After looking at Joe’s post on improving your writing, I got to thinking about the fact that as a writer, it is easy to get lazy. Pressing deadlines or the search for more work can easily take priority over polishing and refining your writing skills. I would have to argue that to let this happen is a serious mistake. Investing in yourself is just as important as anything else in this field.
What does “investing in yourself” mean? Tightening your prose. Memorizing new vocabulary. Improving your grammar. Ask yourself–when is the last time that you spent some time doing these things? If you aren’t sure, or you don’t do them on a regular basis; now’s the time to get going. All writers should be aware of what they are a little weak on in terms of writing. Spend a bit of time shoring it up–you’ll be glad you did in the long run!
It has been a very long time since I wrote a Confessions post, and since we’re in the first weeks of 2009, I figured it was high time.
As some of our loyal readers may already know, I’ve been an editor for quite some time, starting with my work as News Director at the Naval Media Center in Keflavik, Iceland. Since then I’ve edited everything from radio and TV scripts, press releases, articles, a whole forest of paper and a river of red ink. Today, my work editing Cheap Today.com doesn’t kill any trees, but some things remain the same no matter what you’re editing.
Including one of my all-time pet peeves; sacrificing accuracy for speed. CNN was guilty of this recently when reporting a military plane crash in California. The anchor or his script writers assumed that if it had wings and an engine, it must belong to the Air Force. It’s an easy mistake to make, but one the CNN crew knows better than to make.
Another example I found recently hit my inbox courtesy of a writing group mailing list I signed up for once upon a time. I confess, I kind of like these mailing list groups…they give me plenty of fodder for posts like this. Continue reading Confessions of An Editor: New Year, Same Old Pet Peeves
I’ve just discovered Paradigm: The Online Writing Assistant. What a great site! It’s chock full of excellent writing help for new and intermediate writers, including the most helpful one-sentence quote I’ve found in decades:
“Focus on the sentence.”
If more writers would obsess over an individual line until it shines, they would find problem areas such as passive voice and subject/object confusion becoming a thing of the past. If your editor constantly gripes at you for putting “will be” lines in your copy or if you wrestle with past and present tense in your writing, check out Paradigm.
Even if you think your prose is dead sexy, have a look at this site and you may just discover some kind of tweak that can make your work even better.
I’ve found the most comprehensive site yet for grammar. The Guide To Grammar And Writing has tons of info on this subject and it is presented in a very well-organized fashion. Seriously–you have to see this site–it has so much information on it you could browse for weeks. I’ll be visiting it often.
One of my all-time pet peeves? The kiss of death in a cover letter to an editor? OK, the kiss of death in a cover letter to THIS editor? Passive voice sentence construction. We all do it, and this website has just as many guilty passages as anyone, so I can’t blindly accuse other writers of being dorks without putting on a dunce cap myself. No, TWO dunce caps.
Fortunately, there are plenty of helpful online resources to help you cut the crap in your writing. Some writers begin this conversation by saying “WTF is passive voice?” I pass along this excellent site from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. It’s a great place to get your education, and my favorite part of this site is the list of myths about passive voice. It’s actually permissable to use in certain instances, but most writers (me) who fall into the passive voice trap do so in the most glaring of ways–all addressed with suggestions on alternatives.
GetItWrite Online provides a generous helping of hints and advice with many more examples of flagrant passive voice sentences. I love this site for the free info, but the most recent writing tip is from 2006. Too bad, as I’d love to keep going back there on a regular basis.
Freelance-Zone.com nothing whatsoever to do with English-Zone.com but the handy passive voice chart is pretty cool and I wish I had thought if it first.
You’ll get quite an education on passive voice between these three sites. Please pass them along to the next person who writes an inter-office memo stating “The meeting will be held at two o’clock.”
Thanks to the University of Oregon for this wonderful site! If you need a little tuning up on grammar and punctuation, go here now and get started. You’ll find online quizzes, worksheets and more information than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means!?). A great resource for writers.