10/20/2011 (10:28 pm)

Grammatically Destroying Credibility

Filed under: Writing Basics |

I’ve taken on three jobs lately that have involved editing work written by someone else who’s an expert in the subject.  It’s been enlightening because these three pieces involved two different people writing on a single subject.  My task was to take these pieces, edit them for grammar and clarity, then combine them into one large electronic book for distribution.  The subject was medical and one of the writers is a medical doctor (MD) while the other is a nurse practitioner.

Despite both of these people being well educated and having higher learning under their belt, they both made the same basic mistakes on a regular basis.  Mistakes that, if not corrected, will surely torpedo any credibility they might have.  Here’s an example:

“The conventional treatment method would be too conduct digital surveys of the patient’s affected region and compare it’s current state to the norm.”

Now, reading this, it conveys the meaning and has no errors that are likely to trigger the common person’s radar.  The two small and very common errors in this sentence, however, will compound with similar errors throughout to sink the credibility ship for these medical experts.

These mistakes are common and I see them regularly in my travels online, especially when reading amateur websites (meaning sites not associated with a business, like a personal blog or a Facebook profile).  I see them often in semi-professional communications as well (meaning those “professional” communiques that have little credibility to begin with).

Words like “to,” “too,” and sometimes “two” are phonetically the same, but are very different words in use.  Another word from our example above was “it’s,” which can be “its” as well.  With the apostrophe, the word is short for “it is” and without, it’s a possessive.  That’s a common mistake, since most people associate the ” ‘s” in a word as being possessive, but this is one of those fun exceptions in the English language.

In fact, there are a lot of phonetically similar words with different meanings and usage that often get interposed simply because the spell checker in your word processor won’t see the difference.  Words like “rain” and “peer” can become “reign” and “pier” without triggering the red underline of bad spelling.

But they’ll be noted by some in the reading audience.  Sprinkle half a dozen such mistakes in a 500-word piece and most of the people reading will notice at least one.  Personally, I’m willing to write off one or two as typos in a piece like that, but if I see several, I may discount the author altogether.

So whether you’re self-editing or editing someone else’s work, be aware of these common juxtapositions and remedy them.

05/17/2011 (12:20 pm)

The Editor’s Perspective

Filed under: Writing Basics |

I’ve done three issues of the Health Freedom Network Newsletter so far and, while this isn’t my first stint as an editor, it has been eye opening.  I’ve always prided myself on delivering top quality material that requires little or no editing.  I’ve talked about that more than once in this blog.  Most professional writers are the same – it’s what makes them professional.

After only three months of involvement in this newsletter, what I’ve learned is that a popular publication that receives a lot of submissions (and in this case, letters to the editor), gets a lot of material that is, well, sub-par I guess is the nicest way to put it.  Some is to be expected: LTEs are not exactly coming from writing pros, so the occasional use of a street term or text message garble is to be expected.  After all, teachers in high school and college are complaining bitterly about the “txt spch” their students often write in.

I’ve also learned that some experts who do a lot of writing you might read in various publications are actually horrible writers whose prowess with words is almost entirely thanks to editors.  I should have known this, of course, because I happen to ghost write for a couple of experts who are not particularly good writers themselves – which makes me wonder why these others aren’t being advised to do the same; hire a ghost to do the writing.

This post wasn’t meant as a complaint rant, though reading through it I can see that this might be the impression you’re getting.  The whole point is to show you that editors appreciate professional writing.  That means well-written, error-free writing that is to specification.

Here’s two examples, again from the Health Freedom Network Newsletter.

Our first example is an expert in her field.  She has been published numerous times around the Web, has a blog and website that features her writing on a regular basis, and has appeared in print in a handful of publications nationally.  Yet, this sentence was included in her submission to me (and ultimately re-written by myself, as she could not send me a revision before print):

In this field we seen a lot of controversy over the mis-use of the way that advertising and marketing or labeling is done to harm the over all industry by giving false proclaimations and fraudulent claims.

Not only does the sentence have misspelled words and typos, but it’s a long run-on as well.  This was a regular feature of her submission.

On the same token, another expert submitted work that the only beef I had with was that it was 40 words over the 500 word limit for 1 page.  He gladly did some cutting to make it fit and, amazingly enough, cut most of that out of his own byline rather than the article itself.  This shows he was more interested in getting the information out there than he was in self-promotion, a sure sign of integrity.  In return, I restored his byline to its original length and shrunk the font and his photo by 1.5 points so that it would still fit without crowding.

These two examples are typical, I think, of the kind of thing editors likely deal with almost daily.  It should make writers appreciate not only what editor’s do, but also what they like to see and will reward.

Good writing is always rewarded, even if the rejection for the publication is just written personally or with a nicer tone.  Quite often, I’ve received submissions that weren’t a fit topically for the newsletter and have referred the writer, since the information was very well presented, to other publications as suggested venues for it.

05/01/2011 (10:57 pm)

What Is Going On, Aaron?

Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve had a few emails these past weeks asking me what I’ve been up to and why I haven’t posted to my blog here in quite a while.  Long story short, I’m extremely busy.  Being a stay-at-home dad took its toll on my schedule, but that was just the beginning.  Big new opportunities and work have also hogged up my time.

Things are beginning to even out now, thanks to some changes here at home and a better schedule on my part.  I’ve also got some great projects going on that are right up my alley and will be both bank account and career boosters, I think.

First, I’m currently writing two books meant for electronic distribution (e-books).  They’ll be in the 50 page range.  The first is a disaster and emergency preparedness guide for those who are seeing the writing on the wall around them and now deciding they need to at least be ready for natural disasters and similar problems that will cut them off from the grocery store and maybe the electrical grid for a while.

That book will release in the next couple of weeks through my partners at Truth2America.com, where I’ve been named chief writer and will be starting a monthly preparedness newsletter soon.

The other is a guide to holistic health and wellness.  That will be a sort of beginner’s introduction to the concepts of holistic health and wellness and will release through the Health Freedom Network, where I’ve been named editor of their monthly newsletter as well as chief writer for the new website they’re putting together.  That book will likely be complete by the end of May.

I’m still writing for FutureCars.com and have been tasked with writing topic-specific articles there as well as on their affiliated website 10w40.com.

That’s all in addition to the usual ghost writing, editing, and other work I do. Plus my own websites: AaronsEnvironmental.com, GreenBigTruck.com, AboutAlternativeCars.com, HiddenHealthScience.com, FishyGameReviews.com, etc.

So life is busy, but good.  :)

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