Self-editing

Wrong name and/or wrong pronoun

Lately I’ve been irked by a certain kind of error that I’ve run into more times than I should have. As I was reading some novels for pleasure (as opposed to reading them as a copy-editing job), I was shocked to come across the names of main characters being switched around.

When Tom was meant, Luke was used instead, and vice versa. This happened several times in one novel. I found the same mistake in another novel I recently read, and the wrong pronoun (“her” instead of “him”)  was used.

The author should have caught these mistakes in the self-editing part of the writing process, but since it is not the kind of error that a spellchecker or grammar checker would catch, it can easily go unnoticed.

If you have changed your character’s name after writing the first draft, you might want to have a closer look  for cases of having used the wrong name.

Have you changed your POV?

Also, if you have decided to rewrite your ms with a different POV, it will require close scrutiny when you check your ms for errors. I’ve done this kind of thing myself, where I’ve written several chapters in third person POV and then decided to switch to first person. It can be awkward to read something like:

I hurried down to the dock to wave goodbye. She hoped I was not too late.

Switching pronouns

Another horror of self-editing can happen if you decide to change a character from female to male. Let’s say you decided that a male character would work better in a certain role. You would have to change all the cases of “her” to “him.” To make the job easier you might want to use the Find and Replace feature in your Word program. But be careful not to make sweeping changes without looking at each case first, or you might end up changing “mother” to “mothim,”  “father” to “fathim,” and “other” to “othim.”

It helps to type a space before and after the word “her” in Find. That would avoid words with the letters h-e-r in them from being selected. Trust me, there are a lot of words with these letters in them. You don’t want to have to sort them all out.

And then what?

Self-editing is good and necessary, but, after you have checked your ms for all of these (and many other) errors, it will still be worthwhile to have a copy-editor go through your work. A good copy-editor can save you from embarrassment, and consequent bad reviews, when readers find mistakes in your published work.

If you would like to know more about my copy-editing work, please click the “Copy-editing Services”  tab on the top of this blog. 

***** ACK! It happened AGAIN!*****

I just put up this post and sat down to read a book. I couldn’t believe it would happen again so soon, but the author of yet another book put in the wrong name. 

Mr. Jones is in a conversation with X, discussing the demise of Mr. Smith. Two sentences later, it is Mr. Jones who is referred to as the dead guy. 

The story is going down, down, down in my estimation. This is after several other smaller errors. Sigh….

 

The Truth You Don’t Need

Have you ever read the expression “in sooth” in a fantasy novel or perhaps in something by Shakespeare?

Antonio, in Shakespeare’s  Merchant of Venice uses that expression:

“In sooth I know not why I am so sad.

It wearies me; you say it wearies you.”

Translation:

“To tell the truth, I don’t know why I’m so sad.

It tires me; you say you’re tired of it, too.”

Shakespeare died 505 years ago, so you can imagine that the English language of the late 1500s was quite different from what it is today.

“Sooth” is one of those archaic words that we simply don’t use anymore – except perhaps in a fantasy novel based on times so long ago, where the author uses old English terms to lend authenticity to a world of his or her own creation.

So why do I mention “sooth”? It’s because I see it misused in modern English when the author really meant to say “soothe” (to calm or make one feel better).

First, let’s get the pronunciation right. The old-fashioned term for truth is “sooth” and it rhymes with “truth.” That should make it easy to remember.

In sooth, she is long in the tooth. (In truth, she’s old.)

“Soothe” has a softer “th” sound and rhymes with “smooth.” I know that’s not helpful for the spelling but the meaning is similar.

I’ll speak softly to her and soothe her as I smooth out her wrinkled forehead.

Now you will also be able to guess what a soothsayer is. It is someone who tells the truth, but in days of old, the term was used for people who foretold the future (and people assumed he told the truth).

*****

Here are some other troublesome words that change meaning when “e” is added.

Breath, breathe

We can feel out of breath, or take a big breath, but when the air is coming in and out of our lungs, we breathe.

Envelop, envelope

The letter goes inside an envelope (rhymes with cantelope). But when something is wrapped up, like in someone’s arms, we envelop it. Envelop rhymes with develop.

The large woman can envelop her child in a hug.

The cavalry’s job was to envelop the group of archers.

Loath, loathe

Loath is the adjective. Loathe is the verb.

I was loath to do the dishes because I loathe that job.

*** I might point out that while we might still use the word loathe, it would be rare to hear someone say they are loath to do something.

*****

I see the above words misused very often when I’m copy-editing. If you are aware of the differences in these similar words, you will misuse them less often.

An easy way to check for these words is to use “Find” in your Word file, and type in the word you are searching for. Then check to see if you have the right word in each case.

A little tip: if you type in the word without the “e,” all the ones with “e” will also show up.

For example: Type in breath and all cases of breath will come up as well as all cases of breathe, and then you can check them all at once.

Words that Jar

I know I’ve mentioned some of these misused words and expressions before, but lately I’ve heard them so often, particularly in TV news reports, that I felt another post about them was warranted.

You would think that people who make a living from publishing their reports would get the language correct, and yet, it seems that these reporters and news anchors don’t have anyone supervising their grammar skills. No one suggests to them that they should speak English correctly if they are going to address the public.

They repeat these same mistakes almost daily.

The first one that really bothers me is “regards.” When they mean “pertaining to” or “about” a certain subject, why do they first have to send a greeting to it?

Perhaps they’re going to talk about the tent cities springing up outside high schools in Seattle. First the news anchor has to send his regards to the tent city.

“With regards to the tent city, hi, how are you doing? I’m thinking of you. Have a nice day.”

While they’re at it, why don’t they send their regards to my Aunt Mary and me? We feel left out.

But sending a greeting is what they are doing, when they really meant to say, “And now, about the tent cities….” Or maybe, “And now, concerning the tent cities….” Or maybe, “With regard to the tent cities….”

Okay, I feel better now that I’ve blown off some steam on that one.

*****

Here is another one that really bugs me. Same thing – usually reporters and news anchors misusing the terms.

Amount or number?

If you can weigh it or shove it all together in a mass, the term you want is “amount.

The amount of water in a glass, the amount of garbage in the can, the amount of rice in the pot. These are things that can be measured or scooped up in a heap.

So when I hear them say the amount of people in the crowd, I’m already wondering how many pounds they mean. Maybe there are a thousand pounds of people in the crowd?

Anything that is countable (theoretically) is referred to as a number of things. I said theoretically, because you wouldn’t want to count the number of daffodils growing on a hillside, but theoretically, you could.

Examples:

The number of people in the crowd.

The number of raindrops, but the amount of rain.

The number of grains of sand, but the amount of sand.

The amount of wood in the shed, but the number of pieces of firewood.

The amount of rice, but the number of grains of rice.

The amount of frustration I feel when I hear the news anchor misuse these words, but the number of times I feel that frustration.

AAAARRRGGHHHHH!

Publication Mania

I wrote a post about this about six years ago, but felt it was time for a re-posting, as I see an ever-increasing number of poorly edited books on the market.

One of the saddest things I see among beginning writers is their burning need to publish before their work is ready. For many writers in the early days of their career, publication at this stage often comes at the expense of their reputation as a good author.

Writers’ groups, for all their many good deeds, are sometimes gathering places for pompous snobs. I want to be clear that I am not down on writing groups. Far from it. The writing group I belonged to for several years involved a wonderful collection of writers who brought a variety of skills and experience, and who wrote in many different genres. The majority of the members were down-to-earth and extremely helpful to new writers.  However, my writing group also happened to have several authors whose agenda included basking in the prestige of “being published” rather than first concentrating on producing their best work or helping their colleagues.

Many new writers are particularly desperate to get their work out there for the public. They hear published authors going on and on about sales and book signings and reviews they’ve received, flaunting their “published” status as if they were royalty. Speaking of which, their “royalties” are often a mere pittance. Beginning writers can’t always see the truth beyond the veneer of big talk, and they become infected with the desire to publish at all costs — all costs except one; that of hiring a good copy-editor.

copy-editing

Why Should I Care?

Besides being a writer myself, I do a lot of freelance copy-editing and so, as I read, I often see work that is prematurely published. I believe that if you publish your writing (that is, put it out there for the world to see and read), it should be as good as you can make it with as few errors as possible.

One writer told me, “I don’t care if it has a few mistakes. I just want to get it published.” I cringed. She wanted the free copy-editing I offered her just to help her out, but she didn’t feel that she needed to make any changes or corrections. She was convinced that her writing was excellent. In fact, it was quite poor and needed a fair bit of work. This woman was an extreme case, displaying slovenly writing habits and a poor attitude. Most writers care a lot more about the quality of their work.

I understand that the cost of having work copy-edited can be onerous for some, especially when they have not yet made their millions on that bestselling novel, but an investment in a good copy-editing job will be worthwhile in the long run (and I do try to keep my prices low). The copy-editor spends many, many hours reading, correcting, and making suggestions for improvements to the author’s work. Unlike reading for pleasure, copy-editing involves careful scrutiny to find grammar, punctuation, and word usage problems. The job comes with a lot of responsibility.

In order to be  good copy-editors, we have to be a bit pedantic. I try not to overlook even the smallest of errors. For me, it is precisely because I care about writing so much, that I can do a good job of copy-editing.

What Does the Reader Look for?

When I am choosing a novel to read for pleasure, like most readers, I go to the first few pages of the paperback or the e-book sample to look for certain indicators of the writing quality.

  1. I want to be “hooked” on the first page. I do not want to read about scenery as the character drives by in a car. Nor do I want him to wake up to an alarm clock, or look out a window at the view with the description following. I don’t want to read about the character’s dream either.
  2. I look for the first instances of dialogue to give me an idea of the author’s skill in writing it. If a large variety of dialogue tags are used (responded, replied, answered, retorted, inquired) rather than “said” and “asked,” I lose interest, as this indicates either a very dated writing style or an inexperienced writer.
  3. If I see a pattern developing where, after each bit of dialogue, the speaker is doing something (for example, “Wait for me,” John said, turning around to grab his suitcase), especially if it uses an “ing” word, for me that is often the book’s death knell.
  4. Incorrect usage of words makes me shudder. I cringe when I see “lay” and “lie” misused. I’m sure many readers feel the same when they see the wrong word used.

Just because your Aunt Mary has read your manuscript and told you it is perfect, doesn’t mean that it really is. It just means that she loves you. So DON’T publish that book yet! A good copy-editor can save you from yourself. Get it copy-edited properly and then you don’t have to worry about mistakes in your book, and tarnish your reputation as an author forever.

Anneli[7]

If you are in the market for a good copy-editor, please contact me. I will do three pages of copy-editing for you for free and you can decide whether this is what you need for your novel, or article, or whatever form your writing takes.

P.S. I am older (and wiser) now, than I was when this picture was taken. Just wanted to be honest.

 To find out more about me, please visit my website at:   http://anneli-purchase.com

Filtering

Using filter words is a weakness of many beginning writers. Don’t feel bad. It is not unusual to see it in people who have been writing for a longer time but who have never come across a discussion about it. Probably we all had to shake off this habit at one time or another.

Some expressions have a diluting effect. If you are “filtering” action through the character’s senses—smell, touch, taste, hearing, or sight, you are most likely guilty of “telling” the reader what is happening. In most cases, there is no need to filter the experiences through the character’s eyes, ears, or other sensory receptors. It only weakens your writing.

Filtered: She saw the car go by. (The action passes through her eyes first before the reader knows about it.)

Unfiltered: The car whizzed by.

Filtered: She felt upset.(The action passes through her emotions.)

Unfiltered: She sobbed.

Filtered: The curry tasted zippy and spicy, too hot for her liking.

Unfiltered: The zip and spice of the curry burned her throat.

Filtered: She heard the sound of a train. (The action passes through her ears.)

Unfiltered: A train whistle broke the silence.

***

I’m sure you get the idea. Some of the following key words may alert us to filtering.

This is only a partial list of filter words. There are many, many more.

  • decide
  • felt
  • heard
  • look
  • notice
  • realize
  • recall
  • remember
  • saw
  • seem
  • sense
  • smell
  • taste
  • watch
  • wonder

If you see one of these words in your writing, take a second look and decide whether you really need to convey the filtering action to the reader. Is it vital to the story to tell the reader that the information passed through one of the character’s senses? If not, and it is self-evident that the character is experiencing what you say, why not get rid of the filter and rewrite the sentence in a stronger, more direct way?

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, check out www.anneli-purchase.com

What Turns Readers Off

A couple of weeks ago I read a review of a book on someone’s blog and I was intrigued by the plot of the featured book. Thankfully I have forgotten the name of that book so I don’t need to worry about accidentally giving away the name or shaming the author, which I would never purposely do.

But as I read the synopsis of the book, I was seriously going to download the book and went to the link on amazon to do just that. I did what I usually do before downloading an e-book and clicked on the book cover’s “Look Inside” feature.

I read two pages and knew that I would not be able to stomach reading this book, no matter how good the plot was or how wonderful the story might be.

What turned me off in those first two pages?

It was the “ing” words. I can’t give specific examples from the book, and to be honest, I don’t really want to do that, but you’ll get the picture if I give you some generic examples. (To be fair, the dialogue was more interesting than what I will give here, but my examples are merely to make the point about the tiresome overuse of “ing” words.)

“What do you think?” she asked, twirling a lock of her hair in between her fingers.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, grinning at her. “Why don’t you tell me what you think first?” he asked, looking at her slyly.

Getting up and walking around the room, she pondered her response. “It was good, don’t you think?” she asked, giving him a hopeful smile.

Jumping up to hug her, he said, “You’ve guessed right.”

*****

I just couldn’t handle a whole book of that, so I didn’t download that novel that was probably a great story, but written with a major weakness in writing style.

A good copy-editor could have saved the author from him/herself.

www.anneli-purchase.com

The Trap

When the Captain and I toured Europe in our VW camper van, it was a time before the war in Yugoslavia. Tito was still alive (he died in 1980), and the country, made up of at least six separate ethnic groups, was under Communist rule. Fourteen years after our visit, all hell broke loose.

But in 1977, as we drove through Yugoslavia from Greece to Austria, pretty much oblivious to their situation, we were struck by two things: the countryside was beautiful, and the people, for the most part, looked very unhappy. The only happy faces we saw were those of a few farmers who waved from their oxcarts and smiled as they drove along near us on the byroads. City people generally wore dark clothes (gray, black, or brown), and their facial expressions were troubled and joyless. Right or wrong, those were my impressions.

The rural area reminded us of Alberta, Canada,  with its slightly rolling hills and huge sections of farmland, but the houses were unique to Yugoslavia. Most had the same construction, squarish houses with red tile roofs and very few windows, all small. It was September and the red peppers had been harvested and strung up to dry, dangling from the eaves of many a rooftop.

We had been driving for a long time, without finding a place to pull off the road to heat up some leftovers for lunch in our camper van. At last, we saw a pull out area  and took advantage of the chance to stop for a rest and a bite to eat. Beside the pullout in both directions, were acres and acres of grapevines.

While I heated up lunch, the Captain sneaked a bunch of grapes that temptingly hung over the fence. No sooner had he broken off a bunch than we heard shouting. A man wearing military style clothing brandished a rifle and yelled angrily. I thought we were going to jail.

“Okay, okay.” The Captain reached for his wallet. “How about I pay for the grapes?”

The man waved him away and threatened him with the rifle again. But when the Captain pulled out a 50 dinar note ($3), the rifle was lowered. Sheepishly, the man took the money and then said something in a friendlier tone.
They shook hands, and I asked the man if we could take his picture.
He shook his head vigorously. Definitely not! He flapped his arms as if trying to erase us from the face of the earth.

“Okay fine. No pictures.”

But as he hustled away, I snapped a quick one with my point and click camera from inside the van.

Not wanting to hang around there any longer than we had to, we grabbed some of the half made lunch to eat as we drove. At least we would have our expensive bunch of grapes to nibble for dessert. 

The Captain looked for traffic as he turned out onto the road. Behind us, a car had its signal light on, to pull into the spot we were leaving. 

I looked back at the grapes, wistfully, and saw the military man crouching down in his hiding place, preparing to scare another 50 dinars out of his next victim.

A Lousy Story

A very long time ago, Eleanor, a friend who worked in the Hudson’s Bay store in Vancouver, was going to get her hair done in the Bay (they used to have a hair salon right in the store), but she didn’t have an appointment.

“If you come back in about 45 minutes I can do your hair,” the salon receptionist said.

“No problem,” said Eleanor, “I’ll just browse around the store while I’m waiting.”

Eleanor wandered around the hat department and tried on different hats. She looked in the mirror and laughed as the hats seemed to change her personality with each different hat style.

At last the time was up and, still smiling, she entered the salon to get her hair done.

The salon girl lifted some of the tresses of Eleanor’s hair. “So what are we doing today? A shampoo and cut?Suddenly she dropped her hands and said, “I can’t do your hair.”

“Why not?”

“You have lice.”

“WHAT?” Eleanor’s jaw dropped. She shook her head. “You’re kidding. I don’t have lice. I’ve never had lice.”

“Yes, I’m sorry, but you do have lice and I can’t do your hair,” the hairdresser repeated.

“Well!” Eleanor harrumphed. “If I have lice, I got them in this store.”

“Where did you go in the store?”

“I wandered around looking at some dresses and then I went to the hat section and tried on some hats….” Eleanor’s eyes grew bigger. “You don’t think….”

“Let’s go see,” the hairdresser said.

They went from one hat to the other, all the ones that Eleanor had tried on. The hairdresser picked up a tam that Eleanor said she’d tried on, and said, “Oh … my … here is the culprit.”

The inside of the hat was crawling with the tiny critters.

“I’ll do the treatment on your hair for free,” the hairdresser told her.

*****

I haven’t tried on a hat in a shop ever since I heard this story.

Lay or Lie

This is a repeat of a post from three years ago, so apologies to those who have seen it, but maybe it won’t hurt to have a refresher.

You wouldn’t believe how often, as a copy-editor, I see “lay” and “lie” misused.

Do you have trouble knowing the correct form of lay or lie to use in your writing?

Why not copy and paste this chart? Print it out either with your printer or by hand, onto a piece of paper that you can keep handy by your desk for a quick reference.

A quick version of how “lie” and “lay” are used with the pronoun “I.”

To Lie (down)

I lie (present)

I lay (preterite)

I have lain (present perfect)

I am lying (present continuous)

To Lay (to set an object down)

I lay (present)

I laid (preterite)

I have laid (present perfect)

I am laying (present continuous)

To Lie (tell an untruth)

I lie (present)

I lied (preterite)

I have lied (present perfect)

I am lying (present continuous)

Good work! Now have a cookie.

Ellipses – So Many Dots!

One thing I see frequently when I’m copy-editing (to be honest, I see it in almost every book I edit) is the confusion about how to use ellipses. (Before I go on, let me say that ellipsis is the singular form and ellipses is the plural).

Sometimes in our writing, we want to show that the speaker is hesitating. Sometimes we want to show that some words were left out on purpose. Sometimes we want to show that a person is just drifting off and stops speaking before finishing his sentence.

All of these things can be shown using ellipses. But how many dots should we use? If more words are left out, should we use more dots? If the hesitation is longer, do we use more dots?

The use of ellipses can be quite involved, but for writing fiction or for writing informally, here is a method that is fairly simple to learn and to remember.

Basically it is a three-dot method, although sometimes you may see four dots used. The fourth dot means that one of them is a period marking the end of the sentence.

Robert Bringhurst in Elements of Typographic Style, suggests that normally an ellipsis should be spaced fore-and-aft to separate it from the text, but when it combines with other punctuation, the leading space disappears and the other punctuation follows. He provides the following examples:

i … jk….l…, ll, … lm…?n…!

I find these examples very helpful when I’m writing and want to show that something is missing. The examples also help me to keep my punctuation correct and stop me from going wild with more than four dots…………..

Have you seen this done? Have you done it yourself? Well, now you can do it right and quite simply without wondering what you should do.

Some examples for each of the above cases:

What kind of fruit do I like? Er … let me think….

I like bananas, oranges, and plums…, but most of all, … yes, I think I like papayas.

Do you like papayas best, or is there something else you prefer, like…? I know, it’s that one that starts with m…! Mangos!

Often, if we try, we can work around the use of ellipses, but if you really need them, try using the little chart above as a guide.

But don’t let them make you go dotty.

If you need a copy-editor, check out my website and click on the tab for Copy-editing.

Website: http://www.anneli-purchase.com/