Words that we shouldn’t use but probably still do anyway

Monday, 30 May, 2011

A list of words that US writer Kurt Andersen, as editor-in-chief of the New York magazine during the mid 1990s, didn’t want his staff writers to use.

Given that “boast”, “dubbed”, and “overly” are included on the list, it’s short wonder my work never graced (looks like I did it again) the pages of the New York…

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Writing for content farms, highly accelerated and thankless work

Tuesday, 9 November, 2010

While you’ll be writing “articles” that are thousands of words long for recompense of like two dollars, at least you don’t have to bother saying thanks to those you are working for… whoever said content farm work was without its perks?

Meanwhile, there arrived the email from the Actual Human. At least, it purported to be a human. It had a human name, anyway, which we’ll say was Robert. “We work at an accelerated pace, and I don’t care if you send a note filled with typos or missing words, as long as I understand your intention. Don’t waste time copyediting yourself, and don’t fret when you spot a few gaffes in one of your communications,” Robert insisted. Also: “Important: When I do provide advice or render a ruling, please don’t reply with thank-you notes. I’m sure all of you were raised with respect for the traditional courtesies, but nearly 500 editors work alongside me, with that total growing weekly. Between this box and the Help Desk, I typically receive 200 queries a day. If each of you sent missives of gratitude, I’d never be able to dig out.”

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This fine craft that is copy editing and proofreading

Wednesday, 28 July, 2010

Mary Norris, a query proofreader, or page O.K.’er, at “The New Yorker”, talks about her work, though it sounds more like a craft to me:

There are four full-time O.K.’ers, as well as a team of about six proofreaders, some of whom act as O.K.’ers when we need them. Basically, on the day a piece closes, you read it, and give the editor your query proof, which will also contain the queries of a second proofreader, and after the editor has entered all the acceptable changes and sent the new version to the Makeup Department, you read that new version. There will sometimes be a “closing meeting,” when the editor, the writer, the fact checker, and the O.K.’er sit down together over the page proof and discuss final changes.

We don’t quite do it the way they used to…

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Write now, edit later, that’s how Ian Fleming wrote his thrillers

Friday, 25 June, 2010

Ian Fleming – creator of the fictitious British secret agent James Bond – shares his “formula” for writing thrillers, though any writer of fiction – dare I say it, any writer of anything – can benefit from his wisdom.

I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used “terrible” six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain.

“Write now, edit later, much later”, is some sage advice an author once gave me… advice I really need to take more often.

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Poor production makes for a horror of a movie

Friday, 9 April, 2010

Birdemic: Shock and Terror, a horror movie about a colony of vultures that attack a small US town, might have enjoyed a more positive response had more attention been paid to certain aspects of its production.

In one scene, a gaggle of birds sprays what appears to be toxic urine on screaming victims below. Shots linger for far too long. The sound is all over the place – muffled in one scene, abrasively loud in the next – and virtually every cut is heralded by a steep drop in volume, as though someone keeps sneaking up on the boom operator with a chloroform-dipped rag.

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The Toronto Star needs its editors more than ever

Friday, 13 November, 2009

A Toronto Star editor takes the red pen to a memo from management announcing the mass sacking of the newspaper’s editorial staff.

It begs the question, how does the paper hope to manage without them?

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Errors and excerpts excepted

Thursday, 24 July, 2008

If you are quoting from a blog or forum post (as I do frequently) do you, or should you, correct spelling and grammar errors?

If the “error” was such that it significantly altered the context of the excerpt, then maybe I would. (And hope it wasn’t noticed?)

Would you contact the person who made the comments and get their ok to edit their words? Interesting question.

Take a passage signed by zipthwung, an astute online commenter: “pornography if for the ruling classes and their violent vulgar all consuming appetites. Or their slaves.” Interesting. But so as not to distract you with the typos, should I have repunctuated it, adding commas and plunking a hyphen into “all-consuming”? Should I have turned that “if” to “is”?

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Today’s writing tip: scratch out don’t stretch out

Tuesday, 15 July, 2008

Kurt Vonnegut: don’t waste your readers precious time writing words that are of no value to them…

It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

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