This editor talks about editing.

Editors are not teachers. They might have been teachers prior to becoming editors. They might even teach on the side. But they will not teach writers English. That’s not what editing is.

That’s one of the biggest misconceptions I’ve encountered since I’ve been an editor. I taught English, sure. But I became an editor after that, and I’m an editor. Not a teacher. However, that doesn’t mean that in my work I don’t attempt to impart any useful information. I’d be a pretty awful editor if I didn’t try to explain why I made a certain change, or why I’m not making THIS one but perhaps the writer would like to because whatever. Continue reading

I didn’t catch that: Idiomatic speech

“It’s raining cats and dogs.”

“He’s all washed up.”

“That’s straight from the horse’s mouth.”

At least two of those statements are always idiomatic in nature. That is, their meaning is not readily understood by the words composing them. Cats and dogs are not falling from the sky. Horses don’t speak human speech, and nothing I care much about comes directly from a horse’s mouth. (Horse saliva? Thanks, I got mine already.)

But what about “He’s all washed up” as an idiom? He could be ready to eat, and has washed his hands and face prior to coming to the table; he’s all washed up. There, it’s more of a regional speech than an idiom. The words mean (almost) what they look like they’d mean.

Now, what if he’s been given a task to complete on pain of losing his position in something (the workplace, a sports team, the HOA landscaping committee), and he’s failed to do so? We could say “he’s all washed up,” meaning “he failed,” “he’s done for” (an idiom in itself), “he’s finished” (ditto, especially if he’s washed up because he didn’t finish!).

And “I didn’t catch that” means “I didn’t hear you,” usually. Nothing’s been literally thrown, so it can’t be literally caught.

G-string, but g-force

In the category of “things editors need to fact-check,” today we have “G-string.”

First, a bit of culture. Please enjoy this video of “Air on the G-string” by J. S. Bach, played on original instruments. I suspect that means “on instruments originally specified by the composer” as opposed to “instruments the original composer used in his own lifetime,” but I could be wrong. It happens.

When we write about strippers (see why I shared some classical culture first?), we probably write about what they wear. Those little bits of fabric that keep the dancers just on the proper side of the law (except where total nudity is legal, that is) are called “G-strings” with a capital G. According to Chambers, the original spelling was “gee-string” (1878), but by 1891 it had changed to “G-string.” It’s very possible that the term’s related to the string of a violin tuned to G. They’re both about the same width. ::cough:: I exaggerate, of course, but you get the point. Or the picture. Whatever. Also according to Chambers, the first recorded use of the term to refer to something a stripper wears dates to 1936, in Big Money by John Dos Passos.

By comparison, “g-force” is styled with a lower-case g because that’s how gravity is referenced in physics equations. It’s not an arbitrary editorial decision. We need to be aware of why terms are styled the way they are.

And now, I have to get back to this project with the G-string. Something about a demon dancer in a strip club. No Bach, I’m sure.

I’ve been busy.

I haven’t been busy writing blog posts, obviously, but I’ve been busy.

In addition to the moving of the older bonus daughter to her college digs last weekend, I’ve also been juggling multiple editing projects, most of which are in the same phase (starting this month, that is). That means busier than usual. See, we need a new furnace installed, so I’m taking on extra work to make the money to pay the man to install it.


Anyway, I just sent one book back to the author for approval last night. I finished the initial read-through on another yesterday afternoon, and I’m in the middle of that phase with a third one (the shortest of the three, at 57K words). I’m waiting for a fourth to hit my inbox in a week or two; the author’s going to Japan until mid-December or so, and we’ll be in touch while he’s there thanks to the magic of teh intarwebz, but I know he wants to get it to me in a timely fashion so I can turn it around fairly quickly. (It’s the fourth installment in a series, if you’re wondering, and I happen to have edited everything this man has ever written. Everything. No kidding. Watching him develop his skills is like having a front-row seat at Penn and Teller, except sometimes he lets us see past the distractions in a blog post or such. He doesn’t realize how much he’s taught me.)

So anyway, that’s why I haven’t posted here since late August.

Working. Busy. Yeah.

Superannuated Syntax: “Hard by”

“The house sat hard by a small stream.”

It did what? Did it fall from the sky, like Dorothy’s farmhouse, and “sit hard” on someone?

Nothing nearly so exciting, I fear. This phrase means simply “near.” My copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles tells me that this usage of “hard” (with “by”) is archaic and dates to 1526. The meaning of “hard” is “close, of time or place,” but the sense of “of time” is no longer used. Continue reading

Now Offering Critiques!

Clients and supporters have told me for some time now that I should do developmental editing.

It took me a while to come around, but I concur with them. I’m offering critiques for $35/hour, separate from my copy/line editing services. Details are on my CV here. Click on the NEW SERVICE link under INFORMATION.

They talked; I finally listened. Let’s do this thing.

Definitely indefinite, or “Which article should I use?”

I knew I’d written about this before. Here’s the proof. However, I’ll write about it again because it keeps coming back.

The issue at hand is whether one uses a or an before a given abbreviation. I’m sure that you were drilled on this in school (I sure was) by a teacher who insisted that you use a before a consonant and an before a vowel.

That’s partly correct. Continue reading

“For N o’clock” or “by N o’clock?”

When you have an appointment, do you say you need to be there “for” or “by” the scheduled time?

I have always said “by.” I need to be at the office by nine o’clock.

My husband, however, has always said “for.” He needs to be at the office for eight o’clock.

The first time I heard it, I mentally stopped, stock still. “For?” Surely you mean “by,” right? I didn’t ask, though. I just made a note and kept listening. Sure enough, that’s the phrasing he always uses. He was born in MA and grew up in RI. He’s not British, which this usage would seem to suggest (it’s “exclusively” BrE, according to Algeo’s British or American English?”: A handbook of word and grammar patterns).

I’ll suggest it may be less “exclusive” than his research led him to report. He states “0 iptmw in CIC texts” for AmE. In English (AmE, precisely), that means zero instances per ten million words in the Cambridge International Corpus. I can swear to the existence of three American English native speakers (my husband and his two daughters) who use “for” where I use “by” in this particular construction. Is it a spoken AmE thing, but not a written AmE thing?

I’d love to hear from linguists who have experience with this wording. Is it as “exclusive” as Algeo says? Or are there other AmE speakers (perhaps from New England, or perhaps only in that little bit of MA and RI) who use this? I’m a corn-fed Midwestern gal of Frisian extraction. This British thing . . . I didn’t grow up with this.

I’m still here.

It’s been ten days since my last post. (I swear, I’m not Catholic. I was raised Dutch Reformed. I’ve never been to confession, but I know how it goes from tv and movies and stuff.)

I’ve been working like a fiend on concurrent projects since the beginning of July. Being busy is wonderful, but not being able to make time for blogging is a drag. So, I’m tossing this up here quickly to say “I’m still here.”

One debut novel edited and returned, topping out at nearly 76,000 words.

One installment in a series edited and returned, about 35,000 words or so (I honestly don’t recall, but it’s a rip-roaring story just like the others before it!). If you want to know, it’s Harry Gets Her Wings by Steve Turnbull, the third book in the IRON PEGASUS series.

One memoir edited and returned. I haven’t a clue how many words. It was a very moving experience, though, touching the life of a WWII vet in that manner.

And now, I’ve started another debut piece, AND I’ve done a sample edit for a potential client, AND I’ve penciled in the fourth book in a series (THE MINUS FACTION by Rick Wayne, for anyone who might be interested) on my calendar for later this fall.

Busy, busy, busy. There should be a proper blog post coming next week, if all goes anywhere near as I have planned. Maybe even another Superannuated Syntax post.

Who knows?

I bought PerfectIt 3.

This is no spelling checker. It’s no grammar checker, either. It’s a proofreading program, and it’s amazing.

Here’s a link to the first how-to video for the program. Yes, I will be watching all of them. I may not need to know everything, as I don’t do much technical editing with charts and tables and figures, but I’ll watch them anyway.

For all the times you’ve seen me rant about the uselessness of “editing software,” you should be able to tell this is NOT like any of those other programs I’ve poked at. This one is worth the money. No kidding. It’s a proofreading program. It will ask you about inconsistencies. “This word is spelled this way 4 times and this other way 10 times. Should I change any of them?” You MUST verify every instance; not all of them will be wrong, and indeed perhaps none of them are. The program simply alerts you to the fact that, for instance, you used both “run in” and “run-in,” and asks you if all the occurrences are correct or if some need to be changed. It will catch usages of abbreviations and ask about defining them. You get to decide. Nothing happens without your approval until you get to the automatic stuff like “change two spaces to one following terminal punctuation.” (And you don’t even have to tell it to do that, if you don’t want it to. Just don’t click the radio button, and click on “Exit.”)

AND, it’s customizable. For example: I can enter a unique term from something I’m editing, and tell PerfectIt I want that term to always be italicized, or italicized on the first use only, or never italicized. If one slips through my eyes and fingers, the program will catch it and flag it for me. No more worries about “did I style those all the same?” PerfectIt will know, and will alert me to any variations.

Here’s a link to the Intelligent Editing site, so you can download a trial for yourself. It’s free for 30 days; you can purchase/register it at any time (for $99US) during the trial, or get it afterward.