GrammarPhile Blog

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Topics: business writing, proofreading

Thanksgiving 2020

Posted by Conni Eversull   Nov 25, 2020 7:45:46 AM

What can I say about 2020? This has and continues to be the most different and difficult year I’ve lived through. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I’ve had a hard time getting into the holiday mood. But I realize that as difficult as the past months have been, I do have lots to be thankful for. And I owe it to my family to uphold some of our holiday traditions.

Read More

4 Myths About Proofreaders

Posted by Conni Eversull   May 21, 2020 7:30:00 AM

When you envision a proofreader reviewing your writing, what do you see?

Do you see a person wearing a pair of coke-bottle glasses and an oversized sweater hunched over a stack of papers? Does he have a giant red pen in his hand and a condescending glare in his eye, a smirk on his face, just ready to tear your work to shreds? Is she setting out to edit your work until it fits her idea of perfection, even if it’s far from your original vision? Is he also using grammar and spell check technology to do all his work for him? If this is how you view a proofreader, you’re not alone. Luckily, however, this vision of a proofreader is simply a myth.

Read the common myths about proofreaders debunked below so you’ll have a clearer and more positive vision of what a proofreader is really like.    

Myth #1: A Proofreader Is an Editor

Proofreaders review a piece of writing in its final draft meticulously, word-by-word and line-by-line, typically after it’s already been edited. They look for accurate spelling and grammar, and fix issues with the formatting and overall layout of a piece of writing. They also fix punctuation errors, typos, or incorrect use of language.

Editors, on the other hand, typically review a piece of writing when it’s in its first or second draft, with the intent to improve its overall flow and coherence. They may even rewrite and move entire sentences and paragraphs around in a document to make sure that it flows well. While some editors may correct obvious grammatical and spelling errors, their main objective is to verify the overall flow of a piece of writing. 

Read More

Topics: what to expect from proofreaders, proofreaders, proofreader myths

Match Famous Quotes to their Authors

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Dec 12, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Here's a quiz we posted a while ago that received a lot of response. But, the average score was just 44%. Want to see if you can beat the average? 

Read More

Simplify

Posted by Kimberly Largent, aka Persnickety Editor   Oct 17, 2019 7:30:00 AM

I recently stumbled upon material on business writing that was written by Minerva Heller Neiditz and published in 1993. Although the material needs some minor updating, I was surprised that much of it still applies today in business writing. Neiditz, who is presently 87 years old, wrote this book when she was 61. She’s written several books since; her most recent was published when she turned 85. Neiditz has a varied background that includes advanced degrees, politics, activism, professor, wife, mother, writer, and world traveler. But this is not the complete list.

Her book “Business Writing at Its Best” (Irwin Professional Pub, 1993) is filled with commonsense material on how to write effective business correspondence. If you struggle with writing simple, effective business correspondence, take a page from the Neiditz business-writing playbook. Here are some highlights of her material. (The below outline is not verbatim from her book, and my comments are enclosed in brackets.)

Read More

Topics: business writing, business communications

Answers to Last Week's Thursday Challenge

Posted by Kimberly Largent, aka Persnickety Editor   Sep 19, 2019 7:30:00 AM

So, how'd you do?

Perhaps after reading last week’s Sheryl’s She Shed blog challenge, you’ve had the opportunity to actually see the commercial on TV. If so, would you agree there’s something suspect about Victor’s indifferent response regarding the lightning strike? There are many theories circulating social media as to Victor’s role in the burning down of Sheryl’s she-shed. Do you have a humorous take on what might have happened? If so, we’d enjoy hearing from you. Let your imagination run wild and post your ideas below in the comments section.

Wow, as you can see, we received a range of answers to this challenge.

There are 31 wrong words, and as many of you pointed out, “chichi-er” could have simply been “chichier.” Inserting the hyphen was my mistake; I put my faith in material I read on the internet concerning “chichi,” instead of looking up the word in Merriam-Webster. Lesson learned? Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it correct!

We were initially looking for 31 wrong words; however, if you guessed 31 OR 32, we accepted you as a winner, since many of you included “chichi-er,” which took the total to 32.

Here is the list the first five people who answered correctly from the challenge we assigned our readers. Congratulations!  We'll be in touch with each of you.

  • Tara Bann
  • Deborah Baron
  • Amy
  • Desmond Ballance
  • Andrea Isiminger

If you're one of the winners, please send your email address to Conni@ProofreadNOW.com so we can send your gift to you.

And for those of you who guessed over or under in the number of mistakes, here’s the answer key. All mistakes are highlighted in yellow.Thanks to everyone who participated!

Read More

Topics: common mistakes, misused words, common proofreading mistakes

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign up for our emails!

Sign Up

Search Our Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all