More Blog Posts

Monday, July 28, 2014 - 8:40am
Adrienne Montgomerie
How to Edit the VIP

Editors are used to phrasing diplomatic queries. Nearly everyone has interacted with an author who sees every suggestion as a personal attack. But it can be even harder to edit some authors’ words: those written by the CEO, the Principal, your boss, or the “foremost authority on X,” for example. How do you tell “the most important person” that their prose need major revision?

Those Very Important People are less likely to be used to criticism. And though their abilities have brought them into a position of great respect and influence, those abilities probably aren’t related to writing. Writing is hard; and it’s a completely different skillset that they may not have cultivated.

Inconsistencies, infelicities, libel, atrocious grammar, racist colloquialisms, and plagiarism...

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How to
Monday, July 28, 2014 - 5:20am
Newsletter Sneak Peek: Project Documentation as Prevention and Cure

by Katharine O'Moore-Klopf, ELS

We freelance editors like to think we can avoid many issues that staff editors must deal with. But two issues we can’t sidestep are the need to document our actions on each project and the need to manage the discussion when we are mistakenly blamed for project problems. Yes, sometimes we are at fault, but that’s a topic for another column.

How You Should Document

If you document everything you do during a project, you can use your records to stay on track as you go. You can also use them later to jog your memory, to determine ways to improve your work processes, and even to defend your reputation if a client incorrectly believes that you are at...

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Saturday, July 26, 2014 - 4:09pm
Dawn McIlvain Stahl
Wordoku: Sudoku for Wordies, Summer's Bounty Edition

Farmers markets, garden plots, window boxes -- summer produce is beginning to appear everywhere you look. If you’re among those who have put in the labor to nurse fruits and vegetables into existence or to search out the best of summer’s bounty in the markets and shops, may you be blessed with the best basketfuls of produce. And only as many of your neighbor’s cucumbers and zucchinis as you want.

To correctly solve our bountiful Wordoku, make sure that every row, column, and 3x3 box contains the following letters exactly once [difficulty: moderate]:  


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Friday, July 25, 2014 - 10:19am
Mark Allen
With Poor Wording, a Crash Blossoms

Headline writers love to pile up nouns to get as much information as possible into limited space. But many words in English are the same whether nouns, verbs or adjectives, often leading to ambiguous results.

That’s where the copyeditor comes in—when there is a copyeditor handy to come in.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press tweeted:

BREAKING: Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash lands in Eindhoven.

There was no crash landing of a plane carrying victims. The victims of a crash landed in the Netherlands.

There is nothing grammatically wrong...

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Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 2:39pm
Dawn McIlvain Stahl
'Literally' webcomic from; "Word Crimes" video detail

By education and career choice, I am a moderate prescriptivist (with descriptivist sympathies).* In my personal communication, I carefully “couldn’t care less” and I enjoy the game of keeping fewer and less in distinct count and non-count realms. In my professional life, I edit or query any nonstandard usage. It’s part of what my clients pay me to do. So I was surprised to realize that I had, for the first time, used literally to describe something that wasn’t literal -- and that I was okay with it.

Full Confession

I used the non-literal meaning of literally in a comment to a writer this week while I was editing. And I don't regret it. Please finish reading before you come to revoke my professional-editor...

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Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 12:28pm
Mark Allen
Weird Al Has More to Say About Language
Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 5:25am
Erin Brenner
07/24/14 News Roundup: The Editing Life

Today’s News Roundup continues the conversation on ethics in editing, advises on approaches to resolving conflicts, and shares thoughts on what makes a great editor.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 11:30am
Adrienne Montgomerie
Speaking Summer, Canadian Style

Has the humidex got you reaching for a pop, dockside at the camp? You might be Canadian. That’s right, according to Only in Canada, You Say, these are uniquely Canadian terms. Katherine Barber, “Canada’s word lady,” wrote that book. She used to supervise development of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, when it was still under production.

Knowing local terminology matters when you are editing for any audience, whether they are local or international. On the one hand, you may not want to trip up foreign readers. On the other hand, there’s no need to change terms that readers will understand, or that add the right tone to a...

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 1:07pm
Dawn McIlvain Stahl
Job opening: Editor for ‘Critical Decisions in Emergency Medicine’

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is seeking an editor to join its education products team and manage Critical Decisions in Emergency Medicine. ACEP represents more than 30,000 emergency doctors, residents, and students, providing professional development, advocacy, and continuing education. ACEP is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, and Critical Decisions in Emergency Medicine is its official, monthly CME publication.

The editor will manage the editorial board and the publication of Critical Decisions in Emergency Medicine and other education products. Tasks will include leading annual...

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 8:35am
Erin Brenner
Tip of the Week: Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” and the Hazards of Copyediting

Every profession has its hazards, some more serious than others. Professional drivers know that if they drive too long, they risk falling asleep at the wheel and causing an accident.

Last week, a few examples of the hazards of being a professional copyeditor were on display. I don’t mean there were copyeditors charged with vandalizing public signs. Instead, there were cases of editors missing the forest for the trees and of editors judging harshly without thinking or researching.

Context Matters

Copyeditors are trained to focus on the details: Is that comma necessary here? Does that word mean what you think it means? We’re so used to looking at the details that we sometimes...

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