Pardon my mistake

During the course of researching multiple pronunciations of common words (tomayto vs tomahto) I discovered a slightly different category: words we (or many of us) often mispronounce. In other words, while tomayto/tomahto may be optional, depending on where you live, some pronunciations are just plain wrong.

I’m as guilty as the next person on some of these, so I thought I’d reproduce them here.

Arctic NOT artic. There’s a “c” in the middle as well as at the end.4-P200

Diphtheria. Most of us say “dip-theria” and it’s now so widespread it’s considered acceptable. But the original pronunciation was difftheria.

Espresso NOT expresso.

February NOT Febyuary

Forte NOT fortay. Interesting, this. In music it’s “fortay,” from the Italian. But in the sense of a strength (e.g., “math is my strong suit”), it’s “fort,” from the French, where the “e” is silent. Apparently, the two meanings are so widespread both are considered acceptable. This is just as well: I’ve been wrong all my life and I’m not in the mood to change now.

Jewelry NOT jew-lery. Say Jewel. Now add “ry”.

Mischievous NOT mischievous or mischievious. There’s only one “i”.

Nu-clear NOT nu-cul-ar

Supposedly NOT supposably.

Wimbledon NOT Wimbleton. This mispronunciation seems to be less prevalent among North Americans than it used to be, thank goodness.  There’s no T in Wimbledon!

It beats me how immigrants manage to master the English language. I’ve been at it all my life and I still can’t spell concensus. Concencus. Whatever.




Self-Editing for Self Publishers

I’m apt to exhaust my editing budget long before my book goes to press. I want the developmental and structural advice my editor can provide, and that advice generally comes midway in the process and necessitates revisions to plot and character and substantial rewrites.

The trouble is, once I’ve executed the recommended changes, I’d like another edit, but at that point the cupboard is generally bare. I can’t touch my cover or promo budgets, so I have to make do. Beta readers can be helpful in pointing out glaring errors, but mostly it’s up to me.

As a former editor, I’ve got a few tricks that help me to simulate the objective eye of an independent editor, and the easiest is the one I use very late in the game, just before publishing. It involves a bit of expense, but nothing compared to the cost of an editor. It’s simply this: I run the manuscript out several times, each in a different font, size and layout.

First, however, I do a little spadework on the computer, using my cast list and style sheet to check for consistency in names, ages, descriptions, and in use of numbers.

Using a style sheet

I build a stylesheet for each book from the preceding one. Here’s the style sheet for The Money Tree. It holds words or phrases I often trip up on, plus anything else I may forget during the course of the book. Double-barrelled words like noisemaker, drydock, shopkeeper (and stylesheet) are troublesome. I’ll search for both versions of these words, changing the wrong ones. Proper names (Lego, Truvia, Febreze) are checked for consistency.

Number are harder. My second book, Ang Tak, was about golf, and numbers drove me up the wall. I favour the spell-out-up-to-ninety-nine rule (rather than one to nine only), but as the sample shows, I like to get other opinions.

Minor copyediting matters can drive you nuts, but because they can be so glaring, they’re also a red flag to a prospective reader that your book hasn’t been edited, so they’re worth hunting down.

On to the next stage: the read-through. Now you want to pretend you’re looking at your book for the first time. Here’s where you start using up paper.

The standard submission look

I generally start with a standard manuscript layout: one-inch margins all round, text double-spaced in 12pt Times. This is the format required by agents and publishers. Since I never use it when writing my drafts it has the merit of being completely fresh to my eye. I’ll read the entire story carefully, and edit freely. I’m looking for logical errors, redundancies, infelicitous phrases—anything that holds up the story’s flow.

Depending on how marked up the manuscript is, I may go back through again, keeping an eye out for common clunkers (common to me, that is). I tend to use “grinned” a lot and if I see that or other words appearing again and again, I’ll mark them once or twice then do a global find when I’m back on the computer.

After correcting the manuscript, I’ll reformat. This time, I’ll make the margins very wide: say 1¾ and 1½, and use a different type face and size. It’s surprising how altered some words look in different typefaces, and in this rendition, more errors and oddities will crop up: overused ellipses or exclamation marks, for example.

I’ll often run a finger along the line as I read: it’s a proofreader’s trick that can help you catch things like “the the.” Having different paragraph indents or page endings can also help you to see fresh the words you’ve been living with for months.

I continue to run out drafts with different formats until I’ve reduced the errors to a tolerable level—say, no more than one or two per chapter. Then it’s on to final formatting.

I do my own interior design for both books and e-books, so this time, I run out the book format, with facing pages, folios and running heads.

One thing at a time

In the production stage, focus on one thing at a time. Go through separately for chapter numbers, then back through for folios and running heads, and again for hyphen-ending lines or hyphens on the last line of right-hand pages, and again for unbalanced pages.

My last job is to read the story through as though I were a buyer (that elusive creature). I simply sit back and browse, trying to relax and enjoy it.

You may end up running your manuscript out many times in the course of preparing it for publication, but you’ll find errors every time. I learned very early in my editing career that there’s no such thing as an error-free book. But the foregoing technique should help you to remove the most obvious of them.

We’d all like to have a captive editor available to us at every stage of the process from conception through to publication. Failing that, use your budget at the best point for you, and pick up the slack as best you can using the above techniques.

Selective Vision

I sent my latest manuscript off for editing a couple of weeks ago. I know it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and I was fairly confident of getting a glowing appraisal from the dear old editor.

When her email arrived I opened it with alacrity and was devastated to read that she didn’t like the resolution nor one of the major characters.

All my plans went out the window. Based on a screenplay written years ago, this little piece was meant to be a quick filler while I researched my new series. It turned out to be unexpectedly difficult to convert to a novel, but I was pleased with the result, tickled at having learned some more about advancing plot and character, and ready to publish it and move on. Getting a thumbs down at the editorial stage was no part of the plan.

I’ve put in my time on rejection, so I know how unproductive it is. I got out of the house for a few days, played some golf, became reacquainted with the rest of the race, then came back and read the email again.

It’s amazing how the eye skips over praise and attaches itself to the bad stuff. On re-reading, I discovered the editor loved the story. She was with me on the family, the island, their activities, their personalities. In the context of these comments, I realized I had subconsciously shared her reservations about certain elements; I just hadn’t know what they were or what to do about them.

That’s the brightest construction I can put on the situation, because the bald fact is, despite all the good stuff, it’ll need a rewrite. So the series will have to wait, or this will have to go on the back burner, probably the best plan but now it’s like a sore tooth: I want it fixed.

I used to be an editor myself, of nonfiction. When I appraised a manuscript, I was generally hired to implement the suggested revisions. Wish I had someone to do that for me the writer!