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.

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.

“Feelin’ Alright”

If you’ve been following me on any platform for any length of time, you know I’ve been a staunch adversary of “alright.” I have stated as clearly as I know how that I would never reconsider that stance: “alright” would never become all right in my worldview.

You also know the saying “Never say never,” don’t you?

I’ll wait while you all recover and fetch smelling salts or whiskey or whatever you need to help you get through this. I understand entirely.

Rather than rewrite the book, so to speak, I’m providing a link to the article that changed my mind. As I tweeted earlier this morning, reading about the English language as it is actually spoken and used (descriptive grammar and linguistics, mostly) can lead to changing opinions. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, at all.

My last blog post here was about how I’ve mellowed. Even I never expected to mellow this much. I’m rather curious to see where I’ll go from here. Now I have one more item for my “ask the author” list, when I start a project with a new client. Added to the usual “Do you like serial commas?” and “UK or US conventions, for the most part?” will be “Do you care about ‘alright’ and ‘all right’?”

Clarification (October 13, 2014): I am still opposed to “alright” in narrative text. This sea change is purely for dialogue, and only if it’s appropriate for the setting and the character. A 16th-century nobleman will not say “all right.” He may well say “very well” or “excellent,” though. (A 16th-century peasant won’t say “all right,” either. Perhaps just “right” works for him. “All right” is a very American phrase (not that the English don’t use it, but it smacks of American speech–“Right” sounds more English to the non-academic ear), “attested to from 1953” according to Online Etymology (http://etymonline..com).

And if they say they like “alright,” that will be all right with me.

There’s right, and there’s right.

This is a post about grammar, and about pedantry, and about editing, and about other stuff as I think of it and can make it fit into the general theme. That general theme is: How My Outlook Has Changed With Experience and Time.

Once I’d have been proud to be labeled a pedant. A grammar nazi. A Miss Thistlebottom. I couldn’t imagine not knowing when to use “who” and when it should be “whom.” My verbs were always properly conjugated and spelled, and the tense always fit the time. Those who confused direct and indirect objects crawled to me over broken glass for my aid.

Well, okay, not really. But close. Most of my classmates from junior high (now it’s “middle school,” you know) on came to me for help with grammar and spelling. I just knew that stuff. It was easy for me.

It still is easy for me. My verbs are still properly conjugated and spelled, and I still know how to use the proper tense. I have very little trouble with spelling (even with unfamiliar words), and I can identify compound-complex sentences without breaking a sweat.

Over the years, though, I’ve come to a much softer outlook. Yes, I still correct errors when I’m asked or when I’m being paid to, and perhaps even as a good-natured gibe (with a G, not a J) if I know the person very well. What I do not do, and in fact have never done, is leap into conversations with red pen in hand, lashing about correcting all the misspellings and grammar errors and nonstandard usages. It’s RUDE. I’ve always felt that way, and I still do.

If the only thing I can contribute to an online conversation is “You mean GIBE, not JIBE,” I should shut up and walk away. NO ONE CARES. Seriously. No one.

No one, that is, save for the rude people who gain some degree of self-importance and ego-boo by pointing out other people’s shortcomings.

And honestly, even when I’m being paid to fix things there are degrees of “correct” I need to think about. What’s “correct” for an academic paper is not the same as what’s “correct” for a novel is not the same as what’s “correct” for a blog post. To those who say “My job is to make it right ALL THE TIME” I have to ask: By whose standards? Did you check Fowler? Strunk and White? Garner? Chicago? AP? APA? Your high-school English teacher’s notes you’ve saved in a lock-box? By whose standards is this “right?”

My job is to make every project “right” for THAT project, for THAT audience, for THAT purpose. I think about the readers, the story (if it’s fiction), the message, the format. Does the language fit the story? Will the readers think it’s over-written or under-written? Does the usage need to be conservative? What about the vocabulary? If there’s dialogue, does it sound real? Do people talk that way in this situation in real life? (And if it’s totally fiction–fantasy, let’s say, with dragons and elves–would they really say these things if it were real?) And what about the narrative? Is it dwelling on details that don’t matter, or is it always moving the story ahead? For that matter, is the dialogue serving a purpose other than to ensure people talk? Are tags overused? Are there beats instead of tags where they make better sense?

If it’s an academic paper, are the citations properly placed and formatted? Is the language suitable, or too colloquial? Are special terms appropriately defined (either in-line or in back matter)? Is the material organized to best effect?

I walk away from online conversations much more readily than I once did, even those about editing. There are as many kinds of editing as there are editors, the way I see it. We can’t even agree on the definitions, people. How can we agree on method? I say that I perform substantive line and copy editing. For me, that means I stop short of moving entire chunks of text around (unless it’s a short-ish nonfiction piece), but I commonly rewrite sentences and rearrange them within paragraphs; I change word choice (or at least make suggestions for such changes) to better fit the mood, the speaker, the purpose, and so on; I note inconsistencies from one place to another (his name was Dan in the last chapter, but here he’s Dave); and I check the grammar, usage, and mechanics.

I love editing. I absolutely love it. But I won’t shove it down the throat of anyone who hasn’t asked me for my input. And I edit a novel with a different set of standards than I use for a white paper. And I write a blog post with a different set from either of those. And if I’m commenting somewhere on social media, I might not catch my typos. Y’know what? That’s okay. It’s social media. We all have fat fingers sometimes.

I don’t mind adverbs when used judiciously. (Like that one.)

I don’t run away from semicolons; in fact, I rather like them, if they’re used properly.

I prefer the Oxford comma, but I won’t throttle, maim, or otherwise harm someone who doesn’t care for it.

I have no aversion to splitting infinitives, but I don’t go out of my way to split them, either.

And I start sentences with coordinating conjunctions, too. (Not in a white/academic paper, though. That’s frowned upon in such a circumstance. Let the writing/editing fit the purpose.)

I use the right tools for the right jobs. Not a hammer for everything. Not everything is a nail.