Self-Help: Grammar-Check, I

We rely on language in order to communicate. In its spoken, written and signed forms. I have no experience nor do I possess any expertise in sign-language. As for spoken language, this platform is obviously not appropriate. Written language, however, is a discipline I have worked with, taught extensively and used for personal writings throughout the majority of my adult-life. Based on my prolonged and active involvement with language in its written form, I take the liberty to post related texts on this site.

Phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, syntax, and context are the five elements of language. It is through the joint work of these components, along with grammar, semantics, and pragmatics,  that we create meaningful communication. It is not my intent to turn this post into a classroom subject-matter with a barrage of materials to digest for no practical purpose. I would like to highlight instead some functional information regarding grammar, the most important building-block of the structure we call “language”.

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And today’s sentence d i s s e c t i o n begins . . .

The integral parts of a sentence we sometimes tend to forget and, as a result, neglect, are: Subject ~ Verb (a.k.a. the Predicate) ~ Object (Direct and Indirect Object)

  • In order to identify the subject (italicized in the sample sentences below), we ask the question “who” or “what”:
    • The award-winning writer was invited to a book-reading.
    • A book-reading was planned in honor of the award-winning writer.
  • The verb / predicate is the word that articulates the action of the subject:
    • Respectively, “To invite” and “To plan” in the sample sentences above (in their base, or, infinitive forms)
  • Any sentence can have a direct and an indirect object all at once, or display only one of the object forms. Neither one of the sample sentences used here have an object. Imagine this example:
    • The award-winning author gave away several copies of his debut book. (The italicized sentence part constitutes a direct object.)
    • The award-winning author gave his / her audience several copies of his debut book. (The italicized sentence part constitutes an indirect object.)

Next Post: Verb-Subject Agreement, and more . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Help: Proofreading / Editing

The last post I shared with you here had come with a promise that there will be more steps to consider on the same subject; namely, self-editing. The intent of this writing is the same as the previous one: To help you to form a habit toward “proofreading” and, as an outcome, “copy editing” your draft text – regardless of the genre. The more involved process of “content editing” will be addressed in a different post.

  • A large amount of style guides are available online through respectable sites. Identify one (or more) about which you have a positive (i.e. trusting) feeling. Read it (or them) carefully. You will find that you are able to catch grammatical errors on your text you might otherwise overlook. For you are now familiar with an overview of potential mistakes, which you also have readily available at your fingertips when your selected style guide is concerned.
  • Apply a merciless fact-check on your written work. Then, double check. And, second-guess.
  • Make sure your draft flows by concentrating on the length of your sentence structures. Seek variation. Sentences should not appear as cookie-cutters.
  • Pay attention to the amount of your use of certain words (such as “or”, “perhaps”, “and” and “in fact / in actuality”). This attentive reading will help you to achieve a smoother flow in your text.
  • Keep a dictionary handy. At least a few times as you read, single out a word and spot-check to make sure its spelling is correct. By getting into a habit of doing so, you may catch an error along the way.
  • After you have done all you can with your draft, have someone else to review it in an active reading mode. Not to merely do a scan-reading, but rather to go over it attentively / critically.
  • If at all possible, designate a reading partner who would be willing to exchange editing with you.

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Self-Help: Proofreading / Editing

What I am sharing with you today will appear here in multiple steps (yes, with the hope to have you come back only because it is a vital need for any writer to produce her / his cleanest possible work before sharing it with the reader). Please note: The intent of this post is to initiate a habit in you – if you are not yet addicted to it – toward “copy editing” your written draft of any genre. The focus, in other words, is not “content editing”.
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At the risk of sounding mundane or redundant, I dare to proceed with highlighting the first few steps that are essential in the process of copy editing, each of which is an integral part of the more involved undertaking we over-simplistically call “editing”:
  • Make sure to read your work aloud and to do so at a very slow pace
  • Read the same work vigilantly to catch errors and do so from front to back, and then back to front
  • While you read your work, record your voice (speak as slowly as you have the patience for that out-of-your-norm-pace), and then listen to the small sections of what you have recorded
    • The first time, listen to details that sound out of order (specifically, how you have structured your sentences, your word choice, and phrasing)
    • The second time, read the corresponding text aloud
    • Then, record your voice once again with the new round of reading out of your text
  • Write down what your selected work is about (a synopsis, if you so choose to label it as)
  • Then create questions about the content of your work as a whole but write them at the beginning of each section
  • Compare / Contrast against the fact if your text answers your own questions
  • Make sure all your questions are answered

Summary

Self-editing, even if it is only to copy edit or proofread, is a process that will take more time and effort on your part than working through the same steps for someone else’s work will. Remember always to take your time and to question your own writing. You are, after all, saving yourself the expense of hiring a professional. It is still critical to have someone else – a friend, a co-worker, a family member with acute reading skills – look over your draft work when you conclude that it is finished. The logic behind this undertaking is your thorough familiarity with your own writing: If completely on your own, that intimate author-text-acquaintance presents the risk of you not being able to read what is in actuality in your text. As an outcome, you will not be in a position to catch all surface errors and / or discrepancies in that written draft.

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48 Hours at Least

Following a teaching career of over forty years, I have recently retired from academia. I loved teaching, utterly enjoying advanced composition classes in particular. One advice of my dramatic emphasis was “proofreading”. Each of my countless students heard me say that there must be at least two days of what I called  a cooling time: Between the day they thought their writing assignment was complete and the actual submission deadline of their work. The rationale behind my emphatic stress on this “sleep on it”-period was obvious to me, and I always wanted to make sure that my students also came to terms with it: Far fewer surface errors.

When we are in the heat of the moment of writing creatively, we tend to see punctuation, spelling, capitalization and grammar through rose colored glasses. Once we allow ourselves to re-visit what we have written -after we slept on it (preferably, for one week at least), those glasses will begin to display a different shade. We then will be cool-headed enough to see our work more realistically. And: We will adjust / modify / correct the mistakes that seemed non-existent at the initial onset of our writing endeavor. One step at a time . . . toward a streamlined / polished version of that first crucial draft.

The Various Types of Editing

The following question may seem to be redundant to some readers: Do you know that the editing process is multi-fold?

Over the extensive period of time I have spent in the field, the writers’ point of curiosity has been (largely) the same: “What is your editing fee?” My answer always comes in the form of a question: “What type of editing do you seek?”

Copyediting, also called Surface Editing, is exactly what an editor applies to a manuscript (once the corresponding contract is signed by the involved parties, of course): Reviewing a draft work for surface errors; e.g. Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (basic rules). This type of editing does not include any content adjustments and / or modifications on the designated manuscript. Content Editing, also called Substantive Editing, however, is a process in which the editor incorporates adjustments and / or modifications to the core of the draft work. Depending on the literary genre with which the manuscript is to be  associated, each editing type then undergoes other steps of adjustments / modifications.

Hence, a writer’s question to an editor, “What is your editing fee?” leaves much room for clarification when both parties are concerned.

Should you be interested in approaching an editor for your draft work of any literary genre, please always bear in mind that you, the author, must be succinct in expressing the specifics as to how you envision the final version of your book manuscript’s (or poem’s, or short story’s).

Retiring from Academia, Editing Full-Time

My Dear Friends -Readers, Commentators and Silent Followers Alike:

I now stand before another thrilling door of opportunities as I am retiring from academia, having had the amazing fortune to teach my beloved college students for over forty years. The date of my formal retirement from my faculty position at The Pennsylvania State University is June 30th, 2018. My 15+ years of association with this nationally and internationally noted university has been a most memorable and rewarding experience throughout my career’s journey. I shall miss the students whom I have encountered and come to love in my teaching-learning dynamics semester after semester over my teaching tenure. While this fact will remain in my heart and mind for the remaining of my days (assuming that Alzheimer’s will not knock on the door to keep me as a companion), I am in my highest eagerness looking forward to my new path where I will assume on a full-time basis the role of a writer, translator, languages- and literature-consultant, an editor and a lecturer on a global platform.

I will soon be back with my regular blog posts on this platform; that is, to share my experiences on my extensive editing path, for which my hunger and thirst have already grown beyond my 24-hours-boundary for quite a while. In the meantime, my best wishes are on their way to each of you and yours.

hülya
Director of Editing Services, Inner Child Press International
(814) 769-0801

A Vital Message from My Publisher

Writers . . . in these days of judgment, the science of language and grammar often impedes or obscures the message, revelations, insights and flavor of what you have to say, and your offering is readily dismissed by the reader . . . ergo, the importance of a good editor. ~ *wsp

*The name abbreviation stands for William S. Peters Sr. who is a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Literature nominee, the Poet Laureate of the International Poetry Festival in Kosovo and the Recipient of The Golden Grape Award of 2015. The poems of William S. Peters Sr. have been published in excess of 150 literary anthologies, magazines, newspapers and articles. The writer has authored close to 75 books of poetry and is working on 5 new publications at the present.

[The brainchild behind the International Poetry Festival in Kosovo is the highly accomplished scholar and writer, Fahredin Shehu.]

For You: A Sample Text to Edit

The text you see below is one of my own. A short prose. I had posted this impulsive note on one of my social media accounts. It is copied/pasted here for your practice with hands-on editing. With the term “editing”, I am referring to copy editing (AKA surface editing) as well as content editing (AKA substantial editing and developmental editing). While the latter editing method is self-explanatory, the first-mentioned approach may leave some uncertainty in our minds. In sum, that type of editing focuses on the improvement of surface specifics; i.e. spelling, punctuation and grammar. The overarching concept for this process is to aim at achieving accuracy and consistency. Enjoy!

I was just about to open the curtain of the window next to my patio, my sanctuary, when I saw one bird on the closest bird feeder. I stopped to eavesdrop . . . that beautiful being was eagerly shuffling the seeds without eating any. I have been curious about these little Avians’ behavior before . . . this one was (purposefully to me), making the seeds fall to the ground. And there was another bird in the grass, waiting to be fed. How beautiful is this sight, I emoted, and took my time to proceed with my morning routine of enjoying the Sun and the always rejuvenating crisp morning air . . .

The third eye . . .

BookEditing

Photo Credit: Murder Must Advertise Freelance Editors

Being a freelance editor, I visit relevant sites. Not often enough, perhaps but, for the time being, the frequency I can afford will have to do. The image I use here today has caught my attention because of the modifications made on a manuscript with red-color ink. Oh my, did I immediately remember my first (ten or so) years in my academic career during which period I was such a big fan of red. Red in my outside clothing (not much has changed since in this area), red lipstick (I still favor the color on my lips), red table cloths and red home decor items (once again, not much has changed since) and red correction ink or pencils. Back then, I had not been working as a freelance editor.

So to say . . . my poor students – especially, in my composition courses – would claim otherwise. For I had, in fact, been editing their original work. Not providing corrective feedback, mind you but passionately and diligently editing their written pieces! Now, much has changed since those overly ambitious years of mine in the academia. I am still a college professor and am teaching composition courses – at intermediate as well as advanced writing levels. In fact, I have been an active member of the academia over forty years altogether. About ten years were gone with me painstakingly trying to teach my corresponding classes through a monolithic view of a writer’s life. Getting lost in the process of correcting how and what had to be composed within which framework . . .

The longer years after, taught me many eye-opening lessons. And, I was not even a published writer in that period of time (my first bout of courage ran over me in 2013, when my debut book of poetry was offered to the public eye). Relevance? After my creative writing materialized openly, I began to attain a considerably higher sensitivity for and keener insight into the work of others. Those of my by now totally relieved students of composition courses included . . . All my red pencils and pens were long gone already. Given away. Donated. Thrown into the trash. Some sneaky ones managed to escape (for a short-lived doomed-to-fail self-reign-era) my wholeheartedly adapted mantra: Off with their heads!” One wonderful day, however, an eye- and spirit-friendly bouquet of greens, pinks, light blues and dark yellows forever replaced the harsh, loud-mouth, intrusive and offensive shades of red. In ink, that is.

To this day, I no longer look at any red writing utensil (though I keep one or two to keep myself in line . . . to use them for my “Note to Self” jottings . . . so that I will not be tempted to open those old Pandora boxes ever again). Are my students happier for it? I certainly hope so but moreover I know so. Their comfort level is way too obvious for me to ignore. How about my editing clients? That question is for you to ask one or more of them, is it not? You are welcome to do so. If or when you do, please come back for another visit to let me know what you have heard. Have I told you how much I love improving myself in every aspect of my being, but in both of my professions, in particular? Those commitments are here to stay for a lifetime with me, in me. As a writer, I would feel unsettled if a manuscript of mine were to travel back to me marked in all red. Why, then, should I ever assume that such doing would be acceptable in any regard to those together with whom I, by invitation only but still, am set out to streamline writings they alone have created in the first place?

I wish you all a mutually respectful and beneficial editing exchanges, including those self-aware editorial interactions you intend to conduct when your own writings are concerned.