Saturday, May 16, 2009

Must Have Used the Same Sign Provider?

When you realize you are having problems with words like "clutches", maybe it would have been wise to consult a dictionary? Or, at least ask someone else to proofread this? Or perhaps look at the paperwork or boxes from the companies that send you "clutches"?

But hey, these folks fix clutches, they don't fix words. I'll promise to not fix any clutches if they promise to not take my job of being an editor/proofreader!


Friday, May 15, 2009

Why You Can't Depend on the Print Shop to Proofread Your Documents!

Sometimes you will see obvious indications that perhaps you should hire your own proofreader/editor to check your proofs (that's the reason why those things are called "proofs") before you give the go-ahead for your printer to run a few thousand of your corporate brochures.

Really... wouldn't you think SOMEONE would have noticed this? And if they had, don't you think it would have been wise to fix it? Are the owner and employees all sitting behind the order counter wondering why there's not much traffic to their store? Ah, the questions are endless.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Descriptive versus Prescriptive Grammar

You may wonder about the differences between these two types of grammar. I've mentioned this before, but I'll discuss them a little more now.

Prescriptive grammar sticks with rigid rules of grammar that have been long rooted in Latin and Ancient Greek. Aristotlean prescriptive rules on "parts of speech" and how these "parts" work together are applied strictly to English structure and usage. Unfortunately, sometimes English doesn't want to fit very well into Aristotle's vision of grammar, and the Prescriptive grammarians try to pound English into the mold.

Uh, guys, Latin and Ancient Greek are dead languages... they don't change. Modern English is always changing --as are all living languages, so new vocabulary is created, adapted, adopted and used. Live with it!) <---- This is the view of Descriptive grammarians.

We (yes, I admit I am one!) believe that professionals in using a language should learn the structure and usage of traditional grammar so we can get a firm grasp of the basics, and then identify how a modern language implements these components (or similar components).

For instance, English has a part of speech called an article... An indefinite article is the word "a". A definite article is the word "the". However, in Japanese, there's a component of their grammar called a "particle" ("wa")--that has a function as a sort of a cross between a preposition and an article.

The point is this... stop trying to force living languages into a grammatical mold based on dead languages!

However, just because it's okay to be a bit more "free" with your now "unrestricted" use of English doesn't mean you should get sloppy (really, truly sloppy) with your writing. Spelling is still important. Use of apostrophes to indicate possessives and contractions is still important. There are cases in which English is awkward when used "properly" according to prescriptive grammar "rules". Descriptive grammarians avoid this awkwardness by "breaking" or "bending" the rules a bit. They note that other living languages do not have this problem because the other languages have vocabulary that gets around this issue.

The study of languages is fascinating.


Well, at least they didn't say "sangwich"....


Okay, we can accept that perhaps the person who wrote this was in a hurry. But really, how hard is it to spell "sandwich"? (The thing was named after the supposed "founder" of the meal consisting of meat and veggies surrounded by two pieces of bread--The "Earl of Sandwich.") I hope their cooking and food preparation skills are better than their spelling.

Under New Managment. Yup.


When you have large banners such as these presenting your business to the public, you'd think that SOMEONE somewhere would proofread the thing before sticking it up for the whole world to see. Awesome. This proves that editors have a purpose! (Either that, or illiterates!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Where Are All the Proofreaders?

Sometimes you are driving along... and a typo or other problem almost as big as a barn causes you to do a double-take. This one was so good that I had to stop the car and get a picture of it. (Yeah, I know. I shouldn't be editing when I'm driving. It's almost as dangerous as texting when driving.)


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Does Anyone Proofread Their Signs Anymore?

I've never experienced a "Monglian" BBQ. Someone obviously noticed and added the "O". But really. Why not do it right instead of this half-attempt? Ah, well.

Proofreading seems to be a lost art. No one is doing it anymore. Even in the sign making business. You see signs everywhere in which someone could have made a better impression if they had just proofread what they had put on the sign. It's bad enough when the name of the store is spelled incorrectly, but how about if the phone number or street address of the establishment is wrong?


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Demise of Readable, Understandable English--From a Reader's Viewpoint

It's sad.

In my daily running around, I see flyers, brochures, huge banners, technical manuals, magazines, newspapers, non-fiction books, and novels peppered with typos, spelling errors, and grammatical gaffes.

I belong to "professional" groups--some of them groups for writers and editors... and I see typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors in the posts. Some of these errors are things like misused apostrophes and subject-verb agreement. Things that are simple enough that they should have been caught. Aaargh!

And yes, I, too have occasionally had butter-fingers and have hit the "send/submit/enter" button without noticing that I misspelled something or that I missed a word. Typing fast on a laptop when being distracted by the dog wanting to go out or my wife fussing with me to come to dinner is a major hazard in creating perfect text--at least for me. However, writing in a forum or fooling around on the web while on the couch at home is different than when working on a professional job. As a writer, I value an extra set of eyes (another trusted reader) to view my text to ensure that I haven't made any serious gaffes. As an editor, I offer that service to my fellow writers.

I'm disappointed that companies in the U.S. don't seem to care about the editorial quality of their publications, their internal documents, and their customer-facing documents any more. They are so concerned about "saving money" that they no longer see the need to pay for U.S. based "editorial professionals" to help them with their documents. If they DO decide to get their documents written or edited, more and more are not only outsourcing their documentation, but they are offshoring it--sending it off to India. What they get back may be what resembles English, but it usually reflects the difference in culture and languages (the folks in India retain the English of the old U.K. Colonial times... and this makes for awkward reading for U.S. readership--some of the old U.K. expressions don't quite translate well into U.S. English).

Whether or not you liked the above comment doesn't matter. It's a fact. If you try to read some of the offshored documents, if you are a native U.S. English speaker, you will see and know what I mean. This is similar to the documentation that accompanies products made in China or Japan (or Romania or Italy, for that matter)--they find someone in the village who has "learned English" in the local high school or technical school... and they assign the person to "translate" the assembly or operation instructions into English. That person does it frequently enough, and they can market themselves as a "technical writer" or "technical editor" or "translator"--then they get more gigs doing the same for other products. If you've ever bought a VCR or other contraption, just check the user's manual to see what I mean.

Hey, more kudos to the person for giving it their best shot. I've taken Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and Mandarin in high school and college... and yeah, given enough time with a bi-lingual dictionary, I could probably translate a user manual, say for a VCR, into Japanese, Russian, Spanish, or Mandarin. But I guarantee that the receiving end of that manual would be rolling on the floor laughing their butts off at how incompetent and hilarious my "translation" would be. Well... the same goes for stuff coming in OUR direction.

You need a final editorial check by a native-speaker of the target language to review the doc for accurate and readable English. If you want the target readers to be in the U.K.--then get a U.K. editor to review it. If you want the target readers to be in the U.S.--then get a U.S. editor to review it. That's the only way to keep your documentation from being trashed by your customers--your end users.

Will it get worse? Perhaps. That's why I offer my services to help companies improve the quality of their documentation.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Remember, an Apostrophe does NOT mean "LOOK OUT, HERE COMES AN 'S'!"

<--- An example of apostrophes used in two places. In one place the apostrophe is used correctly (to indicate a possessive), in the other place the apostrophe is incorrectly used in a possessive pronoun.

Just tonight, I saw websites and printed texts that had misused apostrophes all over the place.

If a word is PLURAL, it does NOT need an apostrophe.

The dog's and the cat's ran around the yard's. (wrong)

The dogs and the cats ran around the yards. (correct)

If a word is a possessive pronoun, it does NOT need an apostrophe.

This is her table.
This is his table.
This is their table.
This is its table. (no apostrophe needed)

If the word is a plural proper noun, it usually does NOT need an apostrophe.

The Gardners live here.
The Wilkensons live here.
The Prasads live here.
The Tanakas live here.
The Obamas live here.
The Taimanglos live here.
The Gumataotaos live here.

BUT... if the proper noun is POSSESSIVE, it usually requires an apostrophe.

This is the Gardner's house.
This is the Wilkenson's house.
This is the Prasad's house.
This is the Tanaka's house.
This is the Obama's house.
This is the Taimanglo's house.
This is the Gumataotao's house.

Have I beaten this concept to death yet?

For more information, check out my Squidoo lenses on Editing Your Writing and Grammar and Parts of Speech.


Editorial Pet Peeves... How Do You Use an Apostrophe?

Don't damage the "meachandise". Bad things can happen.

I've been seeing more and more writing by folks who are unclear on the use and purpose of an apostrophe.

Because our schools don't seem to be teaching English grammar and composition any more, I thought that maybe I should help out by discussing this problem here--and providing examples.

The easiest way to remember this is:

it's = it is
its = possessive pronoun (does not need an apostrophe)

they're = they are
their = possessive pronoun (does not need an apostrophe)
there = locational adverb that modifies the "being verb" (does not need an apostrophe)

Obvious personal pronouns that do not need an apostrophe include "his" and "hers" ... the personal pronoun of the same form for a neuter referent is "its" ...


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Did I Get Into Writing? It's a Story. Once You Get Itchy Fingers, You Have to Write!

Yup. These folks should have found a "Frien" to proofread their banner.

Okay, I admit it.

My Mom and Dad were both English grammar and composition teachers--and I wasn't too wild about putting up with "grammar and composition" lessons tossed at me over the dinner table every night.

I fought it... but in the end, it trapped me. And I discovered that I love fooling around with words. And those words don't even have to be in English!

I fooled around with writing probably as far back as the 4th grade... my 4th grade teacher was really big on writing "reports" on things--and I remember some of mine included the Aztecs, Roman Soldiers, Roadrunners, and Gila Monsters. The 4th grade teacher let us draw/color pictures to accompany our reports--and maybe that was one of my favorite things: illustrated documents. I continued being particularly fond of artwork more than writing until we moved overseas when I was in the 9th grade. We lived out in the boonies on the remote island of Guam--literally in the boonies. With virtually no neighbors, I amused myself by learning how to play guitar and attempting to write my first novel (with illustrations, of course)--got about 140 pages into it before I found *girls* and lost interest in my novel.

It was my exposure to other languages--a year of Spanish in the 9th grade, three years of Japanese in high school, a year of Russian in high school, three more years of Japanese in college, another semester of Russian in college, and a semester of Mandarin Chinese in college...(and then, to top it off, a class in formal linguistics in college!) that I discovered that grammar wasn't so bad.

It was grammar, I discovered, that explains how a language works. It was grammar that could relate the differences between one language and another (and provide the means for translation)!

In the beginning, I was so adverse to English grammar and composition that I worked at getting instead a B.A. in biology with a minor in chemistry. But my background (inherited from my folks, obviously) had me also acting as the editor-writer-publisher of the campus student newspaper and writing science articles for the local newspaper. At the university marine laboratory, I worked as a "work-study student" as a research aide and photo-lab technician/photographer. I soon found out that my photos could help sell my articles to the local newspaper.

A classmate showed a friendly newspaper editor one of my poorly written term papers (she worked at the paper and volunteered to take my term paper in). Thank God I had some decent pictures to get the "article" accepted. The editor did something that most editors would not (in addition to actually publishing the article!)--he sent back the edited manuscript. (The check he sent as payment for the article was also very nice!)

I studied this editor's markup (in those days, they used a blue-pencil on the manuscript pages to provide instructions to the typesetters). I saw what the editor liked... and what he didn't like. So, a few months later, when I had another brilliant idea for an article, I typed it up on my manual typewriter--this time trying to avoid doing anything that the editor had marked out on my previous submission. This editor was cool--he published this article as well. And sent back the edited manuscript along with the check.

So, each time I got an edited manuscript back, I was learning what editors like and what they don't like. And learned how to write newspaper articles. Soon, my articles were being regularly published and my manuscripts were being returned with very few marks. A great learning experience.

So, when I applied for a science teacher position at a local parochial school.... the principal said, "Well, we have good news and bad news."


"The bad news is, we've already hired our science teacher."


"The good news is, we've seen your articles in the local newspaper... and we'd like to offer you the English grammar and composition teacher position."

Well... I needed a job... so how could I say 'No'?

She said, "Here's your textbook. You start on Monday."

It was Friday.

I spent the weekend cramming--studying the first few chapters of the book on English grammar and composition.

Thank God my Mom and Dad were English grammar and composition teachers. I had been watching them for the first 22+ years of my life... so I understood what happened behind the classroom scenes for teachers--English teachers in particular. And, since kindergarten, I had many, many years of watching other teachers in the classroom. I knew which teachers appealed to my opinion of what teachers should be like.. and knew what I didn't like about certain teachers.

So, I walked into that classroom on Monday... and taught my classes the way I'd want a teacher to teach me. It seemed to work--these kids had already chased away two other teachers. I taught with a passion for my subject, a sense of humor, and a willingness to learn. The kids seemed to appreciate this. (And I've since found out that I had the future Governor and Lt. Governor in my classes! Totally weird.)

Teaching that semester of English grammar and composition is one of my fondest memories. I kept one chapter ahead of the kids... and learned about the parts of speech, techniques in composition, how to diagram sentences (this is a really COOL concept!), and the more subtle ways to work with words. I LEARNED my grammar that semester--and it was weird to be able to sit at my folks' dinner table and "talk shop"... about how to use a gerund in a two-word sentence (it can be done!) or using gerunds as objects of prepositions. Predicate nominatives, predicate adjectives. Infinitives. Phrasal verbs. And other jargonese of the English teachers.

While on Guam, I wrote and published freelance articles in newspapers and magazines both nationally and internationally. I had managed to get my work published by the Pacific Daily News, Pacific Sunday News Islander Magazine, Glimpses of Guam, New Pacific Magazine, Pacific Islands Monthly, and other smaller publications before returning to the U.S. mainland.

This article experience got me a job as a staff photographer, then writer, at a daily newspaper in New Mexico. I had more "reinforcement" about my writing here. My City Editor was a stickler... he'd say, "Dave, we're not paying you for the size of the words or the number of words.... KEEP IT SIMPLE!" Under my City Editor's direction, I learned how to cut the fluff from articles... how to make an article get to the point--the news in the journalistic style. (Of course, I'm not doing that here, am I?)

I learned more about what editors want. And managed to get articles published in the Anchorage Daily News, Alamogordo Daily News, Los Angeles Times, New Mexico Wildlife Magazine, California Homeschooler Magazine, Tri-Valley Herald, The (Fremont) Argus, The (Hayward) Daily Review, and The Oakland Times.

After leaving the daily newspaper, I got a job as a technical editor-writer--and have had jobs as a technical editor-writer ever since. But I have always kept playing with doing freelance articles and freelance editing on the side. This freelaning on the side has been helpful--because, with the current economy, I now find myself out of a regular job with new jobs seemingly all dried up.

So, I'm now making myself available as a freelance editor or writer. If you know of anyone who needs editing or writing, please feel free to send them in my direction.

Writing and editing has allowed me to learn and play with new technologies in all sorts of fields--whether it be space station operations, DNA synthesis and genome analysis, computer networking, telecommunications, pharmaceutical development, environmental regulatory compliance, laser safety, hazardous waste management, marketing and sales letters, or supermarket retail operations procedures. Writing requires that you be a quick learner--especially if you've never written about a particular topic before. Before writing about the above topics, I had never written about them. Funny how that works.

What am I doing now? I just got through editing a fellow's 150,000 word novel (he says he has two more of equal size on their way to me), and a book on new marketing techniques for Search Engine Optimization. And, I'm working on a marketing brochure-package for a sprint-car racing team. Strange stuff. All in the life of being a writer.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

After a long hiatus, I'm back. Yeah, it's been a while.

The Picture? Uh, NASA Ames "Reaearch" Center. Slight Typo in a Huge Sign. Bummer. Maybe they should have added a dictionary to their "Reaearch". Ah, well...

I learned about blogs (probably about 4 years too late) back in 2004. Well, maybe I learned about them even earlier, but I didn't try to play with creating one until 2004. It was during a vacation down to Los Angeles to stay with my in-laws for a while... and I was bored... so I found a computer and went to (which was before Google bought them and improved the interface) and spent an afternoon kicking around with it.

I created 4 blogs... all of them with complicated URLs... so I could never remember how to get to them. I also tended to forget the passwords to get into them to fix and update them.

Alas, I became unemployed. And I had to scramble to find jobs. Blogging wasn't high on my priorities. Then, when I had some response to my resumes, I got three gigs to work on simultaneously. Geeeze, when it rains, it pours. With three gigs all with different deadlines, I again wasn't in any position to put any attention on my blogs.

In 2005, I found myself severely unemployed... so I had a chance to start some new things. Tweaked the blogs a bit, but didn't go much further. Then, I got another job. This one didn't pay much, but it did pay enough to keep the bill collectors from freaking out and driving us nuts with their phone calls.

In late 2006, after a particularly frustrating day in the cubicle-farm, I came home and decided to investigate a website I had heard of--CafePress.

I sat down in front of the computer, went to the CafePress site, clicked on a button that said "Create Your Own Design and Product". It said, "Upload an Image"--so I dug around in my digital files and found a neat shot I took when vacationing in Hawaii... and uploaded that. Then it said, choose your products you want the picture on. I choose a bunch of things that I thought were cool--you know, T-Shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, Posters, Postcards, Greeting Cards, Journals, and Hats and such... and then I clicked on the button that said "done"....

I got a screen that said "Congratulations, You've got a Store!"... Hey, I'm cheap... I had a "Free" store. My Store? Sailing in Blue Hawaii.

I don't get a lot of traffic. But I've been learning how to use the Internet from all these ventures here and there. I'm hoping that this dumb little blog (and all the other weird websites I've cooked up) will give you hope that if dumb old Dave can do this, that you will have a chance at making it as well.

In the meantime, visit my Squidoo lens on Editing Your Writing.

I'll be writing more on this thing as I get the hang of it. And, I'll be posting some of the reasons why folks should hire an EDITOR.

Enjoy.. have a great day. Come back and visit once in a while. And if you need editing help, contact me!