Friday, 2 December 2016

Capitalisation: the holiday edition

I’ve written about capitalisation here before, but as we approach Christmas I saw an opportunity to expand on the subject.

Everywhere you look, you’ll probably see that most holiday greetings are capitalised:
Merry Christmas
Seasons Greetings
Happy New Year

The reason that holiday greetings are capitalised is because the holidays themselves are proper nouns (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc.), and the greeting (happy, merry, etc.) is usually at the beginning of the sentence or standing alone, and therefore requires a capital as well.

But sometimes we see these greetings in the middle of a sentence:
“We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Some of those capital letters don’t actually belong, and these can probably be regarded as stylistic exceptions. When there are holidays and events, style can trump grammar because it’s often more aesthetically pleasing. But in the example sentence above, we can and should strive to write it correctly because it is a proper sentence as opposed to a standalone greeting. It should look like this:
“We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”

Note that “new year” isn’t capitalised because I’m not referring to the holiday. Instead, I’m saying that I hope the upcoming new year is a happy one. The new year itself isn’t a holiday; only New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are holidays. So, when you say “Happy New Year”, that is a holiday greeting and is the equivalent of “Merry Christmas”. But if you wish someone’s new year will go well, the capitals aren’t needed. I explained a similar rule in my other post, comparing generic use of “bridge” with “Sydney Harbour Bridge”. Depending on context and meaning, capitalisation changes.

We see this with “Happy Birthday” and “Happy Anniversary” as well. One’s birthday or anniversary is not an official holiday and not at all a proper noun, yet we continue to write “Happy Birthday, ____”, when, in reality, if we were following capitalisation rules accurately, it would be “Happy birthday, ____”. Again, this seems to be excused for the sake of style.

The rule I recommend and prefer to follow is this:

If you are saying a standalone greeting to someone, use capitals for each part of the greeting -
Happy Birthday/Anniversary
Merry Christmas
Happy New Year

But if you are writing out a full sentence in regards to holidays and birthdays, only capitalise proper nouns -
I hope you have a happy birthday.
Enjoy the new year.
Have a wonderful Christmas.

Having said all of this, it is a stylistic choice more often than not, and I'm sure the recipients of your greetings won't notice a minor capitalisation rule like this. But I still think it's a valuable thing to be aware of, much like all of my other blog topics over the past year or so. Thank you to those who have been reading and supporting my blog and my work. I hope you do have a happy holiday season and enjoy the new year.
If you're looking for editing or proofreading services, be sure to visit my website to check out the services and rates I offer. Thank you for reading!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Less or fewer?

When should you use less? And when should you use fewer?
This will be a short one because it’s very easy to explain.

This is one of those things you might know subconsciously because it sounds right a certain way. Most of the time it comes naturally, but many people do get it wrong, so here’s a quick reminder:

Fewer should be used when the subject can be counted and is plural (preceded by “are/were”) – there are fewer apples, there were fewer trees, etc.

less should be used when the subject is singular and can't be counted (preceded by “is/was”) – there is less water, there was less pain, etc.

But if you watch Game of Thrones you probably know this already. Thanks, Stannis.

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Monday, 10 October 2016

Metaphors, analogies, similes, allegories - how are they different?

These four literary devices are roughly the same as each other, but with some varying aspects. Each of them will draw comparisons between things to help the reader further understand the meaning or impact of what is written, but they each do this differently. Allegories in particular are quite different to the other three, as they are far more subtle and symbolic, lacking the “clear comparison” aspect.
A metaphor involves saying that one thing is another thing, when it actually isn’t. The comparison is implicit, so it often says A is B, rather than A is like B. This often means metaphors sound illogical and ridiculous, but it’s usually clear when a metaphor is a metaphor, so we embrace the idea it is expressing.

The job interview was a breeze.
My face is a canvas.
The world is a stage.
He is my rock.
An analogy is basically a metaphor, but takes it a step further by extending the comparison. Therefore, an analogy is more of an argument than a figure of speech. Metaphors and similes are figures of speech, and analogies are often made up of them both. Or, as Britta so simply put, “it’s a thought with another thought’s hat on”.

- “Politicians are puppets, and we are the audience. We don’t see the strings, so we just believe whatever we see, and we don’t know who is really putting on the show.”
- The best example, though, is the famous Forrest Gump quote: “My momma always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.”
A simile is basically a metaphor, but with the words “like” or “as” chucked in there for clarity. This makes it explicit rather than implicit.

We’re as close as two peas in a pod.
She’s as light as a feather.
The sun’s warmth is like a blanket.
When people bring their bins in from the street, they rumble like thunder. (Is this just an Aussie thing? Is it just me?)

Allegories are implicit and symbolic. They aren’t spelled out for the reader like the metaphors and similes and analogies. They exist in many forms of art where one story is clearly told, but an alternate meaning or idea can be found within it. This isn’t usually identified within the work, as it is more open to the audience’s interpretation. It’s up to the audience to draw their own comparisons by noting familiar themes, and so on.

- Some might say Star Trek is an allegory for racial diversity and general discrimination, as it involves a number of different alien races all interacting and clashing in various contexts. The same might be said about X-Men, as it also shows those who are marginalised for being different. This could be a hint at any kind of discrimination, such as homosexuality, even though they focus on aliens and mutants. This is an allegory.

- Another example I like to refer to is The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien wrote about trees waking up and marching to destroy the home of the man who destroyed them for the purpose of building machines and creating armies. If that isn’t an allegory for the industrial revolution and destruction of our forests, I don’t know what is. There are many more you can find within LOTR that relate to war, greed, etc. But Tolkien never liked allegories for his stories anyway. That is perhaps indicative of the allegory - it is often only open to the interpretation of the audience.

If you're looking for editing or proofreading services, be sure to visit my website to check out the services and rates I offer. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The value of an editor

This is going to be a long one, but only because it’s important and I care.
It’s a little bit of a rant, but also a little bit of advice. I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to read this through. It matters a great deal to me and to many others. And before I begin, a friendly reminder: I do not think less of people who aren’t as good at English as I am. I’m not picking on them, I promise. This is about the role of editing.

Lately I've noticed a number of obvious and damaging written errors in some important places: news articles, magazines, emails, ads, promotional posts by small businesses, etc.
The one that made me cringe the most: I was reading a reliable and well-known science magazine that had misspelled "extinction". Twice. On the same page.

But that’s not the end of it.
At a later date I was reading another article in the same issue of the same magazine and stumbled upon three more errors. This time they’d left out a space between “match” and “our”, creating this weird new word, matchour.
Then they had used neither and or together, instead of neither and nor. The general rule is to pair neither with nor, and either with or. Mixing them up just sounds wrong.
Finally, further along in that article, I found this: “The prospect of genetic inequality are at the heart of public concern…”
That was even more irritating once I realised they’d re-used and emphasised that quote in a larger font separately on the page with the correct grammar. They had indeed used “is” instead of “are” there, so why was it wrong in the actual article?

How do writers for a science magazine misspell a word used commonly in the science world? How do writers forget spaces and confuse plural with singular? Well, the writers have probably just made some mistakes. That happens and is forgivable human nature. But that’s why editing exists – to look over written work for inevitable errors. And I think it’s a given that an acclaimed magazine would have an editing department. And so the question now becomes: How do errors like that get through editing without being picked up?

I might shrug it off if bad writing was confined to Facebook posts and texts, but it’s not. People are bringing their poor grammar and spelling with them everywhere, in contexts where more damage can be done.
Errors have been popping up all over the place, and I’ve been left feeling dejected and disappointed.
The career I’m attempting to pursue exists to avoid these issues. Nevertheless, I am seeing more issues, and getting less work. This post is an attempt to address what I believe is contributing to this lack of care for language, and to encourage those reading to consider the value of the editing role.

One of these contributing factors, from my observation, could lie in the “editor” role that is so well known in media, and yet so not an editing job.
I call myself an editor because editing is what I do. But if I accepted a job at a magazine to be an editor, I don’t think I’d be spending my days focused on editing. Many times I’ve looked at ads for jobs like this, and all too often the actual “editing” part of the role is mentioned briefly down the bottom of the job description, or not at all.
I get that there are other jobs to be done in editorial departments, but it seems there is a lack of focus on the editing itself. I rarely find job postings that are just looking for people to edit words. There are always other tasks that take precedence, and this is a problem because editing requires all the focus in the world. There’s no point hiring an editor who has great attention to detail if you’re giving them a hundred different details to focus on beyond their actual editing work. No wonder magazines and newspapers are producing content riddled with errors. Their editors don’t have the capacity, time, or focus to put everything into the task at hand because they have a list of other roles to fulfil as well.

Where are the editing roles that are just about editing? Sure, get your editor to run some other errands when things go quiet, but let editing be their thing. If you need people to do all those other tasks, create a new job title.

To be fair, I know there are editors editing magazines. And I know there are jobs out there. I’ve looked. Occasionally I do stumble upon a job offer that indicates the role predominantly involves editing and fact-checking. But I have a point to make: the editing role requires more care and focus than it seems to be getting. It isn’t valued enough. If it was, I’d be finding more jobs to do, and the world’s words would be cleaner and make more sense. If editing was valued, I wouldn’t have easily found four significant errors in a science magazine.

And yes, that matters. People are lazy with language these days, so much so that anyone trying to correct poor grammar is picked on and called a “grammar nazi”. People would rather joke about it than try to improve. I’ve had people joke about poor grammar to me, like it’s just some annoying hobby I do. But it’s my chosen career and I think it matters, as much as dental health matters to a dentist, and education matters to a teacher.
And beyond the fact that I care, it just seems very few people get the importance of speaking and writing well. In my view, it’s all about effective and meaningful communication, which matters in every aspect of life, in every corner of the globe.
Spelling errors in prestigious magazines, for example, can damage credibility, reputation, and the reader’s experience. The same can apply to novels and news articles. And that’s just the media side of things. Words are used in many other important places where mistakes can be far more impactful.

Beyond all of that, there is another contributing factor that affects me more directly.
I can detach from media jobs to some extent. I know it’s a role I may have to play at some point in this career, but I was never into the idea of a nine-to-five office job anyway, because I’m driven by what makes me happy. That’s why I put my focus (for now) into flexible freelance work, helping the small businesses, passionate individuals, and independent authors out there who could use a second pair of eyes.
So far, that’s worked out a little bit for me. But only a little bit.
I appreciate all those who have reached out in the past year and hired me for their own passions. Every opportunity has brought so much to me. Thank you for taking it seriously and seeing the value.
But, unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough for me to leave my other job which is slowly breaking my back. And spirit.

I’m passionate, I work hard, and I am good at what I do. But I don’t get to do it enough. I’ll keep on doing whatever is necessary to get more work – promoting, networking, and advertising. I know a large part of it is how hard I work to get myself out there. But I believe the following message has to be relayed as well, because clients are the other half of it.
Many of you are ignoring the editing step. And for your sake as well as mine, you shouldn’t.

I’m noticing that small businesses I follow are making constant mistakes in their social media posts. These people know I exist and they know what I offer, but I am not contacted.
I’ve also had clients show interest in edits for their websites and blogs, but have followed that up by not replying to my messages at all. I even gave away a free website edit as part of a deal, and one of my clients simply didn’t use the edits, so I was unable to reference her website as work experience. She also didn’t acknowledge or thank me when I sent them to her.
I mean, if nothing else, that’s just unbelievably rude.

Let me put it this way:
You’d probably rely on a professional printing company for your business cards and flyers. It’s definitely worth spending the money instead of doing it yourself if you’re not good at that sort of thing. You’d spend money on advertising and equipment too.
But why, when it comes to presenting clean words in promotional posts, websites, blogs, etc., are people so unwilling to pay a small amount of money for proofreading?

Speaking and writing well doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Perhaps you put more effort into your passions and your strengths. That’s important to you, so your focus is on that, not your words. And that’s how it should be. But if writing and grammar aren’t your strengths, and you know that, you should be getting a professional to check words for you before publishing. If you know you’re not the one to oversee it, then hire someone who can, who is passionate about writing when you’re not.

It matters, by the way. I’m not just typing this up because I want work. I am also typing this up because I really want to help. I’m tired of seeing problems I know I could have helped with. It’s frustrating and disheartening. And it also sucks for you and what you’re selling, whether you realise it or not.

If you are trying to gain a reputation and make your professional mark on the world, having an editor you can rely on is a good idea. Proofreaders and editors are everywhere, and we exist for this exact reason. Writing is not for everyone, but it does have an effect on the way your potential clients perceive you, and whether they will take you seriously. You don't have to be the one to perfect your writing, especially if it's not something you enjoy. But please recognise that, and acknowledge that someone else can help. If you don't care enough to present your work well, your clients may not care enough to give you a chance. It might be easy to brush proofreading off as an unnecessary step in your work, but I can assure you it makes all the difference. I know many people, myself included, who will be less inclined to give money to a company whose words are all over the place. Poor spelling and grammar turns me off. It turns a lot of people off.
It's great to see so many people sharing their passion with the world, but your followers can be easily distracted by messy writing, and may subsequently lose interest.

Unfortunately, the services editors offer aren’t as desirable as personalised arts or crafts, clothes, food, or photos. It’s a need more than a want, and as a client it can be hard to confront your faults. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. You probably need it, and I’m here. Also, my rates are more than reasonable. I’ll probably raise them some time in the near future, so now is kind of a good time to use me.

If you made it this far, thank you. I want to be clear that I don’t intend to offend anyone. I am simply choosing to speak up because it affects people and I believe talking about it can help. Over the past year I’ve realised I do a thing that people don’t seem to want. But it’s a thing they need. Please don’t be afraid to reach out. I love to support other people pursuing their desires, and I’d appreciate your support too.

If you're looking for editing or proofreading services, be sure to visit my website to check out the services and rates I offer. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

“Used to” or “use to”?

This is one I never really thought about until a friend mentioned it the other day. I've always used "used", but there is confusion out there, so I did some investigating.

It’s hard to know which one you’re actually using because they both sound about the same when spoken.
But one is right, and one is wrong. I’ll cut to the chase.

You should be saying “used to”, because you are referring to something that happened in the past.
- I used to listen to different music.
However, “use to” can be used in questions and in the negative.
- Did you use to play an instrument?
- I didn’t use to listen to music very often.

That being said, “use to” in those examples, in my opinion, sounds a bit awkward.
My argument is you can drop the “use to” in both example sentences and they would still make perfect sense. But it is technically correct, so go ahead. Just remember, in general, it should be “used to”.

If you're looking for editing or proofreading services, be sure to visit my website to check out the services and rates I offer. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

"Should of" is not a thing

This is much like the he’s/his issue, where people are inclined to write what they hear without actually thinking about the meaning of the words being used.

“Should of” does not mean anything. Neither does “could of”, “must of”, “would of”, etc.
The reason you’re saying it or writing it like this is probably because they are contractions – “should’ve” (should have) and “could’ve” (could have) – which makes it sound like they have “of” in there somewhere.

“I should have/should’ve gone to the party” is correct. “I should of gone to the party” makes no sense.

This is why making assumptions is a bad idea. Lazy writing and lazy speaking can leave some negative impressions on all the right people. So, know what you’re saying before you say it. If you’re ever in doubt, it takes just a few seconds to check!

If you're looking for editing or proofreading services, be sure to visit my website to check out the services and rates I offer. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Prepositions: What are they and why should I care?

Here is another interesting suggestion from one of my friends.
Prepositions. We all know the word, but do we know the meaning and significance of it?
As school becomes a thing of the past, it can be easy to forget what each grammatical term refers to, so let’s start with this one.

What are they?

The Macquarie dictionary describes a preposition as “a word which defines the relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and some other word(s) in the sentence.”
This means the preposition is usually telling you when, how, where, etc. Without prepositions, we wouldn’t get to add detail as easily.

The dog sat
on my bed.
She walked
across the road.
We ate lunch
inside the café.

If you want a little clue to help you remember what prepositions are, think of the “positions” part of the word. Often a preposition will tell you what position the subject of the sentence is in.

Why should I care?

Well, there’s a good chance you use prepositions every time you speak and write. They are an essential part of our language, and I personally think it’s important to know as much as you can about the everyday things you do. A preposition can assist you in descriptions and in connecting words to one another. This is extremely useful in communication, both in social and professional contexts. And the more of them you know, the more versatile you can be in your word usage. Good language is impressive to many people, myself included.

Another reason to care became apparent to me through one of my friends, who is a speech pathologist.
She reminded me that many of her patients (who are kids) struggle to use prepositions. This sort of blog post, though brief, might be useful for those patients. Being able to communicate easily is something we probably all take for granted, but unfortunately it is a challenge for some. When there is a barrier preventing you from communicating properly, it must be a very frustrating and disheartening experience. So, if you have the ability to use prepositions, know what they are and use them well. Spread the knowledge. It might help someone.

If you're looking for editing or proofreading services, be sure to visit my website to check out the services and rates I offer. Thank you for reading!