor chased down a lead on a cabal so intent on twisting and bloating the writing in public reports as to make them dense and unintelligible.

“I must foil their dastardly plan to pervert the idea of freedom of information,” Devon thought as the pinprick from the pen light showed the way.

Soon the hallway opened up into a large storage area, dimly lit by flashlights in the raised hands of hooded, cloaked, chanting figures.

“Jargon is king!”

“Perfection is reached by passive voice.”

“All hail wordiness!”

The mysterious figures slowly circled a huge vat of what, from the smell, could only be lead-based ink.

Mobile device at the ready, Devon was just about to get the evidence needed to expose the cabal to the world when hands reached out and grasped Devon’s arms and legs. The captors lifted a struggling, yelling Devon and tossed the copy editor into the vat.

Sinking, sinking into the blackness, all Devon could think was, “This is it. This is the end. My quest for quality writing is thwarted!”

Then the pain came. The chemicals and lead caused an explosion of agonizing transformation to Devon’s body.  Head, arms, torso, legs – all were converted into something much more, something destined to rid the world of obtuse writing.

Devon Taylor no longer existed. Shooting up from the roiling, ebony liquid surged The Nib – Champion of Clear Writing.

Weekend Wrinkle: Warm & Fuzzy for Writing ‘Fools’

I was going to write something for April Fool’s Day, but this from Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog was just so much better!

1. A beautiful moment captured. 2. ‘Who’s coming?’ 3. The bestest friends. 4. ‘Tell me doc, is it serious?’ 5. Play time! 6. ‘Don’t be sad, you’ll get your food soon.’ 7. That baby looks comfy. 8. Sharing is caring. 9. This baby looks so content. 10. ‘Our father who art in heaven…’ 11. This […]

via AWWWWsome Kids & Their Pets Photos… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

Weekend Wrinkle: Are You an Idle-headed Snipe?

normal_Jack_SnipeI was watching a program about life in the Middle Ages recently, and the gentleman was discussing falconry and expressions still in use that come from it. We still use phrases like “under one’s thumb” and “wrapped around his little finger.”

This got me thinking about origins of today’s expressions, which morphed into changes in word use, which made me think of one of my lessons on slang, which brought me to a website on Elizabethan insults. (Whew! finally made it.)

Elizabethan Oaths, Curses, and Insults has this neat little program that lets you generate an Elizabethan insult! How fun is that?

It seems to be written for those in the Renaissance Faire biz, but the idea that Shakespeare’s contemporaries got so creative with their phrasing of insults is just a blast. (Of course, they had a lot more time on their hands to think this stuff up.)

Come on, don’t you agree that “Verily, ye be a droning, idle-headed snipe” is much more interesting than “You are so dense”?

Maybe I can get away with, “S’wounds! Thou art a beslubbering, flap-mouthed moldwarp!” when I’m driving.

Think about how much more interesting road rage would be.

 

Weekend Wrinkle: Even the Best Vocabulary Can Go Awry

Even people with good vocabularies can make mistakes, especially when words are close in meaning.

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Recently, I saw a job posting for a large company looking for someone with skills to “compliment” the company’s values.

I guess they’ll get lots of cover letters that describe the values as smart, attractive, and progressive. I’m not sure how well those candidates’ skill sets will fit together with (complement) what the company needs.

One blog post said a sports team “wreaked” of apathy. I’m sure what the writer meant was reeked.

The one that caused a double take and which I actually had to look up was one blogger’s need to “allude” a poor situation. I knew it was wrong; I just needed to check to make sure that the writer wasn’t referring to the situation but looking to avoid (or elude) it.

Hey, I’m the woman who always has to check continual versus continuous.

The moral is: Don’t assume, just because you have a really good vocabulary, you won’t make mistakes.  When in doubt, look it up.

Weekend Wrinkle: We Glory in Grammar

DSCN5533Happy National Grammar Day!

It’s that time of year when we who immerse ourselves in the intricacies of the building blocks of writing come out of the shadows to proudly declare, “Yes, I am a grammar geek!”

Throughout the year we have to stifle our urges to correct menus, signs, and television newscasters. We have to bear the exasperated snorts and evil looks of those whose butchery of the English language we gently (gently, I say) try to correct.

Not today! Today is our day!

So here are some tidbits from grammar gurus to help you celebrate the foundation of English speaking civilization:


 

I apologize for Weekend Wrinkle’s unannounced hiatus, but it’s back and (hopefully) better than ever!

Weekend Wrinkle: Joy & Style Books

DSCN5514 (2)I am so weird!

Yes, I’ve come to terms with my weirdness over the years, but there are times when even I can’t ignore how strange I am.

The UPS guy showed up at my doorstep the other day with my new copy of the Associated Press Stylebook, and you would have thought that he was Santa Claus come early.

I ordered a new copy because the one I already have is decades (several decades) old. That isn’t the weird part. The weird part is how happy I was at the new arrival.

I tore open the package, grinning, and clutched the book to my chest. (Yes, I actually did that.) Then I started thumbing through it looking at all the changes. The “thumbing” took up more than an hour!

I honestly cannot tell you why I take so much delight in a style book, just as I cannot explain why I love to read through dictionary entries.

There is in words, and the way in which they are used, the power to bring me joy.

 

Weekend Wrinkle: Need a Ghost (Writer)?

By Barbara E.R. Lucas

Ghostly Smith Corona typer
Photo by Ellen Jantzen, www.ellenjantzen.com. You can view more of her work at Susan Spiritus Gallery

Ghost writers are not just for superstars. You don’t need to be a celebrity writing a book about your latest scandal or an athlete with no time to put thoughts on paper to benefit from having a ghost (writer) around.

Many professionals use them to help with everything from Twitter feeds to letters to magazine articles. A good one will ask the right questions, do some research, and help achieve your goals.

Blogs are a great place to ask a ghost writer to step in and help. You have an idea but no time. Or you have a brain cramp which makes writing difficult. Blogs can seem relentless – you want to stay on a schedule of posting regularly, but everyone needs a vacation. A ghost will float in, and readers should not know the difference.

Asking for help in getting a blog post together can be the perfect introduction to the ghost experience.

In my career, I have written for audiences from 10-year-olds to medical professionals, electricians to domestic engineers. My work has appeared (under my name or the name of my clients) everywhere from Twitter to national specialty magazines.

The length of what I create changes radically. So does the language used and the tone of voice. When you’re a ghost, the object is to be invisible but helpful. Think Casper the Friendly Ghost, not the ghoulish creatures from The Shining.

A good ghost writer will sound exactly like you – only better. He or she will not try to take over your brain, just ride on your shoulder for a while to see things from your point of view.

So, how do you find such help? Find a writer whose work you enjoy reading or look around at who in your extended circle might have these skills. LinkedIn can be a great tool for that. You are looking for someone with fairly wide-ranging talents, perhaps with knowledge in your field.

The greatest compliment for a ghost writer is when nobody knows your work. Is it tough to hear nice things said about your writing and not be able to claim it? Not really. It means your cloak of invisibility is well-crafted, and there will be more assignments.

Remember: a good ghost will help all year round, not just on Halloween.

Barbara E.R. Lucas has been the woman behind the words for many years. She has extended experience as a writer and communicator having worked as a newspaper writer and editor, and public relations and communications (spirit) guide. Visit her at www.blucaswrites.com.

Weekend Wrinkle: That’s Not Normal!

Re-posted from “The Word Tweaker’s Tipsheet.”


Curtis trotted into the house, dropped his backpack at the back door, and charged into the kitchen. He was starving after a busy but productive day at school.

On the counter, sitting in the middle of a plate, was a big chocolate chip cookie, his favorite. Next to it was a note: “Went to the store. Be right back. Mom.”

Curtis smiled. The crease along the middle of the cookie meant it was homemade.

“Yum!” he thought as he reached for his treat.

When his fingers were an inch from his cookie, an eye opened up in the middle of it! Curtis froze in disbelief. The green, watery eye in the cookie considered Curtis calmly. Then it blinked.Eye in Chocolate Chip Cookie

 Almost on its own, Curtis’s body turned and flew to the door. He tripped over his backpack, picked himself up, and ran screaming into the street.

The best horror stories are the ones that take something totally innocuous and turn it into something surreal.

Most people, whether they want to admit it or not, like things to be “normal.” They don’t like things challenging their expectations – except when they want to be entertained.

As we head toward Halloween, we expect the unusual, even crave it. We seek out the abnormal – in carefully controlled and choreographed circumstances, of course.

Writers often think outside the norm. They look at things and can see the unexpected or unusual. They put these different perspectives before the public and help change the way people look at life. Sometimes it’s temporary, but the best writers will show us a different side of things that stays with us, sometimes haunts us.

Writers should pat themselves on the back. The world needs their differentness; it keeps us honest.

Just think of that the next time you reach for a chocolate chip cookie!

Weekend Wrinkle: Summer with a Different Type of Writer

Emily the writing spider
Emily spent the summer with me.

I had an unusual summer guest: Emily, the spider.

Emily decided that my front door area, right under the porch light, was a great set-up for a nursery.

Some people would think that a spider should be named Charlotte, but as a writing spider, I thought “Emily” was much more appropriate.

Some people don’t like spiders at all, and even those who do like spiders might think it is still odd to let Emily occupy part of my front porch. (The evangelists who came to my door certainly did. The dead mouse DC left on the doorstep didn’t help my reputation much either, I’m sure.)

You see, writing spiders (also known as argiope aurantia and golden garden spider) are quite large. Their bodies can get to be more than an inch long – that’s not counting their legs, folks. They’re called writing spiders because of the zigzag pattern they put down the middle of their webs. For spiders, they’re really quite pretty.

It was fun to watch Emily work her magic this summer, especially when she caught such pests as wasps, beetles, and mosquitoes. Every day, she would repair (revise) her web to keep it solid and clean. She was an inspiration with her industry and tenacity.

Emily was joined for a while by Jane. They’re both gone now, having followed the life cycle of all spiders (and people). They have left their nurseries on my porch. Alas, although I was happy to have Emily and Jane visit, I’m unwilling to accommodate hundreds of their offspring. Those sacks will be gone by this weekend.

I’m sure, however, that one of Emily’s relatives will turn up next summer.