What do you think when you hear the phrase “style sheets”? If you’re not an editor, you might picture this:
Alas. A style sheet in publishing is a document where you keep track of all your editorial decisions regarding spelling, punctuation, italicization, and even types of citations. It helps you maintain consistency, and it allows other editors to jump in on the project at various stages. Even the best editors have a hard time remembering whether they capitalized “civil rights movement” ninety pages earlier. Continue reading “Style Sheets (with download)”→
Here at Inkblot, we are pretty proud of the work we do. Want to know our secret? We have an amazing team of freelancers supporting us. They make the wheels go ’round and put smiles on our faces and the faces of our clients. To show our enthusiasm for this wealth of talent, we will be sharing short interviews so you can get to know them too.
Today we’d like to introduce Rachel Valliere, designer extraordinaire.
Yesterday was the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. Hooray! One of the OG activists for national parks was none other than John Muir. This prolific adventurer wrote hundreds of articles and dozens of books about the natural world. He also cofounded the Sierra Club in 1892. All of this work helped the US recognize the beauty within our borders and the need to preserve it.
Q. In “Who shall I say is calling?” is who the object of say (and therefore whom would also be acceptable), or is who the subject of is (and therefore whom is wrong)? I always thought one rearranged the order of the sentence to check (“I shall say whom”).
A.Who is the subject of is. When you rearranged the order to check, you stopped too soon: “I shall say who is calling.” I is the main subject, and shall say is the main verb. The entire phrase “who is calling” is the direct object of the main verb, shall say. (If you don’t trust your ear regarding who/whom, switch to a different pronoun and it may become clear whether to use the subject or object form: “I shall say she [not her] is calling.”)
Q.We have a debate going on about the following sentence. Should there be a comma after the word states or not? Following rule 6.28 about commas before independent clauses joined by conjunctions, I believe it would. Thoughts? “The company operates in DC and all states except AK, ME, NH, NY, and RI.”
A.“Except AK, ME, etc.” is not actually an independent clause; it is a prepositional phrase. So there should be no comma after states.
We leave you with a quote to take into your weekend.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. —George Bernard Shaw
Many people just starting out as freelance editors ask us how to grow their skill set. Today we share two exercises to do just that! Play with them, and let us know how they work for you.
The Style Guide Challenge
How many of you delete a comma or add a dash because it feels right rather than because you have a specific rule in mind? Come on, raise your hand. Editing certainly takes talent because you need to understand the flow of a text and the voice of the author. However, a huge part of editing is internalizing rules. Your feelings could be spot on for taking out that comma, but you also need to know the rule (or the exception) behind the edit. You need to know the why.
One of the best ways to really understand the why (and dig into the guts of a style guide) is to use a style guide to justify every edit you make. Here’s an example using The Chicago Manual of Style.
Pick up a flyer or brochure for something local—perhaps it is for a vet’s office or perhaps it is the manifesto of the Legal King and Owner of the United States (I have one of these for realz; he wants to install a sprinkler system in the national forest).
Edit it, but for every edit you make, you must also note the rule number with your markup. If you are deleting that comma, is it because of a restrictive clause (CMS 6.22) or because the independent clause is short (CMS 6.28)?
See how often your editorial Spidey sense is in line with rules of grammar and punctuation.
The Google Translate Challenge
Sometimes you need to simplify a text as much as possible—if only for your own sake while editing to figure out where the subject and verb are and how they relate. This exercise will help you figure out the core of what the text is saying and will help you realize how complex English is. (Part of the difficulty of this exercise is that Google Translate doesn’t always do a great job, which is why translating is a profession.)
Take a sentence of English text.
Put it in Google Translate, and translate it into any other language.
Translate it back into English.
Edit the sentence and repeat steps 1–3 until you get the same sentence back that you put in.
As a warning, we have yet to encounter a sentence this works on, so let us know if you figure this puzzle out!
So there you are: two ways to beef up your relationship with editing and text. Good luck!
Today we are lucky enough to share a guest post by Matt Dembo. Thank you, Matt!
Something In-between by Matt Dembo
An amalgamation of vines engulfed a wizened hardwood
Stretching entwined from under its roots, climbing beyond its tallest surveying branch
I took pity and asked the oak if it was ‘live or dead, or perhaps something in between.
For it was encapsulated by a vigorous lush green latticework forged in the hand of a master
A piece of insightful beauty, yet apparent as a murderous conception
Its response fell short, muffled by the constriction of the unremorseful anaconda
Gorging itself as a writhing insidious parasite that has outgrown its host, soon to perish with it
Its words were lost, but I could clearly see the tree was exhausted, forcefully imprisoned
Contorted to stand erect because it had not been given permission to collapse
It too did not know the answer to my question: ‘live or dead?
For what is a state of existence encompassed by boundaries that sap your vitality
To be shaped by an imposed structure, to be fed upon by your imprisoner
Withered by one demanding your support as their pillar to the heavens
A once majestic creature now bends, stifled by the suppressions of that you endure
‘live or dead, I cannot say, nor can I comprehend
Matt grew up near D.C. but is quickly becoming a Tennessean in Knoxville. He is a dabbler of sorts, coaching and competing in Olympic Weightlifting and working as a chemist, yet appreciative of the creative arts. He grew up reading everything he could get his hands on but quickly gravitated toward writing poetry.
As we can see by the intense coverage of the Olympics, there is something fascinating and inspiring about sports. When hard work and talent combine, amazing things can happen. Perhaps we even hope to see a little of ourselves in these athletes who have overcome challenges to stand before the world stage in glory. Despite my lack of any athletic ability whatsoever, many of my friends in publishing are excellent athletes, from running to roller derby to soccer. To celebrate the 2016 games, I’ve tracked down some great sports writing quotes to keep us inspired.
“I later discovered that in order to be a good athlete one must care intensely what is happening with a ball, even if one doesn’t have possession of it. This was ultimately my failure: my inability to work up a passion for the location of balls.” ― Haven Kimmel, A Girl Named Zippy
“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ― John Bingham, No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running
“A top athlete’s beauty is next to impossible to describe directly. Or to evoke. Federer’s forehand is a great liquid whip, his backhand a one-hander that he can drive flat, load with topspin, or slice—the slice with such snap that the ball turns shapes in the air and skids on the grass to maybe ankle height. His serve has world-class pace and a degree of placement and variety no one else comes close to; the service motion is lithe and uneccentric, distinctive (on TV) only in a certain eel-like all-body snap at the moment of impact. His anticipation and court sense are otherworldly, and his footwork is the best in the game—as a child, he was also a soccer prodigy. All this is true, and yet none of it really explains anything or evokes the experience of watching this man play. Of witnessing, firsthand, the beauty and genius of his game. You more have to come at the aesthetic stuff obliquely, to talk around it, or—as Aquinas did with his own ineffable subject—to try to define it in terms of what it is not.” ― David Foster Wallace, “Federer as Religious Experience”
“The pleasure of sport was so often the chance to indulge the cessation of time itself—the pitcher dawdling on the mound, the skier poised at the top of a mountain trail, the basketball player with the rough skin of the ball against his palm preparing for a foul shot, the tennis player at set point over his opponent—all of them savoring a moment before committing themselves to action.” ― George Plimpton, Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback
“Pain? Yes, of course. Racing without pain is not racing. But the pleasure of being ahead outweighed the pain a million times over. To hell with the pain. What’s six minutes of pain compared to the pain they’re going to feel for the next six months or six decades. You never forget your wins and losses in this sport.” ― Brad Alan Lewis, Assault on Lake Casitas
Enjoy the motivational fury that is the Olympics! Happy Friday!
I learned about a new genre today: literary nonsense. And yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. Essentially this genre mixes reality with nonsensical conventions, language, or even reasoning. The immediate example is, of course, “Jabberwocky” and its home, the beloved Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. In fact, all of the Alice in Wonderland books are literary nonsense.
According to Michael Heyman and Kevin Shortsleeve (what a name!), literary nonsense is an amalgamation of nursery rhymes like “Hey Diddle, Diddle” that were often published in the mid- to late-eighteenth century as “nonsense verses” and the genre of parody and satire. In fact, since the 1600s, the word nonsense changed from meaning “no sense” to the current meaning of “absurd.” Heyman and Shortsleeve say that the most often used term for this genre, literary nonsense, doesn’t quite convey the fullness of the genre. They prefer nonsense literature or, even better, literwordsy absurdifusion. I tend to agree.
A favorite of mine in this genre is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. This book takes the playfulness of Alice and Wonderland and, following Carroll’s lead, subverts the literal. Once Milo, the main character, drives through the magic tollbooth that appeared in his bedroom, he finds places like the Island of Conclusions (which you can only get to by jumping) and people like Rhyme and Reason. The Guardian even said, “The Phantom Tollbooth is the closest thing we have to a modern Alice in Wonderland.”
The LittlePrince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,is another gem often considered to be part of this nonsense. Its beginning clues us in to not take reality at face value, as the narrator shows us a picture of what grown-ups would consider a hat. To the narrator, however, it is clearly an elephant inside a boa constrictor. (Silly grown-ups.) Shortly thereafter, we meet a prince who lives alone on his small planet with only his rose to keep him company. He travels from planet to planet, each populated by a single person, usually boring adults. It is a lovely, sad tale. And, like the other books I’ve mentioned in this genre, The Little Prince is known for its simple, but poignant illustrations.
Each of these books has a way of capturing the grotesque absurdity of childhood and turning it into a nostalgic masterpiece. Childhood is a scary and wonderful time when everything is new and the rules of the world don’t always apply.
Here’s to a nonsensical Thursday! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
The publishing world is notoriously hard to break into, not only for writers but also for editors. To become a published author, you must jump through many hoops, make the right connections, ignore the sting of wrong connections, and put your written soul out into the world. To become an editor, you must jump through many hoops, make the right connections, somehow gain experience to get an entry-level job, and constantly renew your skills.
Last night as I was driving home, I heard the NPR show MarketWatch, which happened to feature an interview with songwriter Marian Call. Call is in the process of writing new songs about how our lives relate to our work, so she tweeted a list of her first seven jobs with the hashtag #firstsevenjobs. It went viral. Continue reading “First Seven Jobs”→