Okay, something very simple. The eight parts of speech – here’s a reminder, folks:
1. Nouns. 2. Verbs. 3. pronouns. 4. adjectives. 5. adverbs. 6. conjunctions. 7. prepositions. 8. interjections.
The darling semi-colon is sadly going out of fashion, but I do love a semi-colon when used in the right place. It is often misused, however; some writers aren’t quite sure what to do with it and some have a prejudice against it and shy away.
The sweetie semi is heavier than a comma, but less heavy than a full stop. It is handy for separating two sentences that could stand independently with a full stop between them, but are somewhat closely connected in sense. And when you have long lists of items, I like to use a semi-colon to separate them to make it easier for the reader to absorb the information.
I posted this a while ago. But thought it worth posting again.
Grammatical knowledge or technique – the ‘hardware’ of editing – represents only part of the whole process. Editing is not entirely about objective analysis; subjective preferences play a role as well.
For instance, some editors loathe certain treatments of words. United States or USA or U.S. or US are just different styles; all are correct, but most editors will have a preference. Of course, a personal preference will be secondary to an existing publishing company’s house style. I have a prejudice against the em dash – I prefer its more dashing cousin: the en dash!
Then there’s the ‘inner ear’, a subtle skill that comes from experience. I think of it as the syntax or cadence that language possesses – it has its own soothing rhythm that an experienced ear is attuned to. A good editor will instinctively ‘know’ that there’s a missing beat and they’ll recommend ways to find it.
Not to be ignored, an editor will always embrace the fact that the book is the author’s ‘baby’. Recommendations need to be gentle in delivery but firm in reasoning.
The Independent Clause
Here’s a useful writing tip:
Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause. For example:
“The early pioneers have disappeared, and the story of the early years of the country can no longer be constructed.”
Toad in the Hole
For my fellow lovers of grammar, let’s talk about the difference between simple nouns and compound nouns. (When was the last time you heard those expressions?)
You guessed it: Toad in the Hole is an example of a compound noun (it’s the unappealing meal, by the way). A simple noun would be ‘chocolate’ – now that’s one of my favourite foods. Simple nouns consist of one word only and compound nouns consist of more than one word.
Over or More than?
Fast becoming one of my pet editorial hates is the misuse of ‘over’ instead of ‘more than’. Do not use ‘over’ with numbers except when you are referring to the age of a person. For instance, ‘She was over 40’ is fine. But ‘They worked over 40 days on the project’ is not. It should be ‘They worked more than 40 days on the project’.
TAKE A BREATH
Business writing must be succinct and to the point. What it doesn’t have to be is burdened down with long, ‘breathless’ sentences. A paragraph of 10 lines or more without a sentence break is a frequent occurrence that I come across in my work.
Business writers: your subject matter is by its nature dense and intense; you can make it more understandable if your paragraph construction is built properly. Please remember that your reader has to come up for some oxygen sometime or other. We can absorb more information with an ‘oxygenated’ brain, so it’s best to break up those long-winded sentences.
I’m pleased to mention that I have again been asked to be a judge for the ‘Lizzies’, the annual Microsoft IT Journalism Awards, recognising excellence in IT media and journalism throughout Australia and New Zealand in 2012. The category I’m judging is ‘Best Magazine’.
A while ago I wrote a post on the importance of good succession planning for any business, no matter what size. Another major point is to have a ‘blow-by-blow’ status document of particular projects the exiting person is working on, not just a general overview of tasks. For example, if it is a magazine, each component on the flatplan needs to have a status document with relevant contacts. Is the story commissioned; who is writing it; what is the deadline; has it client approval; and so on. The new employee who is then responsible for completing a publication knows exactly what has been done and what needs to be done. The result: a smooth transition; no unnecessary stress; and a happy client.