Typ0s: Part Deux

I have posted about Typ0s before. Now I am talking about it on Radio Shows!

Error Free Resumes By Terri Lively and Cady Chesney

Hope this helps you catch those elusive Typ0s today.

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John Oliver AND Cookie Monster: Two Great Things Even Greater Together!

 

Be sure to catch the outtakes at the end for the funniest part!

Do You Dangle?

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In high school, there was a group of boys that I knew who would always say, “Can I dangle for your delight?” This phrase was often followed by bouts of boyish giggling as they all enjoyed their wit, referring to their favorite part of their anatomy in a silly bit of almost alliterative humor. My reaction was usually to roll my eyes and make a hasty exit from their general area before anyone actually dangled anything.

But years later, I still hear their boyish proposition every time my prose results in a dangling preposition. I see my for, out, before, or in hanging there, precariously perched at the end of my phrase construction, peering over the ledge of poor grammar, dangling for my delight.

So I do what any respectable writer would do: I fix it. However, I find that many times it my correction sounds way too formal.

There is no question that in speech we dangle prepositions all the time in regular speech. It’s so natural an occurrence in American English that as a writer, it almost seems unnatural when you correct it. For example, in the post I was just writing for my client my sentence originally read:

Some people actually have taste buds that are especially receptive to the bitter taste some vegetables are known for.

Which I then corrected to:

Some people actually have taste buds that are especially receptive to the bitter taste for which some vegetables are known.

I know the second sentence is better writing. But if I’m honest, it also sounds a little stiff. Since this particular blog post is for a doctor, I suppose that stiff and formal isn’t exactly the wrong tone. But I can’t help but think when I read this that maybe an occasional dangling preposition isn’t exactly the worst crime in the grammar realm.

Which sentence would you use? What do you think about dangling prepositions: Is it a grammar rule that needs to be broken? Tell me, when it comes to dangling prepositions, where are you at?

In 1984, AtariWriter Made it Easier to Be a Better Writer

When sifting through some memorabilia, I found an article in a yellowed edition of an old magazine that really made me realize how far technology has come for writers. Consider this ad from  “Home” magazine by the Los Angeles Times from July 22, 1984. 

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I will pause here so you can get as big a kick out of this as I did… 

The AtariWriter was a cartridge that you inserted into your console that used your TV as a monitor. It was connected through your ATARI Home Computer. Not only was this really high tech for 1984, but it also numbered your pages for you, automatically. I mean, with features like this it really is no wonder that their tagline was, “Discover What You and ATARI Can Do.”

 After I recovered from the fit of laughter and my breathless sprint around the house to try to explain (incoherently) the source of my mirth to my patient and bemused husband, I really appreciated how lucky I am to be a writer today in the time of computers.

 When I look at the pull quotes from this ad, I am especially grateful. Things like:

  • “Spend more time writing, no time retyping.” Holy typewriter ribbons, Batman! Retyping?  One of the big selling points of this cutting edge technology is that you could perfect your writing on your TV screen, before (they underlined the before in the ad…) you put it on paper.

 

  • “Not a word touches paper until you’re sure it’s right.” Holy tree cutting, Batman! They put their writing on paper?

 

  • “AtariWriter makes it easier to be a better writer.” Atari did a lot of things for me growing up. It entertained me on snowy afternoons in the Midwest. It taught me the futility of trying to defend my city from the onslaught of Nuclear attack with the dreary game Missile Command.  It helped me exploit the natural double joint in my knobby thumbs with its medieval joystick. But making me a better writer? I honestly never considered the possibilities there. 

 

  • “Are you a miserable speller?”  You could add a 36,000-word ATARI Proofreader program and it will find your errors for you. I wonder if it (unlike Word) could point out when I typed form that I really meant from…

 

  • “Stop by your Atari Dealer today.” I was alive in 1984. I was…well, let’s just say I was old enough to remember 1984 pretty clearly. I honestly don’t remember the Atari Dealership. But it does create some pretty interesting images in my mind. I see wild-eyed video game junkies sporting calloused thumbs and faded Star Trek t-shirts crowded around consoles getting intense over the new version of Pong.

All jokes aside, this article made me realize how lucky I am to be a writer when we take all this revision on the screen stuff for granted. I have already revised and edited this piece about 10 times by the time I typed this sentence. It would have been an enormous pain to type it, correct it, read it, mark it up, and type it again 10 times. I am guessing that many of my posts would be abandoned around draft 3…

 Consider the technology of the greats, as well. Poor Hemingway…no wonder he drank! But at least he had a typewriter; some of them had quills. Don’t you respect Charles Dickens and his verbose tomes so much more when you consider that he had to draft them with a goose feather? And what about Homer? Didn’t he have to use a chisel? I can only imagine how hard it was for him when he misspelled one of those Greek names, which based on the amount of letters and the complications of their language had to occur on a line-by-line basis.

I even feel bad for Alan Alda, the smiling celebrity spokesman of the AtariWriter.

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He’s smiling, but please note that his nose is buried in that user manual. His endorsement quote says, “You get to spend your energy on ideas rather than typing.” He may have been able to spend his energy on ideas rather than typing, but I doubt he’s spending any cash that he made on his percentage from this piece of equipment.

 We can surely all be better writers with all the technology we have at our fingertips. We no longer need “the sophisticated ATARI 1040 Disk Drive” to save our work for future use, we have hard drives, clouds, or drop boxes. If we need to print a copy for an aging relative or a stubborn editor, then we hit print and forget it. Heck, I can even play Pac Man on my computer if I really am hankering for a little 80s video game nostalgia.

So in honor of Atari, Dickens, and Alda, spend more time writing today and no time retyping. Revel in the fact that the pioneers at Atari paved the way for you to revise as you go on your monitor.  And please, for goodness sakes, please make sure “Not a word touches paper until you’re sure it’s right.”

 

Word Spelling and Grammar Check: NOT a Ticket to be Grammatically Lazy

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We’ve all been there…using the spell and grammar check option on Word when it makes a suggestion that we know to be wrong. When I say wrong I mean as in I’ve-Known-That-Rule-Since-The-First-Grade kind of wrong.

When this happens to me, I choose the ignore option but the last thing I do is ignore it. This mistake by a resource I have trusted has just let me down and I will spiral with worry and self-doubt for the better part of the next 15 minutes, wondering how many times I hit “change” when Word was just plain mistaken.

 

The truth is that as a writer, you can’t rely on Word to catch all your mistakes. You have to know the rules. Period. It’s kind of your job. As a professional writer there is simply no excuse for not having the skills necessary to write a coherent piece with correct grammar at least 90% of the time. 

 

Think about it. What do you think about the author when you read a grammatical mistake? Are you lost in the story and the journey you are taking with the characters? No! You are distracted. Grammatical errors are extra noise in the minds of our already distracted readers. In a world where a short attention span is more common than the f-word in “The Wolf of Wall Street”, the last thing you want to do is give your reader a reason to be distracted.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. I have a few grammatical blunders that I have published. Here are some of my favorites:

  • In a recent blog post, I changed the first sentence midway through but forgot to delete the original sentence, leaving behind a phrase that made gobbledy gook look like the work of William Shakespeare. The result was that my husband pointed it out when I asked him to read it after about many people had already viewed it from my regular readers. 

 

  • I once wrote “minimalist sheik” to describe my gardening aesthetic. No, I wasn’t referring to anyone in the Middle East. Clearly, not my best moment. 

 

  • I regularly find tense switching in my drafts. This is a result of working off an outline that I wrote as I am seeing the story in my head where I favor present tense. But usually when I write stories, I have them take place in the recent past. So this can create some really awesome passages that have both tenses combined. As in, “Stevie is reaching toward the sky while he moaned in his sleep,” or some other masterful prose like that.

 

 

I am more forgiving of typos. These buggers elude the best proofing eyes. Even when a person reads a piece backwards and out loud, they can miss a glaring error. The difference between this and a grammatical error is that a typo is an accident and a grammatical error is on purpose. 

 

Years ago in college, I argued with my music theory professor that the rules he was teaching me in class were regularly broken by composers for pieces that I knew. He had an awesome response for me. He said, “You have to learn the rules first so that when you break them, you are doing it on purpose.”

 

This applies to grammar, too. I have a rule I break usually once or twice in a piece regarding sentence fragments. As you know, a sentence fragment is a phrase that lacks a subject and a verb. This is taught in the first grade. These days, it might be taught as early as Kindergarten or even an over-reaching preschool. But I would argue that a well-placed sentence fragment could have a lot of comedic impact for a piece. It is important, however, that this isn’t overused. Then, it just reads as poor grammar. 

 

As a professional writer, I hope that you will take the time to learn the rules of your language. It is the least you can do to support the words that tell your stories and create the worlds that you invent in the minds of your readers. Honor and respect them by using them properly. 

 

PS. I checked this piece 10, 000 times for any errors. Please lord, let there not be one here when I publish it.