Agitations of a Writer: Grammar, Content, and Dog Stealing

All writers and editors live in a constant state of frustration. Each and every blog, social media post, newspaper article, etc. are filled to the brim with incorrect grammatical phrases, punctuation errors, and badly written content that make us shake our collective heads. We usually grit our teeth and walk away, but today is not that day. My writer and editor friends will surely feel my pain, and I hope the rest of you get a kick out of the frustration that lives in the mind of a writer. Disclaimer: For you PETA-type people out there, don’t get your dander up. This post is not about dogs. If the subject was purple Chevys, I would have written the same thing.

I read the following letter on a forum a while back. As a writer, I’m agitated by the grammar. The more I look at it, the more I’m frustrated by the content. I copied and pasted it exactly as it appeared, and I have wasted my entire morning ripping it to shreds writing a blog about it.

 

found_collar_black2__33877.1362773206.1280.1280_2“I have a community question, that needs to be anonymous.

There is a dog running around my street that is severely malnourished, to the point that you can see every single bone in ther body, and they have other dogs in small pens in their backyard. I have gotten the one wondering in my back yard with a bowl of food and water. Where can I call that isn’t a high kill shelter? I believe the dog is considered an aggressive breed, but he is the sweetest thing ever.” – Anonymous Liker

 

While this letter is probably written by a good-deed doer, and I am all for rescuing neglected and abused animals, the post has many issues one simply cannot overlook. Grammar is the least of its problems.

“I have a community question, that needs to be anonymous.” 

There’s no need for a comma in this sentence. Why would a question need to be anonymous? Oh, you meant the person asking the question wishes to remain anonymous. Oh.

“There is a dog running around my street that is severely malnourished, to the point that you can see every single bone in ther body, and they have other dogs in small pens in their backyard.”  

Where does one even start? This is a run-on sentence with two topics – the dog and ‘they.’ “You can see every single bone” is an exaggeration. It is not possible to see every single bone unless you’ve dissected the dog, in which case we have another problem. We understand the dog is skinny, but this exaggeration leads us to believe that nothing else you’ve written here is completely true either. I’m going to ignore the “their” typo, but who is “they” in the last part of the sentence? I’m thinking you mean your neighbors? Wait! If you know this is your neighbor’s dog, why don’t you take him home? Hang on to that thought for a moment.

I have gotten the one wondering in my back yard with a bowl of food and water.

1005-alternate-1-440x400Is this a different dog? Do you have THIS dog in your possession? This sentence has me wondering how you knew this dog was wondering. Was he sitting on your back porch in the pose of The Thinker? Oh, you meant wandering, as in roaming around. Why didn’t you say so? Was he carrying a bowl of food and water with him? (…which would probably be TWO bowls, but that’s neither here nor there.) Did you mean YOU had the bowl (singular) of food and water? I’m so confused.

(photo credit: Rodin’s Thinker, National Gallery of Art, exhibiting how I’m feeling at this moment.)

Let’s continue…

“Where can I call that isn’t a high kill shelter?”

I understand the question, really, I do, but I don’t understand how over thirty people responded to the original post with phone numbers and names of shelters, and not one person noticed that the writer had STOLEN her neighbor’s dog. The wish to remain anonymous now makes more sense.

I’ll mention the obvious here. This was posted on a forum, using the Internet, which has “The Google” as my elderly friend calls it. Just look up a number.

There should be a dash between high and kill as this two-word adjective (see what I did there?) is describing the shelter.

“I believe the dog is considered an aggressive breed, but he is the sweetest thing ever.” 

Finally, a sentence written correctly, but after the exaggeration and the fact that you’ve stolen your neighbor’s dog, I’m not inclined to trust your judgment. I may want to imagine you sitting next to a malnourished Rottweiler, but what I envision is a busybody old lady with a dirty poodle on her lap.

 

 

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What Type of Editing do I Need?

Types of Editing

pencil-1979pxWhat Type of Editing Do I Need?

If you’re an author, you’ve undoubtedly heard someone along the way say something about getting an editor. You may have a sneaking suspicion that your work could probably use a little polishing. Are there paragraphs that just don’t feel right? Parts of the story line that feel rushed or too slow? Did you get a C in high-school English? Yes, you need an editor. Depending on your writing experience, you can use one or all four edits on your book, and those edits can be done by one person or four different people. Stephen King has an editor, you should too.

So, what are the different kinds of editing available and which do you need? Here’s a breakdown of editor services.

Developmental Editing

When you are stuck anywhere in a story, whether you are at the initial stages of creating an outline, or you are at the end of writing the rough draft, but the pieces aren’t lining up, you need a developmental edit. A developmental editor will review the whole story for you and tell you where there are holes in your plot, where your characters aren’t developed, where you’ve left story lines dangling with no conclusions. They will make suggestions on where and how to fix your story. In short, a developmental editor will help you develop your story.

Substantive Editing

When you are finished with your manuscript, you may consider a substantive edit. An editor will help you put your story into its final form. They may change points of view, look for inconsistencies in your character’s behavior, rearrange your paragraphs, and rework your dialog. You want your story and your characters to be believable. This is the outcome of a good substantive edit.

Copyediting

Once you’ve completed your “final” manuscript, you want to have an editor do a copyedit. A copy editor will read each sentence and fix grammar, punctuation, spelling, and voice. If you give them enough latitude, they will rework tangled sentences and paragraphs. They will also check your captions and footnotes for accuracy against your text. You may get the work back with ideas to improve or delete parts of your work. Your book should be close to finished after this step.

Proofreading

Proofreading is the final step in editing. When you a sure your work is finished, a proofreader will go over your manuscript one sentence, one word, one comma at a time and make sure it is all correct. If you have photos or charts, they will also review those. They will correct any errors overlooked in the copyedit. They will also check all elements of design, including headers, font styles, and page numbers.

 

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

Wednesday Writer’s Corner – August 21, 2013

Swimming in a Turquoise Sea of Jumbled Lyrics    

  *or*

Why Don’t You Just Hire an Editor?

“The sky was the color of a bruised palette…”

Road-Cloudy-Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was reading an intense, frightening chase scene when the above sentence appeared. It stopped me dead in my tracks and has stuck in my mind for a long, long time. I assume the writer meant the sky was filled with blue and gray clouds, but he could have meant someone’s mouth was bruised from getting punched in the face. Obviously, I don’t know the difference in spelling between the roof of your mouth and the board used to mix paints. Either way, it took me out of the story. I began thinking about painter’s palettes and how they can’t get bruised, because they’re made of wood.

I’m not only going to pick on that writer. I’ve done it myself. While running from a murderer through the foggy forest, my character “looked up into the black arms of the haunted trees.”

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Fortunately, I have a fabulous editor who crossed it out in bold, bright red. I thought it was pretty clever, but I could almost hear her yelling “WTF?” all the way from her office in California.

An editor will kick your artistic butt, but they will make you look good. They will correct your grammar, your punctuation, your point of view, tighten up your wonky dialog (as above), and if you give them enough latitude, they will do heavy copy editing and replace your poor choice of words, repair your jumbled scenes, and restructure your paragraphs. They will also check your facts and your timeline. In one book, I mentioned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a story that took place two years before he was knighted. My editor caught it and deleted the ‘Sir’ from his name. Deep in my heart, I know she’s worth far more than I pay her.

There’s only one bad thing about a good editor. When you get your manuscript back with more corrections than your ninth-grade English term paper, you will feel like you should never write again. But you have to shake that off. Editors do what they are paid to do, and it has nothing to do with your talent or your feelings.

Stephen King has an editor. You should too.

(The above photos are from thewallpapers.org and flickriver.com.)