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Sunday, February 19, 2012

WHERE'S THE COMMA - Author - Fran Orenstein

Fran Orenstein, Ed.D.
Author, Poet, Presenter, Editor

I am a professional writer and editor, and have been doing this in some form or another for more years than I am willing to admit. I can tell you from experience that nothing should ever leave your computer, typewriter, pen and paper, quill and parchment, or chisel and stone that hasn't been edited and proofed. There are always mistakes; it’s inevitable. They jump out from the pages of the most famous books, published by major publishers.
However, to publish something that has repeated or an excessive number of obvious errors, is unacceptable. It isn’t professional, and I believe everyone out there wants to be taken seriously as a writer. There are hungry publishers who will take anything, and publish it without editing. This is not reputable and this lack of integrity will always come back in their faces one day...people won't trust their publications any more and guess who gets blamed…that’s right YOU.

Rule Number One: YOU CANNOT PROOF YOUR OWN WRITING!!!!! You are too close to it and we all make the same mistakes every time. For me it's typos because I type very fast... and I just did ‘it’ and had to correct ‘it’...always typing its for it’s or visa versa. What’s you’re repeated error? Did you just catch another one of mine?

Rule Number Two: YOU CANNOT EDIT YOUR OWN WRITING!!!! Because every writer loves every word of everything they've ever written and it's like cutting off a limb to change something, or sanding flat the stone and chiseling a new hieroglyph. A writer needs a third party to suggest a different way of saying something doesn’t belong and that your precious words might need to be cut or amended. I know it hurts. Put on a Spiderman or Cinderella band aid and get over it.

Imagine if Moses had read the Ten Commandments and found an error. What if he sanded down one line and re-chiseled it? I, for one would not want to be standing next to the burning bush. But today's writer is not infallible, so find an independent editor and/or a proofreader before you send your Great American Novel out to anyone, it’s worth the money.  Please, not your sister or partner; they’ll love every word just to keep the peace.

Rule Number Three: AN INFUSION OF CONFUSION!!!! There are numerous manuals of style and every editor, publisher and proof-reader has his or her favorite. If you are lucky enough to score a publisher with an editorial staff, be prepared to swim upstream against the rapids of that publisher’s choice of a style manual. Everything you cherish about your darling baby may be flushed down the drain with the dirty bath water. It’s hopeless to argue, but you should be proud that you submitted a professional error-free manuscript. Otherwise, your manuscript would have landed in the recycling bin and that contract would not be signed.

Rule Number Four:  IS THAT ENGLISH???? It appears that the English language has taken a turn for the worse. Will someone please call a grammar doctor? Listening to people speak, I wonder at the deterioration of the spoken and written word. Not only have verb tenses taken on a life of their own, but subject nouns and object nouns have now become shape-changers. Since when has him, her and me become the subject of a sentence and I, she, and he become the objects. Did I miss something? Is ‘her and me went’ the new English? Are we now supposed to say ‘me saw she and I’? NO! I shout to the world. Is this the new language and what we want our children to learn? Set an example and use proper English when you write and speak, lest “us become the laughing stock of the English-speaking world.” Oh pardon me, I meant, “we become the laughing stock….”

Let’s not forget verbs and that terrible word – conjugation. I know, you will have visions of your 8th grade language arts teacher invading your nightmares tonight. Remember those red slashes on your papers and that crabbed writing, “It’s I saw or I have seen, not I seen.” Homework: conjugate the verb ‘to see’ correctly and use it in a sentence, or two, or three.

If you are writing in a particular vernacular or regional dialect, then by all means use the grammar of the character to set the realism. Otherwise be aware of the way that person would speak, used only in his dialogue or his thoughts, and keep in mind the way you should write as a professional author.

Finally, your best friend is the dictionary, a book of style, and Roget’s Thesaurus. Get the paper back copies and keep them next to you. Don’t always rely on the tool bar at the top of your computer screen. It has limitations. Good luck and write on.

 Did you find any errors in this blog? Shhhh! It's between