More Blog Posts

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 9:55am
Erin Brenner
Tip of the Week: Has the Comma Outlived Its Usefulness?

Linguist and Columbia University professor John McWhorter has been causing a ruckus lately with his comment in a Slate article that you could remove commas from

a great deal of modern American texts and you would probably suffer so little loss of clarity that there could even be a case made for not using commas at all.

In the same article Anne Curzan, language historian and University of Michigan English professor, notes the decreased use of commas in casual writing. According to the article:

Curzan suspects that’s because commas have come to be associated with a more proper and polished approach to writing that...

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Monday, February 17, 2014 - 10:52am
Mark Allen
How Long to Keep Your Laptop: Do You Feel Lucky?

An Internet-connected computer running Microsoft Word is the basic tool of a freelance copyeditor. You can only get so far with a clipboard, red pen, and winning smile. When the computer goes down, the work ceases and billable hours vanish.

This was a topic of discussion last week on the Copyediting-L email list: At what point does a duct-taped computer need to be relegated to the closet so work can proceed on something shiny and new? Answers varied; one person said she was at seven years and still going with minor repairs.

For a serious freelancer, tools are essential. I reckon to replace my computer every...

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Editing, How to
Friday, February 14, 2014 - 1:03pm
Dawn McIlvain Stahl
Valentine’s Day Doublets: Warm Embrace to Warm Attachment in 8 Steps

We’ve had a little word fun with Valentine’s Day before. We unscientifically proved that the language of love is 70 percent French (or 100 percent Nahuatl), and we took you from a sweet treat to a life commitment in a five-step reflections game. Today, with snow (again!) blanketing much of the U.S., we slow it down and warm it up with a doublets game that goes from warm embrace to warm attachment in eight steps.

To solve the doublets puzzle, use the first clue to solve the first four-letter word. For the remaining words (also four letters each), find the word that fits the clue and can be created by changing...

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Friday, February 14, 2014 - 11:13am
Mark Allen
New Style Guide Creates a Buzz

It didn’t exactly go viral, but BuzzFeed’s new style guide has generated a lot of chatter. It says something that a website that today features the Which '90s Dreamboat Is Your Valentine? quiz is seen as a legitimate source for writing-related guidance.

But, of course, there are many somewhat serious journalists behind BuzzFeed who care about language. The introduction to the...

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Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 12:55pm
Dawn McIlvain Stahl
Questions for a Freelance Editor: Cassie Armstrong

Cassie Armstrong is a recovering English teacher who has been freelance editing for seven years and is the sole proprietor of MorningStar Editing, where her current concentration is craft books and cookbooks. She also copyedits fiction and other nonfiction, does manuscript evaluations, and is learning about developmental editing.

What path have you taken to get where you are today?

Before I decided to try my hand at freelancing, I was a college English instructor. I also had some experience as a business writer and as a researcher. It was hard to just walk away to take care of my toddler grandson. Editing gave me a...

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Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 11:42am
Mark Allen
A 'Rigmarole' is Lengthy; Stick to Three Syllables

If we lived in medieval times, we word lovers might participate in an amusement called Ragman, the key component of which was the Ragman Roll. A roll of parchment contained verses that were connected to strings that players would choose at random. The connected verse was said to say something about the character of the chooser.

Some sources say the roll was named after one of the characters in the verses, Ragemon le Bon. Ragman also was an early name for the Devil.

Students of Scottish history are familiar with the Ragman Roll, a name applied to the charter of 1291 in which Scottish nobles accepted the primacy of King Edward I. It wasn’t called the Ragman Roll until 500 years later, but ...

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 12:55pm
Adrienne Montgomerie
Top Romantic Concerns, in Copyediting

Eyes that change colour, streams that flow uphill, and piquing behind curtains are just some of the flubs editors of romance titles must look for.

I’m not going to say that Canadians are the most romantic people on the planet, but with Harlequin alone publishing 120 romance titles every month, I’ll venture to say that we know a couple things about editing romances. Here are six top tips shared by our experts.

Words that shock, purple-prose, and emotional body parts are just some of the problems Bonnie Staring watches for. “A character may give someone a flirtatious glance, but having flirtatious eyebrows or eyelashes...

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 11:02am
Mark Allen
Don't Jive the Reader: Keep Jibe and Gibe Straight

I’m often tripped up by the meanings of jibe and gibe, and I suspect I’ll always have to check the dictionary. I do remember, though, that jive has nothing to do with things meshing together.

Jive is a form of dancing that goes along with swing music or early rock and roll. It’s also “glib, deceptive, or foolish talk,” according to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary online. To say things don’t jibe means they don’t fit together. So jive and jibe can both be related to whether things are true, but in opposite ways: talking jive doesn’t jibe with the truth.

Still, things seem to be commonly not jiving. A...

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 6:55am
Erin Brenner
Weekly News Roundup: Editorial Methods

Featured Topic: Editorial Methods

This week’s News Roundup includes replacing worn-out holiday words, clarifying a confusables pair, and writing SEO-friendly headlines.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 9:55am
Erin Brenner
Tip of the Week: Editing Business Copy: Who Is the Customer?

Here’s a question for all the business copyeditors in the room:

When your text deals with a business-to-business (B2B) relationship, who is the customer: the company that pays the bills, the individual who is the main contact point, or the team that ends up working on the project?

I see this problem a lot in business copy. Even the author isn’t always sure who customer (or client or something similar) refers to, and the result is a muddle of pronouns for one word. The customer is an it in one sentence and a they in the next.

Look at these sentences, which have been adapted from the same manuscript:

We developed a marketing plan that included TV, radio, and print to ensure that the customer...

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