Children’s picture books: So few words, so many mistakes!

We’re all guilty of typos at some point, be it due to writing something in a rush, not checking Autocorrect has, erm, autocorrected correctly or because we have something else occupying our thoughts at the same time.

I don’t make a habit of criticising errors in friends’ emails, blog posts or Facebook status updates – what’s the point? – but I tend to be critical when basic errors appear where it really matters.

And this is what I’d like to talk about this week.

This happens all too often in the spellegance household: I get out a beautifully illustrated and typeset book from the library, sit down to read it with the kids, and immediately start noticing typos (I can’t switch off my proofreader’s brain, no matter how hard I try). It wouldn’t be so bad if these were longer books, but these are books of no more than 30 pages, with very few words. And these are for young children to enjoy – children who are learning how to read; children who still don’t fully understand the rules of grammar and spelling. How, then, are they supposed to learn when professional writers and editors aren’t picking up basic mistakes?

A particular bugbear of mine is in the series of Zoe and Beans books (Zoe is a little girl and Beans a dog, for those who haven’t read the books) by Chloe and Mick Inkpen, both well established in the world of children’s books. Yet comma use (or lack of it) seems to be a real problem for them:

Fetch Beans! Fetch!

(Fetch the beans? Are we going to do a spot of cooking?)

What is it Beans?

(?)

Fetch him Beans

(Yes, quickly – he’s hungry!)

Look Beans!

(I give up.)

There are also other issues besides, such as the way ‘Little Bear’ and ‘little Bear’ are used interchangeably and a full stop is missed out altogether, but the comma thing is what really bothers me here, as it’s not a one-off.

In the last batch of library books we had out, we had some odd grammar in rhyming poetry in Upside Down Babies, an otherwise fun and well-written book:

‘What a funny baby, no matter how I try’, Mummy Parrot said, ‘this chick won’t fly!’

What’s wrong with a semicolon or a full stop after ‘baby’?

And this beauty, in The Best Present Ever:

She was posing proudly wearing a beautiful silk dress, that gleamed with gold embroidery, dazzled with diamonds. And yes of course, teamed with stunning perfect pearls!

Oh dear. Even MS Word’s spellchecker knows the first comma is wrong – why didn’t the author or publisher use a spellcheck tool? (Don’t get me started on the missing comma after ‘yes’ in the final sentence.)

The Best Present Ever also had a really odd moment where it got its tenses mixed up in dialogue:

She announced to the King that she had a present for him and it was to be the best present he had ever had. But what could it be? The King tried to guess. “Was it a new crown?” he asked. “No,” said the Queen, “you already have lots in the Royal Jewels Room.” “Was it new shoes?” he tried to guess. “No!” sighed the Queen. “When you already have 412 pairs!” “Really!” he gasped.

(Surely ‘Is it a new crown?’ [etc.] would have been a more usual thing to say…and starting the last exclamation with ‘When’ doesn’t work at all.)

Along with the Zoe and Beans books, I had another series of books in mind, as the last one I tried to read was so full of errors I refused to take it home – but alas! the only one they had to loan out was already in some poor child’s home. I would have had a field day with that one.

I guess the point of this rather rambling post is that if writers, editors and proofreaders can manage to shape a several-hundred-page novel into something relatively error-free, how is it possible to make even one error – let alone several – in books of under 30 pages? If anything, it’s more important to get it right early on than at any other point in people’s lives. Children learn from what adults tell them. If those adults are teaching them wrongly, the same mistakes will be made again and again.

Have you spotted anything in a children’s book recently that’s bugged you? I’d love you to share examples with me on here or on Twitter (@spellegance).

Until next time,

Sarah

My new reference tool – an investment purchase!

It’s half term this week, and I’ve been in charge of finding activities for the kids, so it’s been quiet on the work front. However, I did manage to add a new dictionary to my collection during the last week before the holidays:

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I figure that I’ll soon be able to subcontract work out to the two five-year-olds, which will have the double bonus of keeping them occupied during school holidays and increasing our income. I’m sure the £4 I spent with The Book People will turn out to be the best investment I’ve ever made.

Who needs a red pen when a crayon will do just as well?

A peek inside my ‘editor’s toolkit’: shaping the textual garden

The whole editing process is a bit like tending an overgrown garden: you start off faced with the unruly greenery (the text) which you first need to weed (remove obvious and repeated errors), then work out a design for (structuring and styling), and finally water and maintain (ensure textual flow, prune to remove unnecessary words and sentences, check that everything is still where it should be and not encroaching on another section).

In any kind of writing, the same kind of errors tend to crop up again and again. Word’s ‘find and replace’ function is useful for finding a lot of these (I know creating macros can also be a big help, and this is something I still need to get to grips with and may well write about in future). By taking a few simple steps at the beginning of the copy-editing process I can save myself time and ensure consistency throughout the manuscript. Here are the steps I take when editing a text.

The pre-editing stage

I like to think of stages 1–6 as ‘pre-editing’ – removing surface errors before getting down to the ‘bones’ of the text, where I’m looking at each character in turn and the overall structure.

1. Style guides

Firstly, when I’m given a text I make sure I’m using the correct style guide for the publisher in question. I give this a quick read-through to refresh my memory, as they’re all a little different from each other. In the absence of a style guide, I check with the publisher or author what they prefer to use (my default would be Oxford, as it’s so widely used as a standard for writing and editing).

There might, for example, be a requirement in the style guide I’m using to write all numbers up to ten as words rather than numbers. (Oxford suggests all to one hundred. There are exceptions to this rule, but that’s one for another day.) So I might add this to my list of ‘things to check’ for this particular manuscript.

Some publishers have a preference for particular spellings of terms, so it’s worth doing a specific search for these as well. One company I work with which prefers to use ‘Quran’ (rather than ‘Qu’ran’ or ‘Koran’) for the Muslim holy book and ‘The Second World War’ (rather than ‘World War 2/II’, which is how you often see it written). I tend to put these on the end of my checklist (see below) to make sure they don’t slip through the net.

2. Using a template (not always applicable)

I then copy-paste the manuscript into the template provided by the publishing services company. (If I’m editing for one particular company I’ve been supplied with a template containing all the different styles I normally need. The template strips out extraneous formatting and makes the document easier to work with.)

3. Document styling

Once the document is in the correct template, I can format things like headings, chapters, body text, quotes, epigraphs and image references correctly. This makes it far easier to find my way around the text later on. It’s very difficult to edit several hundred pages of text with no formatting to provide a ‘map’ of the manuscript.

4. Using the paragraph mark button (¶) to spot additional errors

The next stage for me is to remove all tabs, extra spaces after full points, spaces at starts of lines (search for ‘^p’ to find these) and line breaks. I keep the paragraph mark button selected at this stage to see where these are. (Manual page/line breaks aren’t necessary if you modify your styles to include a page break before or after the style in question.) Likewise, you can set a requirement for ‘Normal’ text (the majority of the text) to inset the first line of a paragraph so it’s easier to see where one paragraph ends and the next starts after you’ve switched off the paragraph marks.

5. Spelling/grammar checks

Now I can run the manuscript through a spelling and grammar checker. It’s surprising just how many errors this can pick up. I have access to a spellcheck tool used by one of the companies I do regular work for (I appreciate that not everyone has this luxury) and I find this tool invaluable. As well as having all the functions of the Word spellchecker, it can check against the following different spelling standards:

  • British with Oxford -ize only;
  • British with -ise only;
  • American;
  • British -ize and -ise comparison;
  • American and British -ise difference; and
  • American and British -ize difference.

This won’t find everything, necessarily, but finding even one error is better than it getting missed in the editing process! Because it comes up with a list of all the mistakes in alphabetical order, it also makes it easy to spot where difficult-to-spell names have caused the writer to come unstuck.

6. ‘Common error’ checklist

I’ve created a table in Word of all the things I need to check before beginning on the main task at hand. This is a working document which I add to as and when additional issues crop up. It includes the points above, and also a list of common errors to check for. The ones currently in the toolkit are:

  • Ensure apostrophes are the right way round in date abbreviations (’30s).
  • Remove all bold text (File > Replace > ‘Find What’ > Ctrl + B > ‘Replace With’ > More > Format button > Font. Select ‘Regular’ under ‘Font style’).
  • Use ‘Find and Replace’ to weed out double spaces after punctuation, and to remove any spaces immediately before punctuation marks.
  • Check correct types of dashes are used (for example, en dashes (–), which are longer than a hyphen, are used in number spans). (Different style guides will have different types of dashes used to interrupt words, sentences, etc., so I make sure I know the guidance before I start.)
  • Ensure ellipses (…) are only ever 3 dots, and that they’re formatted correctly. (CTRL + ALT + . will do this.)
  • If document contains any references, ensure there is a space immediately after the full point following the ‘p’ or ‘pp’ (p. 6, not p.6).
  • Make sure all speech marks are the right way round, paying particular attention to quotes that have quotes within them. (Word often gets confused and tries to immediately follow opening quotation marks with a closing apostrophe, regardless of what’s written on the page.)

The ‘proper’ editing stage

Once all these fiddly technical bits are done, I can get down to reading through the text itself with ‘Track Changes’ highlighted so I can show the author/translator what I’ve done and add any queries using the ‘Comments’ function so they can reply and clear up any confusion or state their preferences.

Normally I’d send a sample of ten or twenty pages to the author with all errors highlighted to ensure they’re happy with the way I’m working and suggest that I only track changes where it’s a matter of preference or more clarity is needed in the text, rather than one of us having to approve changes that are amending outright errors. Once I have their approval, I can work my way through the manuscript and get the first edited draft to them for approval and for any questions to be addressed.

And that’s it, really. Once all the issues are addressed, the manuscript is ready to go off for typesetting and, after that, to be proofread.

You don’t have to be a copy-editor to take the steps above to create documents that are easier to navigate and more internally consistent. Establishing your own (or the organisation’s) preferences at the start for common words used, font type, etc. can give you a common ‘thread’ that runs through all your business documents, styling will help you and others navigate through your writing, it’s surprising how much the paragraph mark button can show up that you hadn’t noticed, and a ‘common error’ checklist could pick up quite a few things that are hard to spot when writing a document – particularly when you’re up against a tight deadline.

And with that, I’ll say goodbye for this week, and happy gardening!

Colons in the red corner, semicolons in the blue…which one will win? Some tips

I’m willing to bet most people are happy with using full stops, exclamation marks and question marks. I’d also hazard a guess that commas don’t cause too much confusion in general (although I may return to these at a later date). And parentheses? No problem.

But what about those other ones – the ones that are a little more tricky? I’m thinking first of all about the colon and semicolon, which often seem to be used interchangeably (and incorrectly). Let’s take a closer look.

The semicolon (;)

Let’s start with the good old semicolon.

New Hart’s Rules (NHR) has a good rule for remembering when to use the semicolon, seeing it almost as a light full stop:

The semicolon marks a separation that is stronger than a comma but less strong than a full point. It divides two main clauses that are closely related and complement or parallel each other, and that could stand as sentences in their own right [my emphasis].

The semicolon can be used to break up lists where commas are used within single elements of the list, to aid readers’ understanding of the text. For example:

Yesterday I went to visit my mother, who is recovering from an operation; walked my neighbour’s dog, as he is away on holiday; and went to the sports centre to do an exercise class, swim, and catch up with an old friend.

This doesn’t just apply to lists written as sentences – it is also useful in bulleted lists, as I was reminded when attending the Plain English Campaign’s training on writing for websites:

Before going on holiday, I need to:

  • pack my suitcase;

  • take the cat to the cattery;

  • use up any perishable food in the fridge; and

  • give the spare key to the neighbours so they can water the plants.

NHR also suggests using it in place of a full stop if the sentence immediately following begins with a symbol, describing it as ‘confusing and unattractive’ to begin a sentence in this way:

Let us assume that a is the crude death rate and b life expectancy at birth; a will signal a rise in…

The colon (:)

To begin with, here’s a list summarising the point (or points, perhaps?) of the colon. This punctuation mark should be used:

  1. to introduce a list, bulleted or otherwise (see what I did there?);
  2. as a ‘follow-on’;
  3. after the title of a work; or
  4. to introduce direct speech.

Please note that in British English the colon isn’t followed by a capital letter, unless the word immediately following is a proper noun (although in US English it is). This makes sense in light of the point below about the second clause not needing to be a complete sentence.

1. Lists: The colon isn’t necessary in a sentence which contains a list if it’s already a complete sentence in itself. NHR gives the following example:

Other Victorian authors worth studying include Thackeray, Trollope and Dickens.

You could, however, restructure this sentence and use a colon instead:

There are other Victorian authors worth studying: Thackeray, Trollope and Dickens.

2. Follow-ons: This is probably the time you see colons used the most. Unlike the semicolon, the colon doesn’t need to be followed by a phrase that could stand as a sentence in its own right. Instead, it’s used as a ‘follow-on’, i.e. to precede something that follows on logically – cause and effect, premise and conclusion, statement and example(s).

NHR advises thinking of it like this: if you can precede the phrase in question with a word like therefore, namely or for example, a colon would be just as valid.

The book also notes that you can insert a dash in place of a colon with this type of usage, but this is normally better if saved for more informal contexts.

3. Titles and subtitles of works: Many works, particularly more academic titles, have a title and a subtitle. The colon is used to separate these, with house style determining whether the subtitle should begin with a capital letter or not.

4. Introducing direct speech: Although it’s more usual to see direct speech immediately preceded by a comma, it’s perfectly valid to use a colon instead. NHR says that a colon is ‘typically used to introduce more formal speech or speeches of more than one sentence, to give emphasis to the quoted matter, or to clarify the sentence structure after a clause in parentheses.’

NHR notes that you can also use a dash in place of a colon in example

Alternatives to the colon and semicolon?

Back in 2013, the College Humor website ran an article entitled ‘8 New and Necessary Punctuation Marks’. If you read this whole blog post, you’ll never need to think about using the hemi-semi-demi colon.

Don’t leave your editing until the last minute!

In my past life in a communications department, one of the tasks I was regularly given was to do the final checks on magazines and leaflets before they went to press. This activity tended to follow a pattern:

  1. Document written by manager from one department or other (sometimes with input from team, sometimes not, often very last-minute).
  2. Document sent directly to design studio to put into magazine format and ‘prettify’.
  3. Document sent by print team to communications team to proofread before print run of several thousand. (Usually with an impending deadline.)
  4. Enormous email sent back to design studio containing all the corrections to be made before document was suitable to be sent to the public. (This was in the days when you couldn’t annotate Adobe Acrobat Reader PDFs electronically without buying the pro version.)
  5. Disgruntled email received by communications team from design studio, who’d spent a lot of time making the document look nice, asking why there were so many corrections needed. (A classic case of ‘shooting the messenger’?)
  6. Disgruntled email received by communications team from manager who’d originally written the document in question, asking why the design studio were stressing about the changes that needed to be made. (Messenger. Dead.)

My point is this:

Any document going out to the public – whether it be a beautifully printed and bound book, a four-page leaflet or a web page – is a sales pitch for the author, organisation or individual. However beautiful the finished product looks, glaring typos will make many readers question the quality of the service or work provided, as touched upon in my blog entry in November last year, Are spelling mistakes costing you money?

In the publishing world, you’d never get an author submitting their work directly to the typesetter to be laid out ready for print. There will, at the very least, be a diligent copy-editor checking the whole text for

  • correct formatting;
  • spelling and grammar;
  • factual accuracy;
  • internal consistency; and
  • adherence to the house style or style guide.

After the manuscript has been copy-edited it will be typeset (i.e. made to look like an actual book rather than a Word document) and then passed in its typeset form, usually as a PDF document, to a proofreader for a second read-through. The annotated (either on paper or electronically) PDF will then be returned for the typesetter to make the amendments before the book can be approved for print.

So why do people cut corners so often? The case discussed at the beginning of this post was a cash-strapped public body, so perhaps they’d be reluctant to hire a copy-editor or proofreader separately, but all it needed was for the writer of each document in question to send the original, in Word, to the communications team before it went to the design team. That way the errors in the original would have been removed at a sensible point in the process, everyone would have been happier, and a lot of time would have been saved.

Next time you’re writing a document for print or a web page to go on your site, think of this post… (And think of me!)

Sarah

P.S. As a footnote to the story above, shortly after I left the department, the communications toolkit we’d developed was due to be rolled out to all staff. One of the guidelines was to send all printed publications to somebody in communications to be correctly formatted, edited and proofread before the design stage, and mentioned that perhaps using the style guide set by the organisation (‘conveniently’ located about six mouse clicks away on the Intranet site) would be useful. Hopefully this would also be applied to the website (although I had more doubts about this as it was based on a content management system and the people allowed to write for it varied vastly in their abilities). I wonder if anything has changed in the last four years?

None of us are ‘word-perfect’ – not even the professionals!

Just because I’m a proofreader and editor, it doesn’t mean I can immediately spell any word thrown at me without having to double-check the spelling, or know the answer immediately to any question of grammar or style. I work on documents and manuscripts in a wide number of fields, and am always learning new things to add to my vocabulary list. I see this as on-the-job training.

There are some words that give me pause, and where the correct spelling isn’t instinctive. The English language is tricky – there are so many words that are pronounced the same but spelt two or three different ways (take the BBC News site last week, which confused reign, rein and rain when they described blows ‘reigning down’ on somebody). I also see confusion over their/there/they’re on a regular basis.

And then there are the words that are spelt the same, but don’t rhyme: take cough, bough, hiccough, rough and their ilk.

A lot of people seem to confuse US and British English spellings, which again is understandable. My husband, after working as a programmer since leaving university, has got into the habit of spelling ‘colour’ without the ‘u’ (US spelling) as computer languages use US spellings as standard.

Two things triggered the idea for this week’s post. Firstly, I’m often surprised that it took me so long to get my head round which spelling is which with practice/ practise (noun/verb). Note that this is British English only – US English uses ‘practice’ for both versions. What finally cemented it for me was repeatedly reading Julia Donaldson’s Zog to my children: ‘Zog went off to practise, flying fast and free/He soared and swooped and looped the loop…then crashed into a tree.’

Secondly, there’s tranquillity. One ‘l’ or two? British English uses two, but US English uses just the one. However, I find this illogical – to me the word looks far more tranquil and calm with a single ‘l’. Unfortunately, British English dictionaries beg to differ, so I’ll have to stick with the standard.

I asked other editors, proofreaders and publishing professionals on LinkedIn if there were any words they struggled with, and had some interesting responses. More importantly, I also got some great tips from other pros about how they remember some of the trickier common words in the English language. So here goes…

Words with accepted variant spellings

-ize and -ise endings: The ‘-ize’ ending that many think of as exclusive to American English can be used interchangeably with the ‘–ise’ ending in British English (and indeed is the preferred ending in the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors [ODWE]). It doesn’t, however, apply to ‘-yse’ endings like it does in the US (such as ‘paralyse’), so be careful! The key is consistency within the document, or set of documents, that you are working on.

Other examples of spellings that have no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ form include flier/flyer, focusing/focussing, benefiting/benefitting and busing/bussing.

Judgement vs. judgment is a possible exception. In the UK, you would traditionally see judgement used in any context except legally, where convention dictates the use of the latter form (although it is used more and more often without the second ‘e’ in all contexts). In the US, ‘judgment’ is more usual, although ‘judgement’ can also be used in non-legal contexts. So it’s not incorrect to use ‘judgment’ in general everyday use in Britain, but it’s more usual to see it with the extra ‘e’.

Some tricky words (and tips for remembering them)

Some words the pros reported struggling with were:

Embarrass: John Finegold at Keyline Consultancy suggested some great mnemonics to help with spelling various words, including Really Red Shiny Skin (embaRRaSS) to remember this one!

Flies/flys: In just about all cases, the former is correct. (Unless you’re using the historical term in British English to refer to a one-horse hackney carriage, in which case the plural is ‘flys’.)

Forest: One respondent made me laugh when he said ‘”Forrest Gump” has screwed me up on “forest” forever.’

Mediterranean: It helps me to think of ‘terrain’ and the French terre, meaning ‘earth’.

Other words that came up were aficionado, broccoli, bureaucracy, Caribbean, entrepreneur, gauge (‘I always want to spell it “guage”), harass, ophthalmologist, perseverance, privilege, questionnaire, and subtle and subtlety (‘they just don’t look right because they’re spelled terribly for the way they sound’).

It sounds different to how it’s pronounced

As I mentioned above, there are quite a few words in the English language that aren’t pronounced how they’re written. People reported difficulties with these kind of words, including:

Beautiful: One pro said he finally learnt as a child how to spell ‘beautiful’ when he learnt the word ‘beau’ in French.

Conscience/conscious: from the Latin scire (to know).

Diarrhoea (US diarrhea); not ‘dire rear’, however tempting it may be to write it!

Fuchsia: These flowers are named after a man named Fuchs, so if you can remember that, you’ll no longer struggle with the word. One editor said it helped her to think of it as ‘f***sia’ and substitute the ‘k’ for an ‘h’. I studied German at university, and Fuchs is the German for ‘fox’, so this one doesn’t trip me up.

Gonorrhoea (US gonorrhea)

Haemorrhage (US haemorrhage)

Haemorrhoid (US hemorrhoid)

Separate (pronounced ‘seperate’)

Paraphernalia (because it sounds like ‘fuh’ in the middle, not ‘fer’)

Switcheroos

And then there are those pesky words where it’s very easy to accidentally switch the letters when typing. Examples included:

Casual/causal

Complaint/compliant

Trial/trail

These sort of mistakes can often be picked up by setting macros (see penultimate section) in Word.

Homonyms and similar-sounding words

Affect vs. effect: This was mentioned by a couple of people. Usually ‘affect’ is a verb (to affect something) and ‘effect’ is a noun. However, there are times when this is not the case. ‘Affect’ can be a noun in the following cases: to describe a feeling or emotion in psychology or an emotional response in psychiatry. Just to confuse matters, you can use ‘effect’ as a verb to mean ‘cause something to happen’.

Appraise (assess someone/something) vs. apprise (inform someone of something).

Complimentary (praising or approving; something given free of charge) vs. complementary (combined with something else to emphasize/enhance its qualities; alternative medicine).

Continuous vs. continual: These have some overlap in meaning, but cannot be used interchangeably. The embedded links to the Oxford English Dictionary definitions are worth a read if you’re not sure.

Dependant (in British English, a person relying on another for financial support – but is also interchangeable with ‘dependent’, just to confuse you further!) vs. dependent (determined by; unable to do without; subordinate to another phrase or clause). In American English, ‘-ent’ is the only ending used.

Descendent (descending from an ancestor) vs. descendant (person, plant or animal descending from a particular ancestor; something that has developed from a more rudimentary, earlier version). According to the OED, 15 per cent of all citations in the English corpus – that is, all work published in English – use these terms incorrectly. (This is totally understandable!)

License vs. licence (license only in the US): the ‘s’ denotes the verb and the ‘c’ the noun.

Personal (e.g. mine, yours) vs. personnel (employees).

Practise vs. practice (my old friend!): Sally Asnicar of Full Proofreading Services had this great tip:

One of the best tips I read for remembering practice/practise (if you are struggling with the verb/noun issue) is to imagine the word is advice/advise and say it aloud. For example, ‘I always practise good manners at the table’ would also sound okay if you said, ‘I always advise good manners at the table’ (but not ‘advice’) and ‘A doctor’s practice’ could be ‘A doctor’s advice’ (but not ‘advise’).

According to one proofreader, the Macquarie Dictionary in Australia has another good aide-memoire for this kind of word:

Practice and advice are the noun versions that also have another noun in the words: ice.

Or this method of remembering:

practice is a noun; practise is a verb. So just as n (for noun) comes before v (for verb) in the alphabet, so c in practice comes before s in practise.

Principal (adjective meaning ‘main or most important’ or noun meaning ‘the most senior person in a group or organization’, such as a school principal) vs. principle (basis of a system or thought or belief): John Finegold has the following suggestion: a for ‘academic’; e for ‘ethics’.

Prophesy vs. prophecy: See practise/practice.

Stationery (stuff you use in an office or sell in a stationer’s) vs. stationary (still): Useful tips for remembering this one were:

I learned the difference between stationery and stationary by remembering that you buy stationERy from a stationER. Since there is no such thing as a stationar, I could always work out which word I wanted. (ELT writing professional)

Also, you can think of the weather term stationAry front and remember that second a for Air. (Assistant editor)

I remember that there are stationers and confectioners, hence the stationer’s stationery and confectioner’s confectionery. (Editor)

I use the following memory jerker:

Stationery is ER as in Elizabeth Regina (stamps, envelopes, etc.) (proofreader)

John Finegold suggested simply remembering stationery as being ‘e’ for ‘envelope’.

Double-letter combinations

Accommodate: If you can remember there are two double-letter combos in this word, you’re most of the way there.

Millennium: This is often seen spelt wrong, which adds to the confusion (and the Mazda Millenia didn’t do anyone any favours on this front)! One copy-editor said it helped her to link it to the word ‘perennial’ to remember the double ‘n’, although this won’t help if you can’t spell ‘perennial’ either!

Necessary: One writing, editing and publishing professional said:

When I was a kid, to remember how to spell ‘necessary’ with the ‘c’ and the double ‘s’ the right way round, I used to say it in my head as if it were ‘neckessary’. Since a ‘c’ can sometimes have a ‘k’ sound but an ‘s’ can’t, I knew that the ‘c’ came first. Then, by elimination, the double ‘s’ came after it.

From another editor:

I always get mixed up with occasion – does it have 2 Cs and 1 S or the other way round…

How using macros can help you

Richard Adin, writer of the An American Editor blog, recommended using macros, as did a couple of other people. A macro is something you can set up to pick up words you might consistently misspell, particularly if you find yourself often substituting two letters to create a word that exists but isn’t the right word (see ‘Switcheroos’ above). The ‘Dummies’ website has a useful and simple guide to setting up macros.

Richard’s response is worth quoting in detail:

This is where using certain software tools can greatly help. For example, I have found that there are certain medical terms that authors consistently misspell – so often that I have to make a conscious effort to watch for them. So I have added the words to my basic Never Spell Word dataset in my EditTools software. One of the first things I do with a new document is run the NSW macro. By having added the words to the NSW dataset, if the one of the words is misspelled in the document, it is automatically correct with tracking on.

I have two options: I can include both words in my exclude dictionary, which means that every appearance of either word will be squiggly underlined. But I have learned that it is still easy to miss the word. So, instead, I have both of them in my NSW dataset and marked to be highlighted in red – a color difficult to ignore – and so when I run the NSW macro, it highlights each instance of casual and causal in red, forcing me to stop and make sure the right word is used.

In the case of British versus American spelling, I use the Language macro in EditTools. I have created a dataset of British spelled words that need to be Americanized. I run the macro and it makes the corrections (with tracking on so I can see what was changed and I can undo what should be undone). The macro is language neutral, so changes that it makes depend on the dataset I load. I can go British to American, American to British, or any language to any other language. All I need to do is create the dataset.

Looking for love?

And finally, remember this: if you’re currently dating, good spelling could make all the difference! Lorrie Beauchamp of Marketing, My Ass! relates the following:

I remember a writer once saying that he’d marry any woman who knew how to spell ‘occurrence.’

So there you have it.

Busy, busy, busy!

After a few days off over Christmas, I’m back on the work wagon with a vengeance: there’s a short novel to copy-edit by the end of the month, a medium-sized one due in early February, and a book on feminism to put the finishing touches to before 27 January. I’ve been told to expect some transcripts of interviews to edit during February, too, and I have a couple of ideas for generating extra work that I plan to chase up once things quieten down a little.

A certain husband is also turning 40 towards the end of the month, so there are things to be organised on that front as well. I didn’t say it wasn’t going to be challenging achieving the resolutions I set a couple of weeks ago! (If anyone has discovered the secret of making time magically expand, please let me know. I’m serious.)

Getting fitter and healthier – so far, so good…

So far (I know it’s early days, but if I write it here it will hopefully make me feel guilty if I’m tempted to slack) I’m managing to keep my resolution about getting fitter and healthier in 2015. I’ve been swimming a few times and attended two TRX suspension training classes so far (plus a taster just before Christmas). Although I feel stiff and creaky at the moment, I love the variety within the classes, and it also gives me more incentive to avoid eating loads of chocolate as I know it’ll negate the workout I’ve paid for (in cash and in hard graft).

I’ve also got a grand plan to involve the children in my exercise plan – basically, they can join me after school in learning all about burpees and planks. Of course, they’ll think it’s fun and easy while I collapse crying in a heap on the floor, but once I’m fitter I’ll be the one laughing…I think.

On a blog topic-related note, I’ll leave you with a link to Allie Brosh’s brilliant rant on her site Hyperbole and a Half about the common usage of the non-word ‘alot’. I may have shared this before – apologies to those who’ve seen it before – but it’s such a classic I feel it’s worth mentioning again.