Pobody’s nerfect

Let’s face it—even we editors have our spelling nemeses. I’m talking about the words and names we always have to look up because we are always misspelling them otherwise. Here are some of my personal bugaboos:

Cincinnati. I always want to write “CInncinnati.” It seems as if having a double N in every place for which an N is called would make more sense than using one N and then using two.

Millennium. I used to write “Milennium,” In order to remember the correct spelling, I now think of the French word “mille,” meaning “one thousand,” and note that this word has two L’s, just like the English word “millennium.”

Fulfill. This is a hard one because my mind always thinks that when you fulfill an order, you make it “full.” So why shouldn’t it be spelled “fullfill”? Don’t ask.

Conscientious. This one is so bad that I had to look it up as I was typing this post. I always think of a conscience, which has a C near the end but no T anywhere in it. So why should we stick a T in this adjective?

Massachusetts. Oh, this is my worst one. I tend to write “Massachussetts.” Why use two S’s the first time and two T’s near the end, but only one S the second time? It makes absolutely no sense.

This is why every editor needs access to the Merriam-Webster website, as well as the latest print edition of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. And remember—never, ever be too lazy to look up a word or name if you have any doubts as to the spelling. You don’t want to end up with egg on your face and/or make your client look foolish.

If you have any words or names that continually give you grief, feel free to share them.  

Biting the bullet

As an editor, there have come times in my career when I have had to edit while my body is sick or in pain. The last couple of weeks have been such times.

I currently have bronchitis (although it’s not as bad now, thanks to the antibiotics) and bronchitis can last for months. Hence, I have been doing an awful lot of coughing lately. So how can an editor focus when she is coughing up a storm every half hour or so?

First, I need to remember that the world does not grind to a halt because I am sick (unless my illness has me bedridden, which is another whole ball game).

Second, I assess what over-the-counter remedies I need to keep me functioning, purchase them if needed, and take them according to the directions on the container. They keep me focused and functioning—as long as the container does not say “May cause drowsiness.” If I see those words, I run!

With bronchitis, I have to figure out how bad my cough is at the moment. If I cough for just five seconds or so, I brush it off and keep working. If, however, it’s one of those can’t–breathe, ten–second–long, red–in–the–face coughing fits, it is worth it to stop my timer and get up from the computer to catch my breath (and make a doctor’s appointment). By the way, the latter kind of cough is extremely distressing, but despite this, I can continue to work soon afterwards as long as I do not also have a fever (as I did two weeks ago).

If you are about to ask me what I would do if I had COVID, the answer is, “I’ve never had it, so I don’t know how bad my symptoms would be. If I could get up and walk around without feeling horrific, I would continue to work. If I had a high fever or could not get out of bed, however, I would rest and send my husband to buy some meds for my symptoms. And in either case, I would keep testing myself and waiting for only one line to appear on the test strip.”

It’s all basically a judgment call.

Missing in action? No…illness in action.

Hello and Happy New Year.

I informed you in my December 18 post that I would be taking Christmas Day off blogging, and that is exactly what I did. I also informed you that I would be back on New Year’s Day, discussing my goals for 2023. I was not. This was because I was ill. I fell ill three days after Christmas with a wicked respiratory infection which quickly morphed into a severe case of bronchitis. (I am very prone to bronchitis and almost every single cold I get morphs into it very quickly.) Would you believe that after a week and a half, two doctor’s visits, tons of over-the-counter medicines and a round of antibiotics of which I am currently in the middle, I am still on the mend? The good news is that I feel better and have less symptoms every day now.

That’s enough explaining. So what are my goals for 2023?

  1. I want to save up enough money to attend the EFA conference (EFACON) in Alexandria, Virginia in August. I know I recently lamented on this blog about not being able to attend the ACES Conference in Columbus, Ohio in March due to financial constraints. Since Alexandria is in my general metropolitan area, EFACON would be a good “starter conference” for me. There are many people in EFA whom I “know” from the organization’s communications, lists, and classes, and I would absolutely love to network with them.
  • I want to have enough of a workflow to keep me editing every workday, with few or no “dry spells.” (Thankfully, this seems to have already begun to happen—right now I am working on two projects simultaneously.)
  • (This is a more personal one.) I want to have enough courage to take people to task when they use the word “retarded” as a put-down. A lot of people think this is harmless. It’s not. Period.

Would you like to share your goals for 2023?

What did you do in 2022?

I could go on for a long time about the best (and worst) parts of 2022. It was a pretty good year for me; it was better than 2021, which itself was much better than 2020.

But I am talking about things on a personal level. What I really want to blog about today is how this year was for me professionally. So…let’s take a deep breath and begin.

I learned how to restore my internet connection when it goes out in the middle of an important Zoom call. By “important Zoom call,” I mean one during which someone is interviewing me for a job. When my connection suddenly went out during my interview, I initially thought that all was hopelessly lost, that I would never get the job, and that my employment at this establishment was probably not meant to be. All of this went through my mind within seconds. Then I suddenly remembered that the first thing one must do when losing an internet connection is to unplug one’s router for 30 seconds and then plug it back in. This is exactly what I did, and within a minute, my connection was revived and the interview continued. I should add that the interviewers were extremely forgiving and sympathetic, which was much appreciated.

I gained a couple of new clients through the major research university with which I have a contract, and one through a job announcement on the ACES website. That’s always a great thing.

I learned Word macros and how to use them through a class offered by the EFA. Macros are wonderful tools, but they are very much like a chainsaw; very useful, but you had better know what you are doing. That’s an exaggeration. Macros can be intimidating for someone who has never downloaded or used them, but once their keyboard shortcuts are memorized and they are practiced, editing is much more efficient—and who isn’t a fan of efficiency?

I’m looking forward to what I will accomplish in 2023. I’m planning on blogging about my goals for the coming year on or around New Year’s Day. As for Christmas, for me, it is a holiday which means an incredible amount to my faith and one during which I love to spend with family, so I am taking a break from blogging next weekend.

I hope you have a very happy, healthy holiday season.

What’s the magic word?

I’ll put this simply: If you want to succeed as an editor, you have to be nice.

You might be surprised by that statement. Perhaps you have the idea that an editor corrects grammar and punctuation mistakes and rewrites sentences with angry slashes of a red pen—like your high school English teacher. Not to criticize teachers, but editors do not work the same way.

First and foremost, an editor should use the word “please” when correcting an author. Consider the following two editorial comments:

Avoid hyphenating compounds with an adverb ending in “-ly.”

Please avoid hyphenating compounds with an adverb ending in “-ly.”

Doesn’t the second comment sound much less critical? Make no mistake, the comment with “Please” is still to be taken seriously. But it “stings” the author less and makes the author more likely to say, “Oh…I learn something new every day,” rather than, “How dare this editor tell me that my writing is bad!”

Another thing an editor should do is to use more positives than negatives in comments. By negatives I mean the phrase “Do not…” or its contraction, “Don’t.” Which one of the following editorial comments would you rather read on your beloved first draft?

Please don’t hyphenate compounds with an adverb ending in “-ly.”

Please avoid hyphenating compounds with an adverb ending in “-ly.”

The first comment smacks of “You did something wrong!” while the second sounds more like a gentle correction.

Sometimes an editor has to tame his or her thoughts about an author’s glaring error. When you run across a date that is written incorrectly (much of the time it is January and the author wrote the “old” year by mistake), the first things that might come to your mind are, “OOPSY-DAISY!” or “Ouch!” Please control yourself and avoid writing such things in a comment to the author, unless the author is a very close friend (and use caution even then). Comments like these are a slap in the face and sound highly unprofessional.

Above all, remember that an author’s piece represents countless hours of hard work, and when you, as an editor, critique it, you are telling the author that their baby is ugly. At least, that is often how the author hears it. Sensitivity, along with good editing, is key.

Divide and conquer

I always check out the posts on the discussion list of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), an organization to which I have belonged for just over four years. More than once, I have come across posts from editors who have just started their freelance business. Some of these new business owners want to know if they should have a separate banking account for their business—one that is free of their personal bank account.

I always reply to these posts with a resounding YES, YES, and YES—as do the EFA members who have been in business at least as long as I have.

I cannot imagine doing my taxes for my business using only a single personal account for everything. (I’m talking about those wonderful forms—Schedule SE, Schedule 1, and Schedule C, to name three.)

Having a separate account also allows me to see exactly how much my business is making and makes it easier to create spreadsheets which tell me my earnings, expenses, profits, and (gulp) losses, if any.

If your business is an LLC, you had best be keeping your personal and business finances separate. In the unfortunate event that a client sues you, they may go after your business assets, but not your personal assets. If they are lumped together in one account, it will give you a big headache untangling them.

There is also the psychological effect. Back when I opened my business bank account, the bank graciously gave me a ledger, a stamp, a binder of checks, and a book of preprinted deposit slips. Wow! I thought. I feel so official. I’m a real business owner now.

When I first started my business, I asked a friend who was instrumental in helping me do so whether I should have a separate business account. I was green and naïve; what did I know? She gave me the aforementioned resounding YES and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude.

Minutes maid

As I mentioned before, I am the vice president of the board of my condo association. However, I believe should be the secretary.

Actually, the secretary and the treasurer don’t have to do anything extra besides their normal board activities, since the property manager assigned to their community prepares the minutes and takes care of the financial doings. But if it were the secretary’s responsibility to prepare the minutes, I would have been fantastic at it.

About two weeks ago, the board had its regular bimonthly meeting. A few days later, the property manager wrote up the meeting minutes and emailed them to each board member to approve before the president signed off on them. I read the minutes carefully…and automatically put on my editor’s hat.

I noticed that the date and location of the meeting were wrong; the property manager had used the previous meeting’s minutes as a template and forgotten to change them. I called that out in a reply email, giving the correct date and location.

The property manager then replaced the erroneous information with the correct date and location and sent the revised copy of the minutes to each of us. I was just about to approve them when all of a sudden…

…I noticed another item that was wrong. The property manager had, as was required, listed all of the dates for our bimonthly meetings in 2023. The dates were all supposed to be the third Tuesday of each odd-numbered month. However, I noticed that the meeting date for July was listed as the 19th. July 19, 2023 is a Wednesday.

I pointed that out in another reply email, feeling bad for the property manager, whose work I had corrected twice. (And I was culpable as well, because I did not catch the incorrect future meeting date the first time around.) “The property manager is going to hate me,” I thought as I sent the email. “But I would be remiss if I didn’t point this out.”

And I apologized for “being nitpicky.”

Uh…yeah…I’m sorry for being an editor.

Editors, have you ever run into this kind of situation and actually apologized for finding errors?

The scam of the earth

I need to talk about a serious thing today—one of which all of us computer users need to be aware. I’m talking about scams.

This past Tuesday alone, two (TWO!) scammers attempted to trick me via my computer. Neither succeeded, but one almost did (emphasis on almost) and I wish to share what I have learned with all of you.

The number one lesson on scams is that if any software company or service (Microsoft, Apple, McAfee, Norton, etc.) contacts you via a sudden popup on your computer screen and instructs you to call a given telephone number because something really bad is happening (e.g., your computer is infected by a Trojan and your bank account number is compromised) or something bad will happen (e.g., your antivirus protection will expire), do not call that number. At all. Ever.

If you obey the popup, you will get someone on the phone who acts like they are from the company in question and knows what they are talking about. They will tell you that they will help you, and then they will tell you that they need control of your computer. Never, ever give anyone control of your computer. Once you do, the evil person can do anything they want with it.

When I received an email last Tuesday morning that was supposedly from PayPal and stated that I had bought almost $1000 worth of Apple gift cards (I hadn’t), I initially began to fall for this scam. I called the number at the bottom of the email and reached someone who claimed to be from PayPal and said he could help. Then he asked for control of my computer and started to give me instructions on how to give it to him. CLICK! I hung up on him. That was the end of that one.

That very same day, late in the afternoon while I was working, my computer froze and the screen became filled with a huge popup, complete with loud audio of a bot talking, telling me that Windows Defender had detected a Trojan in my computer which had compromised my passwords, bank account information, and I don’t remember what else. It also told me that I needed to call Microsoft at a number on the bottom of the message to fix this. This scam was much more frightening because I had to restart my computer to get the message to go away. This time, I did not call the given number. Nice try, scumbag.

The point that I am stressing here is that you should never call a number that claims to be from a tech company. They will never contact you through a popup.

And finally, if you are unfortunate enough to be scammed by one of these losers, please don’t hate yourself or blame yourself. Don’t be angry at yourself, either. Be angry at these miserable excuses for human beings. They will one day reap what they have sown.

Mighty fine forty-nine

In this post, I would like to show some humanity. This may not be the most “professional” post I have ever written, but what I am about to say means a lot to me.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and at 12:35 AM tonight, I will turn 49.

Now, 49 really doesn’t seem much different from 48, if any different. It does seem a little weird because back when I was 25 and working as a lab technician, I thought that the people I worked with who were in their late 30s were old. And here I am, about to turn 49. Good grief!

And then there is next year. Let’s not even talk about that yet.

As I celebrate 49 trips around the sun, I am reflecting on what I would like to accomplish this next year of my life.

I would like to obtain enough additional work that I am very busy editing every day. (Not so much work that I am completely stressed out. There is a happy medium.)

I would like to attend my first professional conference. I believe I wrote about EFA’s conference, which is coming up in August. I will be there, by hook or by crook.

I would like to save more money.

I would like to have some fun, since it’s already been decided that my husband and I are not going on vacation this year. I would like to take a day off this summer and go back to Hersheypark. (Yes, the park really does spell it as one word.)

I would like to stay strong enough to be there for my aging parents, and I would like to gain infinitely more strength for them.

I would like (and my husband would also like) to attend the Washington Auto Show this winter. We are very interested in seeing the most recent car models.

I would like to grow closer to God.

How about you? What would you like to accomplish in the next year?

Deferred with a slice of hope

A number of weeks ago, I blogged about the 2023 ACES Conference in Columbus, Ohio, and how much I wanted to attend.

I fantasized about all of the cool editors with whom I would network. I dreamed of attending presentations whose information would make me the world’s best editor. I imagined experiencing the best that Columbus—a city through which I had previously passed on I-70 but had never actually visited—had to offer.

On October 28, early bird registration for the conference opened. I jumped onto the ACES website early that morning, right?

(sigh) Wrong.

After spending days looking realistically at my business finances, the cost of the conference, hotel, and meals, I realized I could not go and be financially comfortable. Add to that the fact that the two Honda Civics my husband and I own are elderly and may not make it all the way to central Ohio and back.

It was Langston Hughes who wrote about “a dream deferred,” wasn’t it?

I might be overreacting, but I had been wanting to attend an ACES conference for years, and the conferences for the next two years are respectively in San Diego and Salt Lake City. Way too far and expensive to get to. The 2026 conference is supposed to be in Atlanta, to which I could fly directly. As everybody’s parents used to say, “We’ll see.”

BUT…

I’m not about to invest in a crying towel, because my hope of attending a professional editors’ conference where I can network and attend cool presentations still remains. The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), another great professional organization to which I belong, is planning a conference of its own this coming August. And where is it to be held? Alexandria, Virginia.

That is in the Washington,  DC metropolitan area and I live in a city which borders on this area. I can take the Metro subway to Alexandria.

Happy dance!

And I have volunteered to proofread conference materials, so I will be giving back and not just taking.

I’m already excited about the conference. Now, if a certain virus doesn’t get in the way…