All right, you, break it up: Dialogue and reactions

I haven’t found anything in any of my usage or grammar texts about this particular topic. I suspect it’s because the issue is one more of craft or art than of science (inasmuch as one can compare grammar to a science; one sure as hell can’t do that with usage, I know that for a fact).

Here’s the thing: I’ve seen paragraphs containing dialogue and reactions, and while that’s not illegal, the way it was written was less than clear. Person A says something, person B reacts to it in the same graf, and then A says something again. Why? Is it because the writer was taught that grafs have to be N sentences long? (N is often 10, for some reason entirely unknown to me. I had a professor, a Kipling scholar, who insisted that if we couldn’t write 10 sentences about a topic sentence, we needed a different topic sentence.) Not that any of these grafs came close to that, but it’s about all I can think of to explain the phenomenon. Continue reading “All right, you, break it up: Dialogue and reactions”

What do you mean by “careful?”

Last week I saw a post from Grammarly that asked the question “Have you become more or less careful with your writing?” (That’s the gist. I don’t recall if there was a time span mentioned, nor does it really matter.) My first thought was: That all depends on what you mean by “careful.” Continue reading “What do you mean by “careful?””

The Joys and Terrors of Working with an Editor (a guest post from LJ Cohen)

I’m delighted to host Lisa Cohen today. She’s one of my regular clients, and she’s the author of both the CHANGELING’S CHOICE and HALCYONE SPACE series, among other titles.

We’re doing a giveaway in conjunction with this post. To qualify, simply leave a comment here on the blog. (Tweets and comments on G+ do not qualify. The comment must be here on the blog.) At the end of one week, starting today, one winner will be chosen at random. The winner can select any one title from all of Lisa’s ebooks, in whatever format they prefer.

Without more prattling from me, here’s Lisa. Continue reading “The Joys and Terrors of Working with an Editor (a guest post from LJ Cohen)”

The State of the Blog: The First Four Years

When Ray and I first had the idea for this blog, we were both solidly in the “English is falling apart, usage is doomed, grammar is abysmal” camp. I, in particular, had just read a few self-published ebooks (for which I paid nothing, in exchange for reviews) that contained a horrifying number of actual errors. I mean, grammatical errors. Not stylistic choices. We’re talking about missing words, wrong words, agreement errors, and so on. Not long after that, during the early discussions about the purpose of a blog (if we were to create one), I decided to hang out my editor’s shingle and help some of these poor (literally – they’re not wealthy folks, as a rule) writers publish professionally edited work. That was in June of 2012.

We’re nearly to June of 2016 as I’m writing this, and man, things have changed for me. (I won’t attempt to speak for Ray. He’s got a full-time job and does freelance game design, writing, and editing as well, and hasn’t been active on the blog for quite some time. We’re both okay with that.) I’ve gone from a very prescriptivist view (this is right, that is wrong, and I don’t know why the hell you’d want to write that like you did) to a pragmatic view (you can read about it here), and I keep inching toward descriptivism a little every day. Why? Mostly because I’ve been learning from linguists and lexicographers over on Twitter. I’ve been editing steadily (indeed, I’ve tripled my income since I started the indie gig), and I learn something from every client. Editing fiction is not like editing textbooks or game rules. If I were editing mostly academic or technical materials, I might well have remained firmly on the prescriptivist side of the fence.

But I’m not, and I didn’t.

So, rather than posting a lot of photos of greengrocers’ apostrophes and other mechanical errors and typos common to public signage (everything from professionally printed billboards to the corner store’s handwritten notice), I’ve been steadily moving toward writing about, well, grammar and usage and mechanics, but in a way that teaches rather than vilifies. I must be doing something right. One of my most popular series of posts remains the trilogy “The Mechanics of Dialogue,” which I wrote in October 2014. I still see people sharing links to that (particularly the third installment about interrupted dialogue) on Twitter. I’m happy it’s of so much interest and use to folks.

I was concerned that there wasn’t a place for my kind of grammar blogging because, frankly, there are already so many amazing grammar bloggers out there, what’s one more? However, some of them follow me on Twitter (and I squeal like a four-year-old when I get a notification that another one has added me!), and we chat sometimes, and that’s something I never dreamed would happen. My writing voice is unlike anyone else’s. My method of teaching is unlike anyone else’s. My blog posts might be about the same topics, but they’re written in a way that’s unlike anyone else’s.

I’m finding my voice. And while I’m doing that, I’m continuing to help writers find and polish theirs.

That’s what it’s all about, four years on.

Eaglefriends and Em Dashes

If you click on this link, you’ll see much of what I did for the month of January. My main project was editing A Facet for the Gem, the first in a series by Charles L. Murray.

Within a few hours of my returning the edited file to him, Charles made a lovely public post about the process of working with me and the kinds of things I found, which of course I’d find for any of my clients. (It’s what I pride myself on. It’s not only about grammar and usage and mechanics. It’s about style and facts and physics and history and culture and yeah.)

I linked to that collection back in December as “Clients in the Hot Seat,” but these posts weren’t there yet. Charles is so pleased, and I had such a good time working with him, I wanted to be sure to share this for those of you who might still be wondering what it’s like to work with me. (You can get a feel for how it would be to work with any professional editor, to a point, but keep in mind we all have our own methods, strengths, and weaknesses.)

Fair warning: I’m quickly filling every open slot left on my schedule. Don’t hesitate to ask, but be ready for an “I’m sorry.” If your project is over 80,000 words, I probably won’t have time this year.

And I do mean “this year,” as in 2016. I went from not knowing what I’d be working on after June to ZOMG WAT WAIT in the space of 24 hours last week.

Still, it’s always worth asking.

Have you missed me?

I’ve missed you. You, my readers, and you, my blog. November came and went without so much as a “Yeah, I’m alive” post. (I did maintenance, though. Updates and such. Just no writing.)

Life got out of hand for my clients and me last month, and it’s threatening to stay that way this month, too. Regardless, I’m determined to write something so you don’t all give up on me.

I finished reading Carol Fisher Saller’s Moonlight Blogger over the weekend. She’s a slightly older, better educated me. That is to say, she says what I say but better. (I even talk to myself like she does, apparently. I’m not nearly as worried about that, now.) And because I finished that, now I’m determined to learn the keyboard shortcuts for Word.

I heard the gasps. I did.

Not ALL of them, of course, just the ones I know I’ll use most often, like bold, italic, undo, insert comment, toggle tracking off/on (for those silent changes I’m going to begin making), delete 1 word to left/right, and select text.

Yes, I’ve been a slave to the mouse/trackball for all these years. It’s time to branch out.

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 “This editor talks about editing.”

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.

BUSY.

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.