Avoiding the “Teal Deer”: Too Long, Didn’t Read

Too many words...

When you ramble on too long about a topic, sometimes, the reader just won’t keep reading.
Photo by RobertG NL (Flickr)

Ever see someone comment under a post with “TL;DR”? These spammy comments pervade the Internet. The only thing more annoying than seeing a “TL;DR” comment in your feed is to see the ridiculous and out-of-fashion “First!” The comment simply conveys that instead of staying to read your meticulously written and well-thought-out piece, the audience member (usually a Reddit lurker hopped up on Monster energy drinks) thought that your article was too long to read, too verbose, too detailed to spend time actually reading it. Perhaps you’ve been pelted with this odd, rude, and unhelpful phrase. Here’s the thing:

TL;DR has absolutely nothing to do with length. Read more ›

Posted in Writing Tips

7 Mistakes That Most Spell-Checkers Won’t Find

Dictionary

Don’t rely on your spell-checker to catch everything for you: Give your copy a second read!
Photo by Michael Mandiberg (Flickr)

Sometimes, when they’re rushed, writers don’t proofread. In some instances, we simply forget. However, relying exclusively on a word processor’s spell-checker is a dangerous game. Here are seven reasons why proofreading is so important and seven mistakes that spell-checkers usually won’t find:

Misused Words

Is it supposed to be “affect” or “effect”? Should you be using “lead” or “led”? Is the museum “historic” or “historical”? Are you “ensuring” someone’s safety or “insuring” someone’s apartment? It’s important to have a grasp on which words are appropriate. Check out some of Mindy’s blog posts for more articles about misused words.

Common Apostrophe Placement Issues

We all know them, but by not proofreading, they just slip by us sometimes. Here’s a reminder of common issues:

  • Dudes, dude’s, or dudes’The first refers to more than one dude. The second is used to note one dude owning something: It’s the dude’s surfboard. The last refers to more than one dude owning something: The dudes’ surfboards sparkled in the sunlight.
  • It’s, its The rules for “it” can be a bit confusing. “It’s” means “it is”: It’s a nice day. It is a nice day. “Its” refers to the possessive of something: The college has many sports teams. Its basketball team brings in a big crowd. It’s important to use its meaning correctly.
  • There, their, they’re “There” usually refers to a place. “Their” is a possessive for them: Their thing is not our thing. “They’re” refers to the words “they” and “are”: They’re going to go get their monster over there.
  • You’re, your – “Your” is possessive. “You’re” is for “you are”: You’re great at playing your piano, but not my piano.

Most Problems with Grammar

The majority of grammar problems are not picked up by spell-checkers. These could include tense problems, misused punctuation, or misplaced modifiers. If you have a basic or working knowledge of grammar, you’ll know that no computer or software system can really grasp the English language. If a sentence sounds odd, draw out a sentence diagram. Make sure you’re consistent with your tenses and look up any problems you have with punctuation.

Incorrect Client Names or Brand Statements

If you happen to be writing for a client or a brand, it’s imperative that you spell their name and their brand statements correctly. Spell-checkers may even tell you that the name is wrong; however, a client’s needs have to come first. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to copy the spelling of a brand according to its site and requests.

Repeating Sentence Structures

This might not be a mistake. It feels like one, though. You don’t know it’s a problem. Then you read your work. The sentences sound repetitious. There’s no change of flow. Reading is more laborious. Your paragraph needs something else. The problem eludes you. However, there is a simple way to improve your paragraph: Throw in some different sentence structures. Now, doesn’t that feel better?

Incorrect Compound Words

Bed room should be bedroom, note book should be notebook, and counter attack should be counterattack. There are plenty of other examples of commonly misspelled compound words, such as altogether (which has a different meaning than all together), everyday, and awhile. Also, be aware of words that can make up a compound word in certain situations. I need to back up my hard drive because I really need a backup of those files. Also, a somewhat-related issue ties to the use of a hyphen. Hyphens can change the meaning of sentences and are usually used for compound adjectives before a noun. Ask yourself if the compound adjective you’re hyphenating is actually one word. This can create problems if you’re not careful. Is it spell checker, spell-checker, or spellchecker?

Missing Articles and Words

Most spell-checkers won’t find missing articles. There is mistake in this sentence. No, there is a mistake in this sentence. Check for missing instances of “the,” “a,” or “an.” Also check for missing conjunctions like “and,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” or “so.” Did you use an instead of and? This is possibly one of the most difficult aspects of proofreading, as the mind will sometimes automatically insert words that aren’t there. Proofreading backwards can help with this.

For more proofreading fun, check out The The Impotence of Proofreading (please be aware of strong language).

 

Posted in Writing Tips

Top 3 Books for Word Nerds

8-14

image by: David Morgan

Words can get a lot of abuse from writers. We force them into phrases out of context, stuff too many into a sentence, and even occasionally skip them altogether. Before we, our spouses, our children, or our friends head back to school this fall, let’s take a moment to stop everything and stretch out our brains. These books are some fun reads about words. They glorify the vehicle of our communication and remind us that each word, or in some cases each letter, is incredibly valuable.

Read more ›

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Posted in Fun Stuff

7 Ways To Keep Your Ego Out of the Freelance Writing Process

If you're making your writing more about you than the client or the audience, it's time to crumple it up and start again.

If you’re making your writing more about you than the client or the audience, it’s time to crumple it up and start again.
Photo by *_Abhi_* (Flickr)

Some of the best advice comes from complete hypocrites. I am definitely a hypocrite with this post. It’s almost inevitable that writers tie their egos to their work, whether it be fiction, adaptation, nonfiction, or just small articles. This post is about how to recognize negative emotions and unrealistic expectations so that you can avoid emotional pitfalls and be the best freelance writer possible. Read more ›

Posted in Freelancing

Extra, Extra! Spread the Word With Press Releases

Newspaper racks

If you want the media to help spread the news about your big event, discovery, or product, you have to start with a good press release.
Photo by George Kelly (Flickr)

During the course of your writing career, you might find yourself needing to share news about a company, product, or event. One great place to get some potential free publicity is from the news media — write a good press release, send it out, and you might find that they’ll publish or broadcast your announcement or even cover it themselves as a full-on news story.

The first thing you’ll want to consider when you’re thinking about writing a press release is your audience. Is this something that would fit in nicely in your local newspaper or on a local radio or TV station broadcast? Or would your news be more welcome to a niche audience covered by a magazine or trade publication? Who’s going to want to know about what you have to say? Keep this in mind when deciding whether to write a press release and where to send it.

Once you’ve figured out where you want to send your news, it’s time to sit down and write about it. This is where it gets a little tricky: News stories aren’t usually written like your typical essay or work of fiction. They have a different structure, and you’ll want to try to write your press release as much like an actual news story as you can to improve the odds that it will actually get published or broadcast. Journalists can be busy people, and the less work they have to do to turn your press release into something that fits their outlet’s rules, the more likely it is that they’ll pick it up. Read more ›

Posted in Writing Tips