Baby puppies and High Velocity Angry Canaries

Many years ago, when I worked for Scott, Foresman and Company (yes, the Dick and Jane people), editorial seminars were de rigueur. At one such gathering, we received handouts containing examples of “baby puppies.” Regrettably, I no longer have the handout, and none of the other examples stuck with me like that one did. However, I can still discuss the concept–and how my view has changed over time.

We were told in no uncertain terms to avoid redundancies such as “baby puppies.” And, dutifully, we excised them from our texts. Luckily for those of us in the nascent Electronic Publishing Division (now extinct), our work seldom included such things. We dealt with user manuals for educational computer games and school management software. That gave us whole other grammatical and usage-related jungles to hack through with our CMoS-issued machetes, but very few “baby puppies.” I felt cheated, sometimes.

Now, I have a different perspective. Yes, a puppy is a young dog. But not all puppies are babies, are they? Some are nearly a year old, and certainly no longer deserving of the “baby” descriptor. Those little cuties who aren’t yet weaned, though–they’re baby puppies, for sure. The same logic applies to baby kittens. Baby kittens are itty-bitty furballs with tiny, high-pitched mews. And hypodermic-needle-sharp claws and milk teeth.

When I was forced to take a creative writing section in high-school English, I used the phrase “bone-dry dust.” In large (not-so-friendly) red letters in the margin, the instructor wrote “What other kind is there?” So much for my creative writing. That pretty much killed what little interest I’d had to start with, to be honest. Even at that age I was much happier fixing poor grammar and mechanics than trying to be creative. At least I didn’t have to go through that again.

We still find examples from the Department of Redundancy Department, often in the chromakeyed lower-third crawls on local news programming. “Fatally killed” is a common one. “Fatally shot,” fine. “Fatally stabbed,” sure. “Fatally killed” just makes someone who (thankfully) remains faceless and nameless look foolish (while being faceless, which is a pretty cool feat all by itself, isn’t it?).

Another issue pointed out on the handout for that particular seminar was assuming that your editor/proofreader knows what you’re talking about. The example was from a brochure for a heating and air-conditioning business. The copy used the acronym “HVAC,” and the senior editor had noted “write out” in the margin. A junior editor got the project next, and took a shot at the meaning without looking it up (this predated the Internet, you see–it would’ve meant physically moving around in search of a reference book or someone else who knew the information). That’s how the phrase “High Velocity Angry Canaries” found its way into one version of the brochure in question. No word on whether it actually saw print. One would hope it did not. (For anyone who doesn’t know, HVAC stands for “heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning.”)

If by chance you’ve written a technically-oriented piece, please do your editor a solid (ooh, I’m trendy!) and provide a file of the specialized vocabulary you used. That will save everyone involved time and frustration, and potentially could save you (the writer) money as well–because your editor won’t have to dither around looking up information you’d have been better off providing yourself. This is also true for fantasy/science-fiction writers, truth to tell. If you’ve made up a number of alien races, providing a file containing the names of each (spelled, capitalized, punctuated the way you want them) will save your editor hours of headaches wondering whether the right form is “Graz’zyt” or “Grazz’yt.” (And honestly? Apostrophes have been done to death. Please consider not using them in proper nouns. Thank you.) Also please include proper names of any members of those races, with correct mechanics and spelling. Extrapolate as you will from what I’ve said here and decide what else you need to apply this to. I have confidence in you. I really do.

And editors? Don’t be afraid to ask your writer about providing such a file. They might grouse and grumble at first, but once you’re deep into the project and you don’t have to harass them daily with questions such as how they really want to spell “Graz’zyt,” they’ll thank you. (And if they don’t, shame on them.)

Until next time, then, I hope you all have as much baby puppy face time as you wish. (Or baby kitten face time, if that’s your thing. Or baby something else. Maybe you don’t even like babies, in which case–okay. I need to go now.)

 

Charging for freelance editing

I thought I’d look at a subject that is near and dear to the heart of every freelance editor and proofreader: how to charge for your services. I’m not talking about how much to charge; that’s a thorny topic that I will cravenly kick down the road for later. Instead, let’s talk about the method by which you charge. The four most common systems are charging by the word, by the page, by the hour, and by the project. And on top of all that, you must decide whether to charge different rates for different kinds of editing.

==  Charging by the Word  ==

This system has the benefit of being simple and clear for everyone involved. Just do a word count on the document and tell the client exactly what the total cost will be. If the job requires that you work from printed pages rather than a file, you’ll have to count the words by hand first.

One potential drawback is that you are paid the same regardless of how much work you put into the job. If you edit or proofread a 7,000-word article or short story that is written flawlessly, you’ll do all right. But the more likely situation is that you get a manuscript that is, um, flawful. (Hey, maybe I should submit that to the Collins Dictionary: flawed + awful = flawful.) Working on 7,000 flawful words will take you a lot longer, but you won’t get paid more for your efforts.

Do those situations balance out overall? That is, will you get enough clean jobs that require less time to make up for the messy jobs that eat up too much time? That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself based on who your clients (or potential clients) are and what kind of manuscripts you’ll receive.

==  Charging by the Page  ==

This system relies on the industry standard that says a page consists of 250 words. Again, do a word count on the document, but here you also have to convert that to the appropriate number of pages before you come up with the final price. And again, if you’re working from printed pages rather than a file, you’ll have to figure out how many industry-standard pages the job entails.

Charging by the page has the same benefits and drawbacks as charging by the word. If the manuscript is in good shape, you’ll probably come out ahead on the job. If the manuscript is so stinky that you need safety gloves and tongs to pick it up, you’ll put in longer hours for the same pay.

==  Charging by the Hour  ==

This system seems simple at first—you charge by how much time you put into the job. One major benefit is that the pay is commensurate with the amount of effort required. If a job comes to you well written, you will spend less time on it overall, lowering the total cost for the client. If a job is a mess and needs lots of help, you will spend more time overall, raising the cost. It’s fair for everyone involved (as long as you keep track of your time accurately).

However, the reason I said this method seems simple is that some clients are reluctant to hire an editor without knowing how long the job will take. They don’t want to be on the hook for a final price that could be higher than what they were expecting (and who can blame them?). If you charge by the hour, you should also give your client an estimate of the number of hours you’ll put in. That requires that you have enough experience in the field to size up the initial manuscript and judge the amount of blood, sweat, and tears you’ll expend.

You’ll also need to spell out what happens if you were wrong and the job takes more or less time. If you quote an estimate of 12 hours and the project ends up taking 16, the client might not be thrilled to pay for the extra hours. Thus, it helps to give regular updates on how the work is progressing. That way, if you’re approaching the quoted number of hours and know that you’ll need more time, the two of you can figure out a solution.

==  Charging by the Project  ==

In this system, the client pays you an agreed-upon price to do the job, no matter how much time you end up putting into it. This method is appealing for clients who don’t have much in their editing budget and want to eliminate the guesswork of the other methods. It’s not always the best method for the editor, but in some cases a client will simply say, “I can pay you X amount to edit my manuscript,” and you must decide whether to accept the job or turn it down.

As another option, if you accept the job for a fixed price, you can break that down to an hourly rate to help manage your time. For example, let’s say that you normally charge $30 per hour, but you accept a job that pays a fixed price of $500. A bit of quick division reveals that if you want to earn your usual hourly rate, you should devote no more than 16.6 hours to the project. Of course, that doesn’t mean you stop editing in midsentence when the timer reaches zero. Instead, you budget your time throughout to ensure that you can finish the job in 16.6 hours. (This option assumes that you’ll still do good work in those 16.6 hours. If you cut corners and do a sloppy job just to stick to the allotted time, that won’t do the client—or your reputation—much good.)

==  Differentiating Your Services  ==

Different jobs require different types of editing. Simple proofreading is at one end of the continuum. Developmental work is at the other. Between the two extremes are light, medium, and heavy copy editing. If you want to charge different fees based on the type of work performed, you’ll need to assess the initial manuscript and let the client know what kind of editing is required. That’s a skill in itself, one that you gain only from experience. A look at the Editorial Freelancers Association rates page shows many different specific services that editors might offer. (It also shows the range of suggested fees, but as I said up top, that’s a subject for another day.)

This complication usually comes into play when you charge by the word or by the page. I find that when you charge by the hour, it doesn’t really matter what kind of work you’re doing—light proofreading will automatically take less time than heavy copy editing, so the client will pay less overall.

———————————————————

This post isn’t meant to be comprehensive. Each of the topics mentioned above has aspects that I haven’t touched on, and the choice is not black and white—you can use a combination of any or all of them in your work. But I thought it would be useful to look at the basics (as I see ‘em, anyway) and start a conversation.

From soup to nuts (with a proofreader)

A dear friend of mine just purchased a franchise from Zoup! (They use the exclamation point the same way our blog does, as part of the name.) I jokingly commented to him to please tell me their menus will be professionally edited and proofread–and then, of course, I went to the franchise’s site to see a menu for myself. My friend won’t have any control over what’s printed on his restaurant’s menu, sorry to say.

It’s nowhere near the eyesore provided by Alice Cooperstown, but it’s not perfect, either.

The first question I have is: If the name of the place is Zoup!, why isn’t “soup” spelled that way as the menu category? It’s probably some copyright/licensing issue, but it really looks odd to me. I expected to see the “cute” spelling carried through. They’ve replaced the “s” on “greens,” and the “es” on “sandwiches,” so why not the “s” on “soup”?

I won’t pick the whole thing apart, but I’ll speak to it in generality. Numerous hyphens are missing from compound adjectives (like “tomato-based” or “low-fat”). Nouns and adjectives are randomly capitalized (look at the kinds of breads, and the types of salad dressings). Then there are the other inconsistencies: Are the “Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette” and the “Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing” the same, or different? If they’re the same, they should be worded the same. Otherwise picky editors like me ask picky questions like this one. Parentheses are also apparently random. Some entries use the format “(prepared this way on that kind of bread)” and others use “prepared this way on that kind of bread.” (Add the random capitalization to that and you have a right mess.)

What’s with that “.” before “cobb” (sic)? If it’s supposed to be a joke of some kind, I don’t get it.

These are the things that keep this copy editor/proofreader from falling asleep easily. Menus are in need of correction somewhere in the world!

Will this keep me from visiting my friend’s restaurant? Not on your life. I won’t even take my red marker with me. (He’s been a friend too long for me to antagonize him that way–and as a former member of the legal profession, he’d find a way to get back at me. I’m kidding. He wouldn’t do that. At least I don’t think he would.)

 

 

I’m not making this up. Honest.

I’ve been ranting a lot here and elsewhere about the sorry state of ebooks from indie authors, relating to the (apparent) lack of editorial skills (paid or otherwise) applied to those ebooks. I decided to provide concrete examples from the book I’m currently trying to read. I say trying, because I want to read it, I want to enjoy it, but the appalling number of errors is really harshing on my serenity, dude.

I won’t name names or titles, or say where I got the book. I will say I’m glad I didn’t pay for it, though. If I’d parted with any money for this I’d be pretty upset. More upset than I already am. At least having paid nothing for it, I can’t bemoan the loss of money I could have spent on, I don’t know, food or gas or something useful. All I’m losing is time.

These, then, are actual errors from an actual book. I’m not making this up. Honest.

I will note that I’m only 25% of the way through the book, according to my Kindle. I took a tip from another editor and started highlighting errors as I came across them. What an eye-opener that was! I mean, I knew there were errors; I can’t not see them. Proofreading is hardwired into my brain. However, highlighting them makes them seem that much worse. Now I really can’t not see them.

Some of them I’ll explain, some I’ll let speak for themselves. By all means comment if you don’t understand why I’ve called something an error. I’ll do my best to enlighten. I will also state that I’m not quoting full sentences, but only the portions containing the error. It’s also important to know that the writer is from the UK, so some of the mechanics just drive me batty on principle and some of the word choices are unfamiliar to me.

#############

no sights, no sound (For parallelism, I’d change that to “sounds” in this description of a setting.)

standing next to it, was M (Delete that unnecessary comma.)

lit up the lens of his glasses (Unless he’s wearing a monocle, he has lenses, plural.)

gunge (As an American English speaker, I didn’t know this word. It’s a UK term that I figured out contextually and then checked against a dictionary online. If I had been editing I might’ve queried it even after finding the definition. Therefore, this isn’t so much an error as a language issue–but I’m still pointing it out as something that can stop readers in their tracks.)

” . . . we can-.” (Oh, dear me. No. Not even in British usage. If the sentence/thought isn’t finished, there’s no period, no full stop, whatever you wish to call that dot at the end. Also, rather than a hyphen, I’d have used an em-dash to indicate the sudden breaking of the thought/speech. This particular mechanical error occurs throughout the book. I cheated and looked ahead, so I know.)

“Just one . . . at a time”. (Again, no. The period’s at the end of the spoken sentence, so it goes inside the closed quotation mark. I’ve read quite a few blogs lately about US vs. UK mechanics, and quotation marks with other punctuation is one of the most confusing things on both sides of the pond. However–no. It’s a sentence; it has a definite end; put the period inside the quote.)

alright (It’s not all right to use this. It’s all wrong. Two words. Always. All right? Thanks.)

small with a blue studs on top (It’s either a single stud, or perhaps this is a possessive missing its apostrophe and its object. I think it’s the first, and I’d delete that “s” on the end of “stud.”)

industrial sized Hoover (Adjectives made from two words–called compound adjectives–are often hyphenated. “Industrial-sized.” To a point this comes down to the editor’s preference in conjunction with a style guide, such as the CMoS. I far prefer the unambiguous hyphenation to an open version that in some cases leads to confusion or misunderstanding. That, and I like the look of the hyphenated form. So there. I suspect that in this case one might argue that “industrial-sized” is a temporary compound. I’ve not looked for the term in any dictionaries, so I can’t say. The concept is familiar to anyone who shops at places like Sam’s Club or Costco, though.)

give a once over (The idiom is hyphenated. “Once-over.”)

cotton weaved interior (I’m not entirely clear on the intent, here. I think the writer means the interior of this particular wig is woven from cotton. I’d have suggested changing it to “woven cotton interior.” On further discussion with the writer, I might have ended up with something more like “woven cotton cap,” since I believe that’s what the base of a wig is called–the part that fits the head like a cap, that is. I’m indulging in conjecture, of course.)

cheers and laughter . . . was a cacophony (I’d recast this, because while it seems a quick fix to say “were” and have the plural form for the plural subject, we’re also in that messy area of reciprocity. The sentence can’t be easily reversed using the same words (“cacophony” as the subject requires “was,” but “cheers and laughter” as the subject require “were”). I’d suggest recasting the sentence entirely to avoid the issue, and perhaps use the verb “created” instead of the form of “to be,” which is the heart of the problem.)

To the greying ice cream man, he couldn’t help but think . . (The greying fellow is the “he” following the comma. The sentence needs to be recast to eliminate the clumsiness. Perhaps “To the greying ice cream man the crowd looked like nothing so much as a cross between . . . .” Trust me, that’s where the sentence was going. I didn’t want to type the whole thing as it appears in the book, though.)

white-clothed (Again, this needs a hyphen.)

The driver slammed the breaks (No he didn’t. He slammed the brakes. A live proofreader would’ve caught this one.)

her inner thighs ran red raw from . . . (It took me a while to realize what’s needed here, I think because I was getting numb from the number of errors assaulting my editorial senses. Inserting a comma after “red” helps quite a bit, but I still would query the “running red” part. I know the condition the author’s describing, and I wouldn’t use the term “running” with it. “Were chafed and red,” perhaps. The way it’s written sounds like a hemorrhage.)

marine life getup (Another case here of needing a hyphen to create an adjectival compound. “Marine-life.”)

baggy (Pants are baggy. The plastic bag is a “baggie.”)

un-amused (Here’s one of the hyphens that was missing from the compound adjectives. It doesn’t belong in this word; “unamused” is a closed form.)

pre-occupied (Here’s another one. Delete it and close the space. “Preoccupied.”)

buy one get one free offer (Now we’re back to needing hyphens. “Buy-one-get-one-free offer.”)

collapse on to the floor (Usage problem. One could say “collapse on the floor” or “collapse to the floor,” but “collapse on to” is just poor usage.)

oxidisation (Aside from the UK s-for-z spelling issue, this just isn’t a word. The one the writer wanted was “oxidation.”)

pressed him for a minutae more (Just–no. No. One cannot have “a minutae.” “Pressed him for more minutae” preserves the author’s word choice and is grammatically correct. I had originally written another suggestion with a different word entirely, but I like this one much better.)

spaghetti bolognaise (If you’re going to write about a food, know how to spell it. Particularly when the food is regional Italian, like “spaghetti Bolognese.” Capitalize the “B” because this is a proper adjective.)

############

That’s where I stopped taking notes for the time being. You’ll notice I’m not fussing about pacing, or characterization, or plot, or any of those bigger things. I’m not a story/fiction/developmental editor. I’m a copy editor and a proofreader. I see these little things that many people seem to consider “nitpicking.” They’re far from nitpicking, though. They’re signs of someone with an imperfect grasp of grammar and mechanics who would have done well to have hired someone like me–or any other professional copy editor/proofreader–to look over the work before publication. Then, readers like me wouldn’t find themselves becoming irritated and unable to enjoy the story because of the plethora of errors in the “nitpicky stuff.”

I’ll also say: I learned a new phrase from this book. “Keep schtum” means “keep quiet, particularly if you’ll get in more trouble otherwise.” While it sounds Yiddish, it apparently came from the criminal culture of the UK. It might come in handy someday, so I’ll tuck it away for later.

I would hope that this has shed some light on how a typical copy editor’s brain works while they’re reading. (I think I’m typical, anyway. I’m damned good at what I do, but I don’t think I’m all that special when compared to other professional copy editors.) That’s why I did it. Not to point at a writer and chastise his work. Not to complain for no reason. To point out the kinds of errors commonly made, to explain how I would correct them and why, and to provide an example of why writers really should drop some cash on professional editing and proofreading for their hard work. That’s all, really.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Copy editors and fiction editors

So there I was, wondering what to post here on the blog, and then fate stepped in and delivered unto me a wonderful little essay on the difference between copy editors and fiction editors, written by Torah Cottrill (who happens to be both a writer and an editor).

In my own professional work, I do both kinds of editing. Karen focuses mainly on copy editing. But plenty of people out there—including many self-publishing authors, unfortunately—don’t differentiate between types of editing. No matter what you’re writing, it’s important to know what kind of editorial services you want and/or need to make your stuff as appealing as possible to your audience.

And now, take it away, Torah!

——————————————————————————————————————–

A Few General Thoughts About Editors

It’s worth pointing out, for those not familiar with the distinction, that copy editors and fiction editors are two entirely separate things. (Although there are cases where the same person can do both, it’s actually pretty rare for one person to be good at both.)

Copy editors will make sure you don’t use “bare with me” or “should of” or “sneak peak” and that your typo “what is” instead of “what if” gets caught and corrected. Copy editors can catch continuity errors (for instance, that your character had a red shirt in the first chapter, but you described a blue shirt in chapter three), and can even offer advice about restructuring sections of text and about reworking clunky or confusing language.

Fiction editors look at the larger picture of your work, and can help you decide things like whether you need to add more POV characters, if the narrative structure is falling apart in chapter 5, whether your antagonist is believable, and all of the other story advice that writers dream of when they imagine “having an editor.”

Both types of editors are invaluable. What you should spend your money on depends on what you feel you need. Bottom line, everybody needs to have a copy editor (or a friend who’s good at those kinds of details) look at their work before it’s published, because basic errors of grammar and spelling are inexcusable in work you offer a reader.

As with any professional service, ask for references when looking for any type of editor. Ask what the editor offers, and how much he or she charges. Ask for a sample of his or her work. Discuss price and what you get for your investment. Maybe you’d benefit more from general advice on the structure of your novel, based on the first two chapters and a detailed outline, rather than from a full-blown edit of the whole work. Maybe you only want a final proofreading polish rather than a more intensive copy editing pass. Discuss what you want to achieve by working with the editor, and how the editor can help you accomplish that.

Remember, like any other professionals, editors have varying degrees of experience and expertise, and varying personalities. Spend the time to find someone who’s a good fit for you.

For examples of both kinds of editing, look at the Serious Pixie blog by Susan Morris and GRAMMARGEDDON! by Karen Conlin and Ray Vallese.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Very well said, Torah. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us—and for the shout-out to our blog. (I disabled the GRAMMARGEDDON! link you put in your essay so as not to create a self-referential loop that would destroy reality. That’s me, generous to a fault.)

You are not orientated correctly, irregardless.

I had hoped to catch another “typo in the wild” as Ray put it last week, but sadly the sign I spied over the weekend was gone today. It was one of those mobile signs with removable letters, sitting in the parking lot of a small resale shop. I did a double-take when I spied it because a) I wasn’t sure I saw it correctly and b) I was driving, and had to watch the traffic. The sign proudly proclaimed “SHABBY SHEEK.” Yeah. “Sheek.” Perhaps it was a “cute” misspelling of the kind I first learned about in 6th grade English class, and which I’ve hated from that very day. Perhaps it was really about a down-at-heel Saudi fellow, in which case it was still spelled incorrectly, but the end result would’ve been far closer to the actual spelling. Sadly, I suspect that neither of those possibilities is what actually happened. I suspect that whoever placed the letters has no clue that “chic” is the word they were after, and just went with the closest phonetic spelling. We’ll never know for sure.

Now, for the rant. As the blog entry says, “You are not orientated properly, irregardless.” Backformations drive me batty. Some of them are indeed correct, standard English words. However, “orientate” is not standard American English. It’s more commonly used in British English. This article explains that speakers and writers on both sides of the Big Pond bemoan the other’s usage.

As for me and my house (is that Biblical enough for you? I hope so, it’s about as Biblical as I’ll get–and notice, that’s capitalized because I’m referring to the Bible, not to something generally enormous. But I digress.), we will continue to use the American standard formation of “orient” because it’s standard American English. And because it sounds better. So there.

Regardless of what we choose to do, you are free to do as you please. Note, I didn’t say “irregardless”–because that’s not a word. It’s wrong. The word is “regardless.” Just because “respective” has as its antonym “irrespective” does not automatically mean that “regardless” needs an “ir-” prefix. It’s not only redundant (the word already means “without regard for”), it’s wrong. Stop it. Please.

That’s a pretty short rant, but it’s nearly 100 degrees outside and I’m easily tired today. I hope it’s still enjoyable. Later, folks.

 

 

 

Battle of the bugle

I often read Kevin Drum’s blog at the Mother Jones website and felt like sharing a great typo he found in the Washington Post.

Fighting with cone-shaped corn chips might be worth watching, too.

The original story has since been updated on the Post‘s website, and Karen and I usually don’t spotlight errors that have been corrected—we don’t want to seem like rabid editors chasing down every typo ever made—but the idea of a bugle battle at the Olympics was too good to pass up. And, of course, this is yet another example of a mistake that a spellchecker wouldn’t (and apparently didn’t) catch.

Put your best face forward, but learn to spell!

So while I was killing time in the local WalMart this afternoon, I saw the product pictured below. I stared at the packaging for quite a long moment because I honestly wasn’t believing my eyes. It’s a lovely makeup brush, and were I in the market for such a thing, I’d be all over this color. However–it’s KAbuki, folks. Not “kubuki.” I don’t usually trip over typos like this when I’m out and about, so I snapped a photo with my trusty phone-cam.

"Kubuki" (sic) brush

Found in the makeup aisle at the local WalMart

I can understand the “ku” misspelling, because pronunciation (not “pronounciation”) is sloppy in this country (innit?). However, I can find nothing indicating that “kubuki” is an accepted alternate spelling. Therefore, I put my orthopedically-shod foot down firmly and declare: “Learn to spell, marketing and packaging people!”

C is for contrafibularity

Have you ever wanted to add a word to the dictionary? Now’s your chance. The folks at Collins Dictionary, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, are soliciting new definitions for inclusion in their online dictionary. From their announcement:

Your word will then go through an editorial evaluation. If it’s accepted your word will be published on collinsdictionary.com within a few weeks, and your name will appear on the definition page where you will be recorded forever as the submitter of the word.

You can submit your new word here and learn about their evaluation process here. The website is also giving daily prizes to entrants.

Collins plans to accept submissions year-round, and as of this writing, the site has collected over 500 words and definitions. Some of them are terms you’ve probably heard before, such as “celebutard,” “pwned,” and “embiggen.” And then we have entries like the following (presented as is):

administrivia: the mundane, paper-pushing, monkey work that has to get done, however loathsome it may be

skattle: to disappear noisily

nigwin: a person who thinks they know everything and laughs too much

guggerstrasse: the feeling of awkwardness, exposure or panic induced by accidentally being oneself at work

illiterarti: stupid/dumb/uneducated celebrity

twerplet: a small irritating, sometimes offensive, nuisance poster on Twitter, offspring of spammer + troll, but rarely a threat

We’ve talked about the idea of a living language on this blog before, and nothing makes a language evolve more than a steady influx of new words. So head over to the Collins site and share your creativity with the world–or post your favorite definitions in the comments right here. We’re not giving away prizes, but we’ll let you wallow in smug satisfaction.

(The title of this post comes from an episode of Blackadder the Third in which Edmund Blackadder, the long-suffering servant to Prince George, frantically tries to rewrite the dictionary after accidentally burning Samuel Johnson’s original manuscript. Here’s a clip of Blackadder inventing new words on the spot to take the pompous Johnson down a few pegs.)

Living Language Peeve: Slang at the CSM

I know some of my readers who are also real-life friends or acquaintances are aware of my “living language peeves.” Those are the things that we could eliminate, if we could only keep the language from evolving. Granted, some of those evolutionary steps aren’t necessarily bad things. Sometimes, for instance, we need a word for a thing that was just created or invented. That’s a Good Thing. However, my peeve for today falls into the Bad Thing category no matter how I slice it.

“Humongous” in a Headline? Really, CSM?

Now, lest someone out there think I’m a total stick-in-the-mud, I use that word plenty in everyday speech. I don’t shy away from slang. In daily speech, with my family and friends, there’s no reason to be stodgy. However, I draw the line at using slang in professional situations like when I’m teaching, or making a presentation to a group. I apply the same standards to writing. I don’t expect to see “humongous” in a headline at a news outlet with the reputation of the Christian Science Monitor. I just don’t. The Onion, sure. A college paper with a carefree bent, sure. The NYT? The CSM? The WaPo? No, I’m sorry–I expect their writers and editors to use standard English.

And that’s the way it is, Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Good night, David.

 

ETA: Later tonight, this version appeared on the RSS feed. Both links remain active at this posting. More info in my comment timestamped 7:02pm.