GrammarPhile Blog

Sara Richmond

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Consistency: The Steaks Are High…and Delicious - Part 1

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 8, 2021 7:30:00 AM

 

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t admire the heck out of Mr. Gardner’s panache, provided he wasn’t completely delusional. Few of us have that sort of confidence in our writing, dancing, or ability to cook eggs over easy.

If you, unlike Mr. Gardner, stink at writing and you’re painfully aware of that fact, tighten your suspenders. I’m going to change your life with one word:

Consistency.

If you toppled backward out of your chair in surprise and disbelief, please collect yourself. Consistency will upgrade your writing like nothing else.

Here are eleven of virtually innumerable examples of how consistency makes a huge, positive difference:

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Let’s Not Scribble Over Seaman Ticks

Posted by Sara Richmond   Mar 11, 2021 7:30:00 AM

We were studying “stranger danger.” This is a difficult subject in any context, made only more so by language and cultural differences. I assumed my ESL students would struggle the most with the simplistic and potentially contradictory application for social interactions: Kind strangers = bad strangers. Mean strangers = bad strangers. Candy is good but don’t take the candy. Dogs are nice but don’t pet the puppy! Ride the bus home but don’t get in the white van with no windows! Run away, screaming!

“Ella, can you please read our story for today?” I asked. As the brightest six-year-old I’d ever taught, she had a strong chance of grasping the nuances of our text. A man, who was obviously pretending to have been in a car accident, was attempting to gain access to a young girl’s home, where she was alone.

“‘Help!’ the man yelled through the door. ‘I was in a bad car accident and I need to call an am-bu-lance.’ Ella sounded out the syllables of that sneaky borrowed word.

I nodded inwardly. We were on a Jack-and-Jill-down-the-hill roll. We might even have time to talk about some supplementary vocabulary words, like “paranoia.”

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Topics: English language, proofreading, clarity proofreading

A Question for the Ages: Style or Clarity (Part 2)

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 25, 2021 7:30:00 AM

I assume when the author wrote the summary, he’d already finished the book content. Ripe with excitement, in a flurry of dopamine, he bashed out the synopsis on his keyboard, saved it with a flourish, then ate a donut to celebrate.

Despite this jovial possibility (or perhaps because of it), I cringed as I perused the outline on the back cover. There were twenty-five errors at first glance. I felt like I had happened upon a naked mannequin in a clothing store and wanted to fashion a quick cover-up for its embarrassing predicament.

Make no mistake, the author didn’t lack education or experience, as evidenced by his various academic degrees, business savvy, and multi-industry knowledge, including this self-published book on stock market investing. It was full of useful, well-founded information. The fly (flaw) in his soup:

He had not used an editor.

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Topics: proofreading, clarity proofreading, style copyediting

A Question for the Ages: Style or Clarity (Part 1)

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 11, 2021 7:30:00 AM

Sometimes you sit in front of your stone tablet, chisel and hammer in hand, and the inspiration pterodactyl fails to pass by your cave. You hem and haw, you stew and soup, you moan and whine for the muse. Nothing happens. Deadlines are deadlines, Triassic Period or otherwise, so you knock out the report in spite of your mental doldrums. And by that, I mean you chisel a few hundred half-hearted words, read them, and fling the tablet out your window in disgust. Except, you have no window and tablets are expensive and single use, all of which effectively ruin your tantrum. It’s back to square one, also known as “writing hopscotch purgatory.”

Eventually, you sit back on your callused heels and wipe the dust off the last letter, sigh, eat a hearty meal of cactus and hardboiled ornithopod, and call it a night.

The next morning, you rejoice in the recollection: The blasted report is done, and based on your effort, it’s a ringer. You grab the tablet, bounce out to your favorite rock, and bask in the morning glow as you read through your masterpiece, expecting to be dazzled by your writing acumen and talent.

It’s gibberish.

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Topics: proofreading, clarity proofreading, style copyediting, copyediting

Proofreading Road Signs: The Good, the Bad, and the Humerus

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jan 28, 2021 7:30:00 AM

Don’t risk the heartache and indigestion bad proofreaders can bring. Read this highly scientific and casually vetted list to educate yourself on the obvious signals that indicate you’re dealing with proofreading duds or winners.

Signs of a Bad Proofreader:

1. They don’t own a monocle or a long-stemmed pipe. As everyone who is anyone within the proofreading community knows, at least one of these is absolutely necessary for the dual purpose of looking debonair and snooty while correcting someone’s grammar in a nasal tone. Though this deficit can be partially assuaged with a false accent (specifically one in which the “r” sound is absent), it takes a concerted effort to garner the same level of authority automatically endowed by a high-class monocle or classic meerschaum.

Which raises the question, if a proofreader lacks dedication in this area, what else are they letting slip? My opinion: probably a lot. And another question: What is a meerschaum?

2. Should you mention a style guide, they’ll wonder why people would be reading during a fashion show.

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Topics: proofreading

Falling into a Common Grammar Pit

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jan 14, 2021 10:12:18 AM

Pete Linforth from Pixabay" width="300" style="width: 300px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 10px 0px;">“A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day. ‘In English,’ he said, ‘a double negative forms a positive. In some languages though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative.’

‘However,’ he pointed out, ‘there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.’

A voice from the back of the room piped up, ‘Yeah, right.’”1

If you consider the primary meaning of pitfall, a pit flimsily covered or camouflaged and used to capture and hold animals or men,2 and you continually commit grammatical faux pas (or fox paws as I like to call them), you may arrive at the conclusion that English is out to get you. It’s a cynical but understandable assumption, one shared by many.

After all, we speak and write a language in which “farmer” could be spelled, among many alternatives, “pharrembar.” Given the fact that “ph” makes an “f” sound, “arre” can make a pirate sound, the phonogram “mb” has a silent “b,” and “ar” sounds like “er” in words like “collar” (or “ur,” depending on your dialect or idiolect), this is a reasonable and logical conclusion. It’s also enough to drive people crazy.

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Topics: grammar, grammar errors, grammar rules

The Worst Things We’ve Ever Heard About Proofreading

Posted by Sara Richmond   Dec 23, 2020 7:30:00 AM

We submit, for the sake of tickling your funny bone, this unofficial and completely made-up list.

1. Proofreaders are all elderly spinsters who love cat sweaters, yell at children, and only date men who are named Oxford Comma.

Let us use this as a prime example of logical fallacy. First, cat sweaters are loved by any sane person so there’s no shame in that affinity. Yelling at children is something most people do on occasion even if they vehemently deny it (little people run around with sharp things, sing at the top of their lungs four inches from your ear, and describe bathroom habits to strangers—all on purpose, for goodness’ sake). Finally, there aren’t any men named Oxford Comma, more’s the pity for those of us for whom grammar-loving men are relevant and extremely desirable.

I may have given myself away.

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Topics: proofreading

A Failure in Professionalism

Posted by Sara Richmond   Dec 10, 2020 9:30:05 AM

I’ve come to confess. When I laugh extremely hard and simultaneously attempt to speak, I sound like a severely asthmatic pterodactyl. When I’m cackling over a bad joke* with my children or polishing off a bag of chips while binge-watching Netflix, it’s a delightful addition to the atmosphere. At other times, it’s a liability.

A couple of years ago, I was teaching an English class that went awry. My roster was filled with extremely dedicated, serious students, the type for whom a score of ninety was akin to a death knell for their scholastic dreams. While explaining a concept to a particularly sober young woman, I referenced the world map behind me. As I touched on the surface with the tips of my fingers, the clasp on the left-hand side broke and the map went catawampus. My eyes widened and I lapsed into stunned silence. I was overwhelmed by the awkwardness of the map’s precarious position and giggled. The student stared at me, deadpan, her lips disappearing into a thin line and her back ramrod straight. I attempted to regain my train of thought.

The map fell off the wall.

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Topics: business writing, proofreading

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