Sentence-Length

Throughout our early schooling, we hear how poor of an impression “run-on” sentences make on behalf of our composition homework. This “warning” does not stop after our school years are long over. My focus here is not those red flag-language aspects, however. Long sentences need to be tenderized as well. Even those where the structure is grammatically sound. After all, a sentence must contain an idea. When we resort to long sentences, several ideas may end up finding a comfortable home in them. A red flag! Our readers will unavoidably lose focus. So, let us make an effort to provide them with a breather. Let us also consider eliminating comma-rich sentences while we are in the midst of some spring-cleaning. Gifting each sentence with an idea of its own could and would help the process.

A Perfect First Draft?

I am not going to mince any words today – for my own or for your psyche, dear reader. So, be prepared for pure bluntness.

Are you by any chance one of those writers who conclude that the first draft of their text is perfect? If so, think again. For the sake of your readership foremost, but also for your own ego’s unbruised preservation.

Who among us is unaware of the American literature classic, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee? (I want to safely assume that we all have at least heard about this masterpiece, even if we have not read it cover to cover as of yet.) It is not at all difficult to assume that this great writing was completed in one single sitting session by the author. Based on the outcome – meaning, readers’ and critics’ responses across the globe. Not so! In fact, it has taken the author several rewrites over more than two years to arrive at the final draft of her novel. Several rewrites over more than two years . . .

How many of us have known that the first draft, published in 2015 as Go Set a Watchman transpired as one of the most effective lessons to a writer, to any writer who erroneously would consider his / her first textual drawings to be perfect? As it is stated time and again in- and outside the field of literature, without the help of an editor, without continuous hard work and without substantial editing, history may have never heard of the author of one of the “Great Books” in English.

Before we – any of us, published writers and / or author-candidates – even begin to entertain the thought that our text is complete in its first draft, we had better re-think our stance and re-evaluate as to what it is we are in actuality placing in the hands of our readers. One of us, maybe even several of us, may already be holding on to the material worthy of becoming another ‘great’ novel or short story, or the ‘great’ epic / hybrid / prose / narrative poem, or the ‘great’ play, etc. Without the help of an editor, without continuous hard work and without substantial editing, however, that initial text-drawing may never have a chance to take flight . . .

And the Saga (of Self-Editing) Lives on . . .

Today, we will continue to take more steps on the way to fine-tuning our written word. Once again, I am here to share a quote with you. These brief notes tend to attract my attention for their succinct message as far as the core focus, as opposed to depending on either my extensive texts or lengthy write-ups by others. Hoping that you will enjoy today’s post enough to come back for another visit, I leave you with my best wishes.

[*] Be A Verbal Sniper

“Editing is little like being a verbal sniper—you’re going back to readjust your aim continually. So I don’t necessarily like to get too far in front of myself without having edited the piece. Sometimes I’ll reread and edit 30 times or more. (Of course, you’ll probably still catch typos in this writing!)”

Dr. Barbara Oakley, bestselling author of A Mind for Numbers and former Army Captain

And the Errors on Last Post’s Proofreading-Practice Text Were . . .

As with the previous posts, the original text shared here before for only a proofreading practice follows below. The errors are underlined.

“The question as to what we mean by truth and falsehood, which we considered in the proceeding chapter, is of much less interest than the question as to how we can know what is true and what is false. This question will occupy us in the present chapter. There can be no doubt that some of our beliefs are eroneous; thus we are led to inquire what certainty we can ever have that such and such a belief is not erroneous. In other words, can we ever know anything at all, or do we merely sometimes by good luck believe what is true? Before we can attack this question, we must, however, first decide what we mean by ‘knowing’, and this question is not so easy as might be supposed.

At first site we might imagine that knowledge could be defined as ‘true belief’. When what we believe is true, it might be supposed that we had achieved a knowledge of what we believe. But this would not accord with the way in which the word is commonly used. To take a very trivial instance: If a man believes that the late Prime Minister’s last name began with a B, he believes what is true, since the late Prime Minister was Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman. But if he believes that Mr. Balfor was the late Prime Minister, he will still believe that the late Prime Minister’s last name began with a B, yet this belief, though true, would not be thought to constitute knowledge. If a newspaper, by an intelligent anticipation, announces the result of a battle before any telegram giving the result has been received, it may by good fortune announce what afterwards turns out to be the right result, and it may produce belief in some of its less experienced readers.” [Source: “Free Weekly Proofreading Exercise” at www.proofreading-course.com]

Corrections:

  1. The word “proceeding” is semantically incorrect as far as the intended context. It should be replaced with “preceding”.
  2. There is a spelling error with “eroneous”. The correct spelling is “erroneous”.
  3. Like with the first error, the word “site” is semantically incorrect and it is to be replaced with “sight”.
  4. There is another spelling error in question here: “Balfor” should be “Balfour”, if researched, which at times becomes unavoidable during proofreading any text.

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Another Text for a Proofreading Practice

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Today’s post entails yet another sample text-based worksheet [Source: “Free Weekly Proofreading Exercise” at www.proofreading-course.com].

“The question as to what we mean by truth and falsehood, which we considered in the proceeding chapter, is of much less interest than the question as to how we can know what is true and what is false. This question will occupy us in the present chapter. There can be no doubt that some of our beliefs are eroneous; thus we are led to inquire what certainty we can ever have that such and such a belief is not erroneous. In other words, can we ever know anything at all, or do we merely sometimes by good luck believe what is true? Before we can attack this question, we must, however, first decide what we mean by ‘knowing’, and this question is not so easy as might be supposed.

At first site we might imagine that knowledge could be defined as ‘true belief’. When what we believe is true, it might be supposed that we had achieved a knowledge of what we believe. But this would not accord with the way in which the word is commonly used. To take a very trivial instance: If a man believes that the late Prime Minister’s last name began with a B, he believes what is true, since the late Prime Minister was Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman. But if he believes that Mr. Balfor was the late Prime Minister, he will still believe that the late Prime Minister’s last name began with a B, yet this belief, though true, would not be thought to constitute knowledge. If a newspaper, by an intelligent anticipation, announces the result of a battle before any telegram giving the result has been received, it may by good fortune announce what afterwards turns out to be the right result, and it may produce belief in some of its less experienced readers.”

Next week: Correction of the errors

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.

magi-book

 

Self-editing

Let us picture a scene from our daily lives:

You have invited guests for dinner, for which you have been preparing a menu of delight. If you are a planner like I am, everything is set at least two days prior to your date as far as the necessary groceries -including meal-accompanying drinks, fruit (or dessert) and coffee (or tea) to be enjoyed with the servings of fruit or dessert. The appetizer, the soup and the entree together with its side-dish are cooked, waiting for their starting call on the burners of your stove, inside the oven, or anywhere you find to keep them warm enough to be palatable. You look at all your prepared dishes, and feel proud: Each detail is intact and looks good in their best possible outfits. Your guests can now arrive. And they do. One at a time, or every invitee all at once.

Pleasantries are exchanged, maybe cocktails are consumed, music is played, etc. Then comes the time to sit down to eat. You now realize that you have not spent much thought or time in planning a seating strategy nor how to serve the various dishes. Guests are left to just stand there. Around the dining table. Waiting for your directions. You have none. Nor do you have space on the table to strategically position those diligently beautified servers. Having given up on any potential organization chart at this point, you ask your guests to help themselves with a seat. Any seat. Anywhere. After all, the food you had prepared cannot and should not go to waste, right? Your guests, polite enough, have done the semi-impossible. Everyone is seated somehow. But, . . . wait . . . where to place those appetite-whetting dishes now? Those adorned serving trays? Let alone to serve anything from them. There is barely room on the table for elbows!

Do you see what I am seeing in this imagined picture? I am sure that you do. Hence, the importance of self-editing . . . of seeing in its actuality what we have written down for a readership, regardless of the number of the readers. One fact remains: They are our endeared guests. For, we have invited them.

To present details of our writing as we have painstakingly put it together, but moreover, to enable our presentation  fluidity – a no-detour-flaw (read conciseness) that is visually (read grammar, spelling, punctuation), mentally and emotionally appealing (read cohesive) as well as desirable to the palate (read clarity) constitute that which we owe to ourselves first.

Inviting guests over for a dinner gathering when only the planned dishes are complete will take us only so far . . .