Thursday, January 29, 2015

Your Editor is an Idiot

Okay, maybe your editor isn't an idiot, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone...occasionally...might think so.

I belong to the EFA (that's the Editorial Freelancers Association to you - not to be confused with Essential Fatty Acid or Egyptian Football Association or European Film Academy). A benefit of joining this association is the online discussion list, where editors go to ask questions of one another and once in a while, share funny stories or general chit-chat.

Just to give you an idea about what we talk about, in the past two days, there have been 19 emails (and counting) debating whether half-eaten (with the hyphen) or half eaten (without the hyphen) is correct usage in a particular sentence. 

These are my people, people.

So what does this have to do with your editor being an idiot?  Well, when editors (or me, at least) make suggested changes to a manuscript, we are doing it with a voice inside our head (and you writers thought you were the only ones with voices telling you what to do, huh?).  We I automatically know what something should be (capitalize the South when you are talking about the area of the country but keep it lowercase if you are going south on the highway) or what it possibly should be ( the author probably means to have the character exit the door, not excite it - because, really - yuck!).  But there are times when we I are just not sure, so we I ask: did you mean Where we going or Where are we going here?  In this instance, the dialogue could go either way; after all, sometimes people do just ask Where we going and not Where are we going - so is it a deliberate choice by the author or is it a missed word in the sentence?  

And I suppose it is possible...just possible...that you think your editor is an idiot for even asking the question, because the answer is so obvious (well, to you, anyway).  But we are the ones who obsess over whether or not to hyphenate half eaten so you don't have to.

Just deal with our idiot questions...we'd rather look like idiots in front of you than have you look like idiots in front of your readers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Don't Hold Your Breath

So 2014 is officially over (yes, I waited a few days just to make sure!).  So now I can tell you what the secret phrase of 2014 is:

[[drum roll, please...]]

The secret phrase is: held my/his/her breath (especially if the person didn't realize they were holding their breath!).

As I reported earlier, it was one of those things you'd feel like you'd seen everywhere, but when actually tallied up, there were only twenty-two instances. (Considering the number of manuscripts I looked at in 2014, that's not too many instances.)

In tie for third place:

In one title by Author 3A, it's used twice: I let out the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding and I let out the breath I’d been holding.

In two titles by Author 3B, we have: She hadn’t realized she’d been holding her breath again and She let out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.

In second place, Author 2 used it three times in three separate titles: She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and Hearing those words, he let out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding and He let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, and pulled her into his arms.

And in first place, Author 1 had two titles: one used the phrase just once, but the other used it a record three times: {book number one} He let out the breath he was holding when the door closed behind her and {book number two} She let out the breath she was holding and She let out the breath she didn’t realize she was holding and She let out the breath she was holding.

And for first place, Author 1 will receive...a $25 credit on the next manuscript.  So see - sometimes it pays to be a winner in my silly little contests!

Now to dream up a new contest for 2015...

Friday, January 9, 2015

I'm So Green

Okay, I'm not really green.  But I was trying to think of something to prove my point.  But before I get to my point, here's what led me to my point:

The entry in Merriam-Webster:
Nonplus (also nonplused; nonplussed also nonplused; nonplussing also nonplusing; nonplusses also nonpluses)
:  to cause to be at a loss as to what to say, think, or do 
:  reduce to a state of total incapacity to act or decide :  perplex, baffle, stump
<this turn of events nonplusses me — J. R. Perkins> 
 <nonplussed by the disclosure — Newsweek>  
<for a moment the girl was nonplussed — A. R. Williams>

What really gets me is how the examples give absolutely NO help in reinforcing the meaning of the word.  It's like I tell you I'm so green without you having any idea what green is.  

Unless, of course, you are this guy.  Then I totally know what you mean by green:

So, anyway, back to my point.  My point is nonplussed is one of those words that might be misused because there might not be good context for the reader (or the writer!) to know what is really meant.  I recently came across this exact scenario in a manuscript and I asked the author if nonplussed (at a loss as to what to say, think, or do) was really the word they meant to use because I could see the character reacting a different way.

I've had instances where an author used a word and I was sure the word shouldn't be used that way.  But when I looked it up, there it was: some fourth or fifth (or sixth or seventh) definition that allowed for that particular word to be used the way the author intended.  And I learned a new way to use an old word.  

Guess those dictionaries (and those editors!) are handy, huh?