Wouldn’t it be great to have your own “edit key” on your computer?

Don't you wish you had one of these on your keyboard?

 

It would be wonderful to have a special button on your keyboard that would read your writing and correct every error, typo, wrong word, omitted word, added word, or verb tense. It would be really amazing if the “edit key” would automatically rewrite awkward sentences, paragraphs, or chapters. There are software packages that attempt to go beyond the rigidity of spell/grammar-check, but do they do a better job?

No, not really, or only marginally. The computer or software package would have to comprehend the content, distinguish whether the entire piece has a theme, rewrite sentences and paragraphs to support that theme, and draw a convincing conclusion.

How can the basic rules of grammar or spelling downloaded into a software package cover all the exceptions to the rules in language and enhance the quality of the writing? It is not possible. Technology cannot grasp ideas and concepts; nor can it recognize the effectiveness of an argument to convince someone to buy, sell, invest, fund a grant, or use your company. There is no way a machine can determine the feasibility of a fictional plot. It cannot keep track of consistency, clarity, or accuracy. Software certainly doesn’t know the twists and turns of your storyline or the research that only a person can select to support facts. A computer does not have the imagination to create stories and fantasies.

One example of spell/grammar-check or editing software is that it won’t highlight a word as long as the term is in the dictionary, whether it makes sense or not. How many times have you seen “from” as “form” in printed media? Probably a lot, and the list of misses on editing/reviewing software goes on and on. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

The human element cannot be replaced by technology. How many people realize that the little blue underline on WORD that supposedly points out grammatical errors appears when there is, perhaps, another way to present the same material? In other words, your writing may not be wrong at all or it could be showing you there is a valid mistake. That is what the human being can determine and the computer cannot. Use spell/grammar-check as a guide and look at what is highlighted in your writing, but take it with a grain of salt … or maybe a pound of salt.

It gets really upsetting, however, when WORD or another software program changes a word automatically after you’ve typed it. Many times it can be helpful, but many times it can totally augment the meaning of what you’re writing.

Verb tenses are difficult for ALL writers, including myself. We think in present tense, but we write in a variety of tenses, including third-person past. I leave the verbs for my last rewrite, and I’m always surprised at how many verbs need to be changed. This brings me to the rewriting/editing/proofreading process.

computer and pencils

My antiquated computer graphics is not near as antiquated as the books and especially the pencils and erasers in the cup. How I wish the pencils were red! I use a combination of traditional skills and new computer skills to write, edit, design, and format all types of printed media, including book manuscripts. As a fiction author myself, I enjoy many genres of books to edit, proofread, and review, including nonfiction, but I can’t edit or proofread my own writing successfully. I need another human being to see what my eyes will not notice, even though my eye has been educated and trained for many years to pickup on “glitches”.

If you write or even type something, it becomes engrained in your brain, basically memorized. It is an organic, biological function of your gray matter. It is something we in the present evolution of humankind cannot change. In the future, perhaps? But then, would we be more machine than human?

Where Are We Headed?

When you try to edit/proofread what you have written, your eyes see what they expect to see. You read over errors, typos, and other editorial problems. You can be reading it aloud–which I suggest so that you can hear discrepancies and determine if the writing flows smoothly–and actually say the word that you think is there, not the word that is in print. Mind boggling, but it is a biological fact.

The brain is like a computer (probably the old computer that I pictured above, depending on your age)–data in/data out–good, bad, or indifferent. Have you ever noticed that a person misspells or mispronounces the same words all the time? It was initially engrained in the brain that way so it’s what comes out. The more times you use a term incorrectly, the more engrained it becomes; therefore to you, it sounds and looks correct. Our minds, which are more connected to our conscious, unpremeditated thoughts, allow us to change what is engrained in the hard drive of our brains. You can change your mind, but not the organ which is your brain.

The important principle I want to point out is you should never be upset with yourself if someone else finds an error in your writing. It is not your fault; it’s human nature. To prevent this from happening, rely on a human being, preferably an editor who knows the rules and especially the exceptions to the rules for writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation, correct phrasing and terminology, and the correct tense of verbs. This is referred to as a copy editor.

A further step to make your writing the best and most professional it can be is to work with a content and development editor. Believe it or not, there are rules on how a piece should be written. In overly simplistic form: a theme, definition and support of the theme, and a conclusion. Having a plan to follow keeps you from writing yourself into a corner (writer’s block) or writing in circles (long, drawn-out passages with no action or support to the theme/plot). It’s very frustrating to know where you want to go with a writing project and not have a roadmap to get there.

Even though I have done all levels of writing and editing, from simple copyediting and proofreading to complete ghost writing, I can write myself into a corner or wander in circles just like anyone else. And I do believe the hardest thing for any writer to do is to cut their own words, but it is necessary to weed out the extraneous material that can confuse or lose your readers.

A suggested roadmap:

  • Write in chapters, sections, or all the way through, depending on how your mind works best.
  • Put it aside for as long as you can, from a few days to a few weeks. You might even want to work on something else to allow your brain to switch gears.
  • Read the material, correcting as many editorial problems as you can find; rewriting awkward phrasing or passages that could be misunderstood or ambiguous; look for discrepancies–Have you ever read a book where the character’s name changes halfway through the manuscript?–and don’t be afraid to cut, cut, cut if it does not support the theme, advance your plot, or add to the story/mission of the writing.
  • Description: I personally love poetic prose, but it can be overdone. Read your descriptive passages with a eagle eye, keeping what sets the scene or mood. If you have a descriptive passage, be sure and follow it with an action passage. If you have a ghastly, disturbing scene, follow it with something a little lighter, but keep it real. Some articles or manuscripts have to have disturbing revelations because it is the truth of the matter–be it in fiction, nonfiction, or any other media.
  • Editing: Now is the time for an editor. Always submit in double-spaced format. Very early in the manuscript, an editor will be able to tell you what level of editing you need–from copy editing to a massive rewrite to sending it back and telling you that is isn’t ready for editing yet. Hopefully, the editor will give you some suggestions or in all kindness, let you know if the writing field is not for you. I, personally, do a gratis reading of the first chapter or a single chapter of your choice to ascertain these issues.
  • Proofreading comes last, after formatting has been done, and is read only for typos and errors.

I know it sounds like a long process, but there are no shortcuts to literary acceptance.

Deborah A. Bowman, CEO, http://www.clasidconsultantspublishing.com

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Editors, Readers, and Writers

Editing, writing, ghostwriting, design and formatting is very satisfying … watching someone else’s piece grow, evolve, and reveal the talents, skills, and feelings of other writers brings a silent joy to an editor’s heart. Watching another writer learn and accept the various truths of this challenging industry, their confidence growing and expanding with every verb tense that finally falls into place or the beauty of a crisp, new book … their own.

Few achievements can surpass the excitement of reading or seeing your own words in print, knowing you’ve given your all and have shared your uniqueness with the world. Editors help others spread the knowledge of their expertise, give the gift of drama, and the balm of fiction.

Reading is universal, mind-expanding, calming, exciting and just plain fun. I love a book that’s been researched well. I want the story, the plot, the fiction, but give me something new to experience, learn, digest. When I read I want to be challenged, intrigued, surprised!

Writers are Readers, and Readers are Writers

Editors are all of the above …

Deborah A. Bowman

water your mind

 

 

 

 

 

The Challenges of Proofreading and How to Express Yourself in the Use of Words

Ever Wish You Had Another Pair of Fresh Eyes?
Ever Wish You Had Another Pair of Fresh Eyes?

Unfortunately, a new pair of glasses won’t change your preconceived judgments, criticism, and bad habits. You just can’t wipe away a lifetime of engrained programming.

Editing and proofreading is a learned skill. You train your physical eyes to see errors, typos, and inconsistencies–things that just don’t make sense or are contradictory to previously stated fact or fiction. This is a different skill set than reading. You have to slow down, read each word separately, then each phrase or clause, making sure it’s a complete sentence, and check the construction of the sentence to make sure the objects, prepositions, verb tenses, and subject(s) are in a logical parallel pattern. Lastly, you go back to the beginning of the sentence, paragraph, or piece to check the validity of the statement in conjunction with  the rest of the facts in an expository or the forward progressive action in fiction.

Your mind’s eye is a little harder to train. The mind’s eye is a collection of programmed data that has been input into cellular, organic gray matter since the day you were born. The conflicting material is a little overwhelming, to say the least. The number of times you’ve spelled or used a word incorrectly may far outweigh the times you’ve seen it correctly. So what’s going to pop up in your database, the brain, when you do a search/retrieve? The wrong, more plentiful data, of course. But a firm, conscious override of what has been programmed previously will stick, if only you could see with fresh, uncensored eyes.

The training begins anew, guiding your physical eyes to notice things you would normally just read right over, especially if it’s your own writing. Those of you who’ve read my editing/proofreading tips before know that I’m a firm believer that you cannot peruse your own writing for errors, typos, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies. What’s engrained in your computer database or brain is what you think is there, not necessarily what your physical eyes are seeing. A professional editor is still your best investment, but there are a few tricks that can fool the physical eye into seeing what is really there and not what your mind’s eye perceives. This would be like fresh data to the brain.

  1. Read sections, sentences, paragraphs out of order. I’ve known many proofreaders who read things backwards, sometimes one letter at a time.This, of course, only works for catching typos and errors. Inaccuracies and inconsistencies won’t be seen if you’re reading in  nonsensical fashion. This process works best if you’re reading/spelling aloud with two people swapping off and reading to each other. Two heads are better than one? Two sets of eyes and ears are even better!
  2. Your Kindle, e-reader or app can change-up your writing to make it appear somewhat fresh by enlarging the text, changing the font or typeface, changing the color, and especially switching the background to black with white type. Sometimes that’s just the ticket to make errors pop!
  3. If the eyes and brain are programmable, data-driven organs, use something else, like auditory. Use your Kindle or computer voice to read to you. A multitude of errors and misspellings can be heard in awkward phrasing, mispronunciations. Extra words, doubled words, left out words, wrong words are very noticeable in auditory.
  4. Using a professional editor or proofreader is always, still, your best bet. Spell-cheek, grammar-check, and so-called editing or grammar software packages are as finite as your operating system. If it makes a word, it makes logical computer sense to a computer. That does not make it the right word. Nor does it catch inverted construction (different languages have different sentence construction),  repeated words, left out words, and will never pick-up inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and errors in content.

The last item I’d like to share is cadence. Have you ever read some authors where the words just glide through your mind with flowing, almost poetic smoothness? Edgar Allen Poe was the master at this. Poets are known for keeping the cadence rhythmic. But this idea of fluidity can be applied to any type of writing–business, technical, essays, academic papers, and especially advertising and promotional media. Read your own writing back to yourself aloud, record it, listen to it in your own voice and inflection. Is it catchy, creative, smooth, persuasive, dramatic?

Other Points to Consider: Have you used the same word or words too repetitively? That gets boring to read very quickly. Do you have trouble reading an awkward sentence? Does it make logical sense or is it too rambling, ambiguous, losing momentum and cadence?  Is it too long, too short; are you too repetitious in your ideas? Does each sentence have a subject, a verb, and an object or predicate? Do you have your clarifying remarks in the correct order? Does the entire piece have a dominant theme, supporting material, and a conclusion? Then look at each paragraph under the same premise–an opening sentence, substantiated information, and a conclusion that is linked to the theme. Paragraphs are just mini essays that support the whole concept.

Writing is considered a free expression of thought and creativity, but if you want to make your point, there are tried-and-true steps to follow to get that point across.

Design your writing with your words, an expression of yourself!
Design your writing with your words, an expression of yourself!

Best wishes on manuscripts and media that say much about you, the writer, in subtle clarity that speaks for itself.

Deborah A Bowman