Excuse me, dear publisher, but…

About fifteen women from my church and I have been working through (and thoroughly enjoying) a Bible study which uses, besides the Bible itself, a study guide written by a very passionate author. (I’ll call her Jane Jones.) Jane writes in a very exciting, engaging way, which I think is awesome.

There’s just one tiny problem.

Her study guide is full of typos!

Sometimes I am working through the study and an egregious error glares at me. For example, this past week one thing we participants were supposed to do was to “Read Matthew 29:16-24.”

Ummm…this is impossible to do, because the Gospel of Matthew only has 28 chapters. Oopsy-daisy.

I am 99 percent certain that Jane Jones knows well that there are only 28 chapters in Matthew. What I’m guessing happened is that someone’s finger hit the 9 instead of the 8 on the keyboard. At least, I want to give Jane the benefit of the doubt.

Jane’s study guide contains other errors as well, but I will not list them all. Although I continue to enjoy the reading, I have to say that errors in a published work are highly distracting. In fact, I am not the only woman in my church group who has noticed them.

I recall being on the beach one summer while savoring a novel written by a bestselling author. The book contained a character named Spencer, who was one of the “bad guys” and quite intriguing. Imagine how my reading flow was disrupted when I stumbled across a single instance of the villain’s name being written as “Spenser.”

“How did that get by quality control?” I asked myself as I snickered.

I have to admit that I have sometimes been tempted to contact publishers whose books contain a great deal of typos and beg for a job offer my services. I have not done this, and I have been advised against doing it. After all, how would you like it if a stranger contacted you and told you that your job performance stinks and that you could do the job better?

Do you find a lot of typos in books you read?

Shock to the system

Hello, readers. It’s good to be back with you.

This weekend, I suffered a shock regarding a US holiday that is coming up in November. This holiday is Veterans Day.

Notice how I wrote it above. No apostrophe anywhere. That’s the surprise that I got.

My church has an annual Veterans Day luncheon and for the last couple of weeks, the church program has had an announcement about it. The trouble was that the person who wrote the announcement wrote the name of the holiday as “Veteran’s Day.”

Upon seeing this, I thought, “That isn’t correct, because using the singular possessive means that you are honoring only one veteran. We, as a country, are honoring all of our veterans, not just one.” And so I changed the holiday’s name in the program to what I thought must be correct: “Veterans’ Day.” I remembered reading a column in The Washington Post when I was a teenager where the author insisted that the plural possessive was correct.

This weekend, it finally dawned on me that I should look up the name of the holiday in The Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition, which is the gold standard for most editing and of which I have both a hard copy and an online subscription. “After all,” I mused, “the church’s luncheon is not until November 13 and the announcement will most certainly run in the program at least one more time. Better make sure it’s right.”

According to CMoS section 8.89, the name of the holiday is “Veterans Day.”

No apostrophe.

Such embarrassment on my part. Huge sigh.

This was one of those instances where one’s mistake and the correct alternative are not quickly forgotten, because the level of humiliation is so high.

Frederick Christian Fellowship Church, I owe you a great big apology.

Before I retreat into my shell, I would like to point out something that I do know: the names of secular and faith-based holidays are always capitalized: Christmas Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, et cetera.

CMoS 8.89 taught me that, too.

Pass the crow. I’ll have another helping.

Out for another week

Dear readers,

This is just to let you all know that I will be away from the blog again this weekend, since I will be traveling to visit family in another state. I plan to be back at blogging the weekend of October 22-23.

Ice-breaker or nosy question?

Why is it that when most people meet someone new, one of the first “getting to know you” questions they ask is, “Where do you work?” or “What do you do?”

Is it because we as a society identify others by their job or career?

I was unemployed for a very long time during the last decade, and I absolutely hated it when I would go to any kind of event and someone who was trying to get to know me better would ask, “Where do you work?”

And I would always answer truthfully. “I’m unemployed right now, but I have a master’s in biochemistry.” As if it were any of the person’s business.

I remember one person to whom I gave that answer; the person immediately replied, “Hmmm…You don’t often hear the words ‘unemployed’ and ‘biochemistry’ in the same sentence.” Excuse me, could you stand over there for me? You reek of ignorance.

One gentleman I know in my hometown once said, “Why do people have to ask where you work when they first meet you? What if you’re unemployed? What if you’re on disability? What if you can’t work?” As I listened to him, the more right I realized he was.

This gentleman opened my eyes to the fact that it’s actually insensitive to ask someone where they work, or what they do for a living. It’s none of your business.

I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of this lots of times. I remember back when we lived in Baltimore and I asked a lady I knew from church where she worked. She replied, “I’m on SSI.” To say I felt sheepish was an understatement.

Here’s an alternative: Next time you are asked, “What do you do?” tell the person what your hobbies are—what you do for fun. It’s a much better answer, for it tells people what you are really like. If I told you that I am a scientific editor, what would that tell you about me? How about if I told you that I love to travel to the beach?

Please think about it.

If at first you don’t get to go…

Every year, one of the professional editors’ organizations to which I belong (ACES, American Copy Editors Society) holds a conference in a large city in the United States. Ever since I joined ACES almost three years ago, I have wanted to attend. I very much want to network with other editors and refine my copyediting skills and knowledge.

Alas. There has always been something precluding my attendance.

The first two years that I was an ACES member, the problem was the same thing that was canceling everything in the world. It starts, of course, with the letter C and ends with the number 19. (The conferences for those years were made virtual, but I didn’t want to be at home and look at people’s images on my computer; I wanted to have the total experience.)

Then came the following year. I wanted to go, but the conference was in San Antonio, Texas, which would have required a pricey flight. After looking at my business income and financial records, I sadly resigned myself to the fact that this conference was out of my reach.

This coming year’s (2023) conference, however, is in a city to which one can drive from Maryland in a day: Columbus, Ohio.

Columbus is now my target.

I have been through the greater Columbus area on I-70, but I’ve never actually been in the city itself. The more I think about Columbus, the more interesting it sounds.

And the more in-reach this conference sounds. The early-bird registration opens at the end of this month and runs until the day before Thanksgiving, after which the conference fee increases. My goal is to be able to register during the early-bird period.

If I am even luckier, my husband will get to tag along. He can tour the city while I am at the conference meeting and networking with other editors and attending seminars to enhance my editing.

Wish me the best, everybody. COLUMBUS OR BUST!

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?