Some more writing tips for authors

Greetings!

In this post, I would like to address a few errors that I often see in writing.

  1. “Affect” vs. “effect.” “Effect,” written with an “E,” is a noun. It is a result of something. For example, “Lung cancer is an effect of smoking.” However, “affect,” with an “A,” is a verb. It means to cause something to happen. For example, “Smoking negatively affects the lungs.” The best way to remember the two spellings is to remember that “affect” is an action, and both “affect” and “action” begin with the letter A.
  • “Immigrate” vs. “emigrate.” I have to admit that I had a hard time with this one until recently. One immigrates to a country and emigrates from a country. For example, if a person leaves Canada to come and live in the US, this would be written as “She emigrated from Canada and immigrated to the US.” The trick for this one is to remember that “emigrate” and “exit” both begin with the letter E, and when one emigrates from a country, one exits that country.
  • The use of the word “adult” as a verb. I have seen this in several Facebook memes: “I don’t want to adult today,” or “Realizing you have food at home is part of adulting.” The word “adult” is either a noun (“He is a young adult,”) or an adjective (“The children could not watch the adult movie.”). It is not a verb. (This is one of my major pet peeves, so I had to restrain myself while writing this paragraph.)

Lastly, I wish to discuss the use of “suicide” as a verb. Until a few years ago, I did not know that the word could be used as a verb. I was first alerted to this by a doctor who told me that her patient’s daughter “suicided” ten years ago. This unfamiliar grammar (as well as the plight of the poor mother) struck me almost immediately, and it was only recently that I looked it up in Merriam-Webster and was surprised to see that the faithful dictionary acknowledged that “suicide” can be a verb. I learn something new every day.

**EDITOR’S NOTE: I will be away from the blog for at least the next week while I tend to matters involving my aging parents. Thank you for your understanding.

Lest we forget…

Since today is September 11, I really want to write about my feelings and thoughts on what happened on this date 21 years ago. Kindly refrain from criticizing me for writing this because it’s “not professional.”

Everybody who remembers that horrific day remembers where they were when they first heard the news. I was working in a university research lab at the time, and that morning my boss, a coworker, and I were cleaning out one of the lab freezers. While we were toiling away at this unpleasant task, a young woman from one of the other labs on the floor appeared in the doorway and stood there. This woman often visited our lab, since she and my boss were friends. But that day, she had a different reason for coming to see us. “A plane crashed into the World Trade Center,” she said.

I remember how her voice was completely devoid of emotion because she was in such shock.

A little radio in the lab was turned on, and I got on one of the computers to look at news sites. “What a horrible accident!” I was thinking. If only it had been…

The radio soon announced that the second tower had been hit by another plane, and soon afterwards, that there was an explosion at the Pentagon. That news especially hit home for me, since the Pentagon had been my father’s workplace for decades (although he had since retired). And as if all that wasn’t enough, then came the news of the plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.

“Do you know how many people are dead? Thousands!” my boss barked into my face as if the whole disaster were my fault.

“Jesus will come,” my coworker, a Christian who spoke broken English, said to me, trying to be soothing. Although I was a Christian (and still am), the thought of Jesus coming frightened me; I had always found the Book of Revelation terrifying.

Around noon, everyone at work was sent home, and when I arrived at my apartment, I alternated between watching the TV news reports and lying in bed. I could do nothing else—not even eat. I just tried to shut everything out because I couldn’t take any more.

Do you remember where you were?

Victory

On August 29, I accomplished something great.

I finished Macros A to Z, the six-week online course I had been taking through the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), one of my professional organizations. Boy, did I learn a ton of information! I learned about downloading and installing macros, assigning them keyboard shortcuts, and trying out many of the different macros on Paul Beverley’s macros menu (there are thousands). I learned how to pick and choose the macros that were the most helpful for me and install them.

Also, very importantly, I learned how to back up my macros and how important it is to do so every time I install a new one.

(If you are unfamiliar with what macros are, please refer to my post from a few weeks ago, “Macros, macros everywhere.”)

The course instructor, Jennifer Yankopolus, was awesome. She provided helpful how-to videos in her weekly lessons and promptly answered each student’s posts in the class discussion forum. Jennifer also facilitated three Zoom sessions during the six weeks, where students could ask questions and learn “bonus” information. We even got a treat during the third Zoom session: Paul Beverley attended from his home in the UK. (Poor Paul…it was nine o’clock at night for him when our session started!)

I’ve taken a few other courses through this same organization—namely, Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Copyediting (all taught by Lourdes Venard), as well as Getting Work from Publishers and Book Packagers (taught by Jennifer Lawler). Lourdes and Jennifer are awesome as well. I highly recommend all three copyediting courses to anyone who is just starting out as a professional copyeditor, and I greatly recommend Getting Work to anyone who has just become a freelancer.

I have to admit that after I took the four courses mentioned above, I thought to myself, “There. I am done with courses. I don’t want to be bogged down in courses forever. That’s it.” But then I heard about macros and kept hearing about them over and over again, and thought, “I really should learn them so I can become a more efficient editor.” Macros A to Z was first offered last fall, but I passed on it because I knew my schedule was going to be pretty full then. Then it was offered this summer, and I jumped on it.

What kinds of professional development courses have you taken? What did you think of them?

Ableism rearing its ugly head

Please let me start this post by saying that I am probably going to get all the hate in the world for writing it.

For once, I DON’T CARE.

I need to vent about ableism in a profession in which I have worked. (I am well aware that there is ableism in other professions besides the one about which I am going to write, but since I haven’t worked in those kinds of jobs, I cannot speak for those who do or have.)

Let’s talk about scientific research—specifically, biomedical research. I received a master’s degree in biochemistry and worked in this field for eight years. I love science, especially biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology. I also have mild cerebral palsy which affects the coordination of my small muscles, especially those in my hands. It is because of this that I work significantly slower than most lab technicians of equal intelligence.

Some labs in major research universities have fired me for working too slowly or not having enough dexterity (in one case, calling me “unskilled”). I was stripped not only of my livelihood, but also of my dignity and self-confidence, all at the same horrific time.

But the staff saw results and grants as more important than treating those with disabilities with respect, so…

I attended the 2017 and 2018 Marches for Science in Washington, DC even after I had been forced out of science by those who just didn’t understand and didn’t want to. While being part of those marches was a wonderful experience, I felt jealous of all those scientists there who were not chewed up and spit out by a field they loved.

Now I am an editor, and I do not regret this one bit. Do I still love science? Yes, I do. Do I love editing just as much? Yes, I do. But typing on the computer keyboard and clicking on the mouse as easier for me than trying to restrain a mouse so I can snip off the end of its tail for genotyping (I still do not get how people do this).

Were you ever in a profession that you found ableist? If so, tell me about it in the comments.

A severed lifeline

This past week, something happened in my home that crippled my editing business for two days.

Our internet service went out.

What happened specifically was that our local cable company was making upgrades in our neighborhood, and they warned us in advance that we would experience outages during that time. Let’s give the cable company credit for the heads-up.

Still, in the present day, not having internet service is like not having electricity. Almost as bad, anyway.

We sort of had internet service during those two days, but it sporadically kept going in and out. “I cannot work in these conditions!” I thought.

Add to this the fact that the cable company spent only one day making their upgrades, yet the next day, we were still having problems with the internet. It made me very nervous at first, because I wondered if the problem was our modem, or our router, or my laptop, or our desktop.

On the second day, I tried the best trick I know to restore the internet. I unplugged the modem and let it sit while I visited the restroom before plugging it back in. No luck. I finally heaved a sigh and realized that I was going to have to call the cable company.

The robot on the other end of the line sent a signal to reset my modem. When that didn’t work, I was switched over to a representative, who tried every trick he knew. Again, no dice. So an appointment with a cable tech was made for the next morning. It had been years since a cable tech had come to our condo, so I thought the problem was serious.

When the cable tech arrived the next day, he measured the signal from our modem and declared that it was too high. “Too much signal is as bad as not enough signal,” he said. Then he screwed some kind of metal connector into our modem and measured the signal again. This time, the reading was perfect.

I mentioned to him that the cable company had been doing upgrades the previous day, and he was unaware of this. (Huh? You don’t know what your own company is doing? Talk about a communication breakdown.) He said that could have been the cause of the signal being too high.

I will say that the cable tech was very polite and friendly and he knew what he was doing, despite his company not telling him what was going on. Our internet service has been perfect since.

Have you ever lost your internet service? How did it affect you?

Sign on the dotted line…

Editors like me often work under contracts with larger entities, such as universities or publishers. I have no issue with this type of arrangement. When I was a scientific laboratory technician, I very often worked under contract.

The downside of this, however, is that contracts last only for a given period of time, such as one year, and then they must be renewed. And that may or may not happen.

It doesn’t just depend on one’s job performance, either. It depends a whole lot on M-O-N-E-Y.

You can be doing a wonderful job and your boss is loving you to pieces, but if the organization doesn’t have the money to pay you…Adios, Tonto, and the horse you rode in on.

Twenty years ago, I worked as a lab tech for a research university in the area where I lived at the time. I worked under a contract that was funded by my boss’s scientific grant. I loved my boss and my boss loved me. I could have worked for him until he retired. Sadly, his grant only funded me for a year, so I had to go after a year. (His wife said to me on my last day, “If he gets another grant, can he have you back?”)

Following that position, I spent four years in a different grant-funded position at the same university. I worked under a contract that had to be renewed every May. That was no problem at all, save for the fact that my unused leave went away every May and so I ended up having to take leave without pay to go on my wedding and honeymoon. After the fourth year, however, my boss could not get grant funding for additional time, and I had to leave.

Perhaps what they say is true: Money makes the world go ‘round.

Have you ever worked under a contract? What was your experience?

The importance of saving and backing up

As an editor, I cannot stress the importance of saving and backing up your material.

Can you imagine losing several hours of work because you forgot to press Ctrl + S (or click the Save icon) before you closed your program for the day?

Actually, MS Office products are so smart that they won’t let you do that. If you start to close your work without having saved part of it, you will see a dialog box asking you if you want to save it.

However, you should save frequently, and not just when you are done for the day. There might be an unexpected power failure in your building—you know, those annoying ones that only last a fraction of a second but are just long enough to make your computer shut down or reboot. Or there may be a blackout that lasts for hours. In either case, you could lose a painful amount of work.

Or your computer or program could crash and have to be restarted. Same scenario.

I am an obsessive saver when I am using, for example, MS Word. I wrote this blog post (as I write all of my posts) originally on Word, and I pressed Ctrl + S (the Save keyboard shortcut) after every paragraph. Oftentimes, I save my work more often than that.

I used to save by clicking the Save icon (the picture of a floppy disk), but now that I am learning macros, I am trying to use keyboard shortcuts as often as possible. Besides, who uses floppy disks anymore? What is this, the 1990s? And speaking of outdated storage technology, I’ve noticed that flash drives are slowly going down the same path to obsolescence. Cloud storage is the way to go. (Someone once asked me where exactly the cloud is. I replied, “It’s in heaven.”)

One thing I have learned this week in my macros class is how to back up the macros that you have installed in Word. I won’t overwhelm you with the details here, but it’s actually quite easy to back them up—and very important. If Word or your computer crashes, you could lose all of them and then have to reinstall them one by one.

Are you an obsessive saver?

Macros, macros everywhere

Since July 18, I have been taking an online class in which I have been learning and studying the art of MS Word macros.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with macros, they are keyboard shortcuts that an editor can use in order to make their work go faster and more efficiently. Since my macros class has been going on, I have learned to download and run a great number of macros.

Some are speed-editing macros, which provide me with a way to perform common editing steps in less than a second. For example, a macro called CapperMax allows me to highlight a sentence, then press Alt+Shift+X, and voila! The sentence is capitalized in headline style. (I can undo this by running another macro, CapperMin [Alt+Shift+N], which lowercases words in the headline to put it in sentence style.) Another macro, NumberToText (Ctrl+Alt+N), will change a numeral to a text number, while TextToNumber (Ctrl+Alt+T) will change a text number to a numeral. These are very handy for a scientific editor like me. There are dozens more speed-editing macros, but I can’t possibly talk about all of them now.

There are also internet macros, which I love even more than the speed-editing macros. GoogleFetch allows me to put my cursor anywhere in a word, press Ctrl+Alt+G, and boom, a Google search page pops up on my screen with links for a search on that word. Similarly, MerriamFetch allows me to do the same thing with the Merriam-Webster free site by pressing Ctrl+Alt+M with my cursor inside the word that I want defined. In an optional intermediate class lesson, I created a macro called ChicagoFetch, which sends me right to the site for The Chicago Manual of Style (although I’m still working the kink out of that one, which is that once I reach the Chicago site, I am not logged in yet).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that all of the Word macros—thousands of them—were written and programmed by a gentleman in the UK named Paul Beverley, who gave our teacher, Jennifer Yankopulus, permission to use them in the class. I think that Mr. Beverley is an absolute genius and that Ms. Yankopulus is a great teacher.

This coming week (Week 3 in a six-week class), we will learn how to back up our macros. I am greatly looking forward to this lesson because I know from the class discussion forum that some students lost their macros when their computers updated, and so they had to reinstall them. How frustrating!

If you are an editor, do you use macros? What are your favorite ones?

Oh my, I’m a leader!

This past week, I developed a skill that I hadn’t really ever focused on before: leadership.

A leader? Me? No! I’m a born follower! I can’t be a leader!

Oh, really?

I am on the Board of Directors of my homeowners’ association and have been since 2018. I ran for the Board position because other homeowners had urged me to for years; they believed that I would be a good asset. When I was first “elected” (no one ran against me because not many people want the seemingly thankless role of being on the Board), I volunteered to be the secretary; the truth was that the secretary and the treasurer didn’t have to do anything extra because the property manager took care of the minutes and the finances. I learned the ropes of reading and understanding the monthly financial reports, knowing what was going on in the community, and asking questions at bimonthly Board meetings.

At some point, I was promoted to vice president. To this day, I don’t know how this happened. We did have two Board members retire in 2019, and I suspect that is how.

The president of the Board is a whip-smart, no-nonsense firecracker of a woman who has been a Board member for many years and runs our meetings with authority and poise. Last May, she informed the rest of us that she would be absent at our July 19 meeting because she was going to be working as an election judge at a polling place for the Maryland primary. That meant that I, as vice president, would be running that meeting.

EEP.

What, me run a Board meeting? I’ve never led any kind of meeting!

Okay. Step one: take a deep breath.

Step two: Take up the president on her gracious offer to coach you before the meeting. Meet with her twice and listen as she goes over what will need to be discussed.

Step three: Organize, organize, organize your thoughts on paper in the order in which things have to be presented (according to you—this will stretch your decision-making muscles).

And on July 19…step four: walk into the meeting place and run the meeting.

Things went very well. I referred often to my notes and led the discussions by focusing on one issue at a time, but also making sure not to spend too much time on any one issue. We had a lot to discuss, but I had the meeting over in (very slightly) less than one hour. I later found out that the secretary had told the president that I did a very good job (God bless the secretary).

And I enjoyed leading the meeting more than I thought I would.

So let us add leadership to my skill set.

If you consider yourself a born follower, has there been anything in your life or career that made the hidden leader in you come out?  

A good sign

I’ve been a freelance editor for three and a half years now; it will be four years come October. You might call me a newbie at this, but I have turned a profit for every calendar year that I’ve been in business except for the first. I’ve also built up a client base and am getting more and more clients as time goes on. I’m definitely where I should be.

This month, I added a new client, which is actually a company, to my freelance business. This week I edited my first manuscript from said company. The manuscript was challenging, yet very satisfying to work on. I worked on it for four days and completed it last Friday. I also completed an assignment from a longtime client during this time.

While I was working on these projects, another person from the company reached out to me with more work, asking if I could take it on. I had to tell them I was booked until such-and-such a date, but I would be more than willing to do more work for them after that date.

Booked? Me?

This has happened maybe one other time in my freelancing career and the fact that it’s happened more than once is a milestone for me. It means that I am in demand. It means that I am getting noticed and people want me to edit for them.

Some of the veteran freelance editors in my professional associations are booked months in advance, and I yearn to be the same way. I feel as if I am on my way to being that much sought after.

Oh man, listen to me blowing my own horn. Pardon me.

I love being busy (what freelancer doesn’t?) and the more people hear about me, the busier I will obviously get. Bring it on! I’m very good at managing my schedule.