Hire A Writer. Please!


Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was just reading an incredibly interesting web page about a new sort of guitar cable – an analogue optical guitar cable.

The company that has developed it is getting ready for the NAMM show – the biggest music industry trade show of the year. I’d say they are looking for a company to manufacture the cable under license.

They have certainly spent some money on developing the product they even have patents pending so they probably hired a patent attorney. They spent some money on a promotional video. They have a well designed logo and the product looks well designed.

I also assume that even a small booth at NAMM costs a fair bit. The two original inventors have also expanded the team.

The one thing they haven’t spent money on is a technical writer for their web page. The errors in grammar and sentence construction are one thing but I suspect that the person who wrote it may not have English as their first language – there is some strange word misuse such as “resolve” for “resolution” or “solution”.

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Sparse Prose

English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket ph...

English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Lloyd Arnold at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, late 1939. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Weekly Writing Challenge asks “Go back through your blog archives and find a bloated, nasty, air-filled paragraph. Copy it in all it’s former glory into a new post. Paste it a second time so that you can edit it until it cries for mercy and we can see the strong, shiny, new version below. Strip out the adverbs, replace weak verbs with strong verbs, axe the bloated phrasery that takes up space and yet says nothing.”

It adds “Editing takes practice. Self-editing can be especially difficult because it’s often hard to see the problems with our own writing. Perseverance pays off — keep at it — the lean and mean prose you produce will be worth the effort.”

That’s true. Editing does take practice. Truth is that this exercise isn’t going to be easy for me as I’ve had practice. I spent several years as a magazine editor with some hard teachers. The two copy editors I worked with had both previously worked at a good newspaper and were patient teachers.

When I finished I could write tight prose and had little problem cutting a magazine contribution by a quarter. When I post something on this blog it’s already had a tight edit.

That said lets give it a try. First the original.

From “My Baby Pillow And Meditation”

The first baby pillow caused a huge rumpus; when my mother was at the University studying one weekend my father had to call the doctor and he mentioned how dirty my baby pillow was. My Dad took it upon himself to get rid of it. After he had thrown it into the incinerator my mother came home to discover a four year old frantic and screaming so the sewing machine came out and with an old throw pillow contributing the filling and a tablecloth contributing the black and white check cotton a new one (with one of the old baby pillowcases on it) was rushed into service. Mum said she first spent ten minutes telling my father exactly what she thought of his intelligence and thinking then not talking to him for two days.

Now for an edit.

My first baby pillow caused a real rumpus. Mum was out Saturday. My father had to call the doctor for me. He called my pillow “dirty”. Dad got rid of it in the incinerator and Mum arrived to a four year old frantic and screaming. The sewing machine came out, a throw pillow gave up the filling and a black and white check tablecloth the cover. The new one, with an old pillowcase on it, was rushed into service. Mum gave Dad her thoughts on his intelligence for ten minutes then the cold shoulder for two days.

134 words to 97. Not bad, I think I’ll take that. I’m not sure that the second version is better but it is tighter. The Weekly Writing Challenge named Ernest Hemingway as known for his “unadorned, sparse prose style” and so before attempting this edit I dragged ‘The Old Man And The Sea’ off the shelves and read a few pages. To me my edited version feels more like Papa Hemingway’s style than my own and I think I was subconsciously going for that when I did my edit.

What Is My Worst Flaw?

Today’s Daily Prompt What is your worst quality?

Hmm, I’m not sure about that question. Are we sure that “quality” is the correct word? Is it the best word?

Dictionary.reference.com (DRC) gives us a good meaning. As a noun it has the first meaning as “an essential or distinctive characteristic, property, or attribute” so we could certainly say that this meaning allows the usage in the question. Meaning 5 is even better — “a personality or character trait” is exactly what we are talking about.

Is it the best word? I’d like to argue that it isn’t. My reason stems from the frequent use of ‘quality’ as a positive adjective. Once again DRC shows us the answer under adjective as “of or having superior quality”. So “worst quality” is a bit of a mixed message.

Instead we might say “worst characteristic” or “attribute” but I think we might be better to go with something a little negative. Hence my title where I say “worst flaw”. We often hear people say “his flaws” or “her character flaws”.

To answer the question is a little harder. The immediate and obvious answer is my moodiness, but since that principally stems from my depression I think it would be a little unfair to cite that. Several other flaws such as a sometimes lack of motivation and ability to stick to long task stem from the same cause so we will strike them off the list.

OK, I think one of my worst flaws is a little obvious from this post. I can be a terrible pedant, particularly where word usage and grammar are concerned. One of my friends who is building up a web site for her business recently told me “sometimes it seems you never see the good stuff” since I find grammar and word usage errors in almost everything she posts. How pedantic can I be? I’m so pedantic that I actually looked up ‘quality’, ‘flaw’, ‘characteristic’ and attribute in my huge “Compact Oxford English Dictionary” while writing this post. I then pointed to dictionary.reference.com as I knew you, dear reader, would have access to that. (This is now my fourth edit of this post to slightly improve some of the sentence construction.)

The truth is that finding the errors is easy for me. I spent years training myself as an editor when I did it for a living and ever since I’ve continued to improve as I’ve written for university and in my work. I had one boss who got so tired of my complaints about her memos she routinely had me edit all of hers. Somebody higher up the food chain actually commented to her about how well written and clear one of her proposals was.

The downside is that I now can’t not see the problems in a piece of writing and it is difficult for me not to point them out. I can’t help myself, I feel a need to tell you what’s wrong with your writing.

I’m sure it annoys some of my friends and colleagues. I’ll try to be better.