So, what else is going on around here.
I just finished a six-week online course on copyediting. It was surprisingly fascinating to me. I signed up on a whim, thinking it would be a good set of skills to have given the things that I'm interested in, but not ever imagining that I would want to be an editor. But as I worked my way through the lessons, I realized that it is exactly the kind of stuff I'm interested in. I've got a manuscript of my mom's to work on (an old one, I'm not nearly experienced enough to tackle her new one), and if you know of anyone else who might need editing done and wouldn't mind having an apprentice editor do the work, e-mail me (the link to my e-mail is on my profile page).
There was one point where I wasn't sure I agreed with the instructor, so I'm taking opinions. I just figured out how to add a "real" opinion poll. Let's try this--it's over there in the right margin. And I have absolutely no way of knowing whose vote is whose, so this is completely anonymous. Vote with abandon, or let me know what you think in the comments.
Here is the situation: You've labored over a manuscript for months, poured your heart and soul into it, and it is your baby. You take your courage in both hands and send it off to an editor for polishing. The editor finds a sentence that she doesn't understand. Which would you prefer to see in the margin?
A. "Unclear"Make your choice over there in the right margin before you read on.
B. "I'm not sure what you mean by this sentence. Can you clarify it, please?"
C. "I think I understand what this sentence means, but I'm not sure. If I'm confused, the reader might be, too. Can we work together to clarify it?"
I've done some editing for people before, and one of the main things I learned in this class is that I have been way too abrupt in communicating with the author. I assumed that it was better to just bluntly and efficiently state what I thought needed to be changed, because that is what works best for me as a writer (after three years of having my papers graded by academicians, I have had LOTS of recent experience with this). But after reading this instructor's guidelines for dealing with your clients, I'm starting to see that most people would rather have their editorial feedback more gracefully phrased.
The course instructor says option A is bad (sounds like a teacher correcting a student), B is better, and C is the best (non-confrontational and non-blaming, and accepts part of the responsibility for fixing it). I guess I can see that, but as a writer, I would definitely prefer A. Options B and C are wasting my time and hers. Just tell me what needs work and I'll work on it. Also, B and C feel slightly condescending to me, like she feels like I need to be handled, or manipulated into agreeing with her. Option A feels like one professional to another-- this is what needs work. (note that none of the three options says exactly what is unclear-- and that would be the most helpful of all.)
But her point is that most people prefer more gentle criticism. In other words, people are different, and what works for me is not necessarily going to work for anybody else. And I am quite possibly in the minority here. Hence, the poll.
Maybe this correlates with talking on the phone. I hate chit chat. It's one of the main reasons I hate talking on the phone. You can't just say what you need to say and hang up, you have to talk about the weather and where you're going on vacation, etc etc. When I used to have to make PTA phone calls, I would pray to get people's answering machines.
Hmmm. It's occurring to me that I'm kind of bitchy.
I think I will have to work on this. (that is a backhanded way of apologizing to the people whose work I've edited, in case you couldn't tell.) Maybe before I edit for anyone, I will have them take this poll. Also, I had to completely change my blog format so you could see the poll, and it now looks ugly, which is bugging me. But I can change it back later, right?
Other things I learned: It is now incorrect to put two spaces after a period. I knew that was true for online writing (not that I can change, because hello thirty years of typing two spaces after a period), but I didn't know it was true for any other kind of writing.
In the phrase "can't help but" ("I can't help but think you've worked too hard") the but is redundant and should be deleted. ("I can't help thinking you've worked too hard")
Continuous/continual: continuous means continuing on without interruption (their continuous chatter was driving me crazy), continual means continuing with interruptions (continual rain showers throughout the day, i.e., intermittent).
Farther/further: farther refers to physical distance (his house is farther away than hers), further refers to psychological or other non-physical meanings (no further work was required, our friendship could go no further).
And that barely even scratches the surface of what we covered. Since I am a word addict, I loved this class. There are a couple of other ones in the same vein, I may take more.
What are your favorite words to mix up? How do you keep them straight? What are your favorite words to misspell? (mine are occurrence, embarrass, and reconnaissance) And don't forget to respond to the poll!