Tag Archives: spell check

Vanity fair

I read. A lot. In fact, I consider life an interruption of my reading. So it will come as no surprise that I own a Kindle. Okay, okay I own two. And the newer one calls itself, very snarkily I might add, my ‘2nd Kindle’. It has an attitude because its predecessor committed suicide due to overwork. RIP my first Kindle, RIP. I’ll never forget you.

I mostly own a Kindle (or two) because I ran out of bookshelves and walls to put them on. But making the transition from paper to ebooks wasn’t easy. At first it was terribly exciting being able to download the classics for free and look up any author I could think of. Then I strayed into the badlands. Otherwise known as self-published works.

There are lots of people out there who refer to themselves as ‘indie authors’ and they are the self-publishers of a new generation of bad writers. In the old days, if you couldn’t get published you’d have to pay a Vanity Press to print your book so you could flog it to the public. But now that anyone with a computer can sell an ebook it’s a whole new ballgame. A game that’s mostly being played by people with no natural talent or skill, and absolutely no training.

The best thing about the printing press is that everyone and their dog couldn't just foist a book on the world.

The best thing about the printing press was that everyone and their dog couldn’t just foist a book on the world.

Just this morning I read the following in the sample of a book called Switch (New World Series) by Janelle Stalder that I downloaded from Amazon:

‘A shiver ran down her spine at the cold, calculated expression on his face, the power he exuberated with just the way he held himself.’

Exuberated isn’t even a word. So it comes up on spell check. I know, right? A little further on I came across this gem:

‘When she glanced up at him for a second, she saw his eyes sweeping back up, unhurriedly, as if he’d been pursuing her body from head to toe.’

Alrighty then!

Now before you think I am an indie-author hater, let me clarify that I am a fan of several, including Linsday Buroker and JL Bryan. I happily pay for their books. What I refuse to spend money on are badly written, poorly edited, self-published travesties. Everyone may have a book in them but most people need a ghostwriter to get it down in a readable format.

If this self-publishing lark continues unchecked we will be left with a generation that won’t ever have read a real novel. It’s the equivalent of never having heard a real singer because you’ve only ever been exposed to karaoke. I’m talking drunken, off-key karaoke where none of the lyrics are sung correctly. Which is pretty much the only way I know how to do it. You don’t even want to know about the one and only time I got my hands on Band Hero. Let’s just say I’ve never been allowed near one again.

This cover of a Penguin edition of Vanity Fair by William Thackeray perfectly illustrates the state of self-publishing today.

This cover of a Penguin edition of Vanity Fair by William Thackeray could be illustrating the free-for-all that is self-publishing today.

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Blondes don’t have more fun

I am currently a blonde. And it turns out that gentleman don’t really prefer them, nor do blondes actually have more fun. I’ll tell you what blondes do have: high hairdressing bills. I am in that salon every three weeks like clockwork. They have me on a rotation of dyeing techniques and tricks so I don’t walk around with a black-rooted mess of yellowing straw on my head.

And we all know what they have in the hairdresser’s. Lots of magazines. Now I work in magazines but apart from checking out the direct competition I really only read them in the hairdresser’s. Well you don’t expect a chef to cook the weeknight dinner do you? Busman’s holiday, much?

I get my fill of gossip and girlie mags while I’m waiting for the bleach to cook or the treatment to work or for that blasted heat contraption to do its thing.

And the other day I was rewarded with one of the best typos I have seen in awhile. It came from one of Australia’s oldest and most revered weekly women’s mags and it was a doozy. A perfect example of two words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. And because the word that was incorrectly used is a real word, no amount of spell checking will  detect the error.

Check out the paragraph in bold font below and see if you can spot it. Answer is in the caption.

Cypress is a type of tree. Cyprus is where moguls and models go sailing.

Cypress is a type of tree. Cyprus is where moguls and models go sailing.

Office cake rage

I’m sure everyone is familiar with that Seinfeld episode where Elaine is raging about office cake. You know the one, Elaine can’t stand having to celebrate and eat cake at the drop of hat. Or rather at the drop of a birthday, promotion, pregnancy, the fact it’s Tuesday etc etc.

She doesn’t care for it, is very vocal about it then does terrible things once she renounces it only to fall prey to mid-afternoon sugar withdrawals.

Well I, too, get Office Cake Rage. But not because we have cake too often. My team is pretty good about cake and we limit it to birthdays and leaving dos. The amount of chocolate consumed when we’re on deadline is another matter entirely.

Nor does my rage stem from the fact that I don’t actually like cake. Not the fancy kind anyway. There is nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned sponge cake. You can keep all of those tortes and tarts and anything else with a silly name. I eat sponge. My team knows it and while I wouldn’t say they respect it, allowances are made. At birthday time they pass around the red velvet, flour-less chocolate, triple cheesecake or whatever it is they eat and I enjoy a $4 sponge from the local Coles. And don’t think that I’m the only one eating that sponge either.

So why the Office Cake Rage? It’s all to do with how people indicate the size of their slice. I worked with one gentleman who would very properly ask for ‘a lady’s finger’. That means a small slice. I’ll tell you what doesn’t mean a small slice, the word SLITHER.

Snakes slither. And that’s pretty much all the dictionary has to say about the word. When someone asks you how big a slice of cake you want, DO NOT SAY ‘slither’. If you only want a little piece, ask for a SLIVER.

Office Cake Rage is a growing problem in our work places and has the potential to be more damaging than Road Rage because blood sugar is involved. Do your bit and sliver don’t slither.

This may not be a sliver of cake but it's definitely not a slither of anything.

This may not be a sliver of cake as it’s too big but it sure as heck is definitely not a slither of anything.

What is a subeditor?

A friend recently sent me an article about the top 10 jobs parents don’t understand.

It was, unsurprisingly, called 10 Jobs That Are Impossible To Explain To Your Parents.

Being a subeditor was number five. Only they called it a ‘Sub Editor’.

It’s really not such a mystery. Here’s what the dictionary on my computer has to say:

Dictionary definition of term 'sub edit'

The dictionary definition of ‘sub edit’ from my Mac.

A subeditor, sub editor or sub-editor is there to make sure that what goes to print is grammatical, true to house style, in line with the voice of the publication, accurate, factual, well written, comprehensible, spelled correctly, matches the pictures, has the correct page number and footer plus picture credits and byline.

Oh, and most of those snappy headlines and suck-you-in-to-the-story intros and helpful captions. They write those too.

So, not a lot of work then. God knows why those grammar nazis complain, they’re just human spell checkers right?

Wrong, a subeditor has to be a writer, researcher, fact checker, grammarian and diplomat all rolled into one.

Plus they have to have a lot of general knowledge and common sense. There’s no point in making sure a sentence is free of typos if it says something that is complete nonsense.

Like the time I let the words ‘300 cups of milk’ in a recipe go to print. Hey I was tired, it was late and the last recipe in a booklet stuck onto the cover at the last minute. The problem? Seeing 300 on its own doesn’t raise any flags. It’s a real number plus it shows up in recipes all the time with ml or grams after it. See how easy it is to slip up? That’s why we need subeditors.

And the diplomacy part? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most people who get paid to do so can’t write. Also, they are in denial about it. But even the good writers need smoothing down sometimes when their stuff gets chopped, changed or canned.

Two easy spelling tricks

I get that the English language is hard to spell. I really do. In fact, it’s so tricky that the Americans long ago decided to abolish a whole lot of vowels to make it easier.

So they say that you have a neighbor not a neighbour with a ‘u’, and that you wrap leftovers in aluminum foil not aluminium with an ‘i’.

And while I know Australian and British spelling can be challenging it isn’t impossible.

Here are the tricks I have used to teach people how to spell and use four common words.

1. It’s STATIONERY if you are talking about the stuff you write letters on. The trick is that stationery has an ‘e’ like an envelope. It’s STATIONARY if you are talking about not moving. The trick is that it has an ‘a’ as in standing still.

2. Speaking of ENVELOPE, it’s what you put a letter into. When you describe being surrounded by darkness or wrapped in a cloak it is ENVELOP, and you pronounce it differently because it doesn’t have an ‘e’ on the end.

Happy spelling!

vintage envelope

An envelope has an ‘e’ on the end which is also how you spell ‘stationery’.

Zombie gate

Remember playing Charades as a kid? Acting out a film or book title to the merciless heckling of your siblings?

Well that’s how I remember it anyway.

There was one rule of the game that I always found particularly useful. The one that allows you to tug on your ear, making everyone shout ‘sounds like’, then act out a rhyming word.

Well sometimes it seems like everyone is utilising the ‘sounds like’ rule in their writing. And it’s not just self-published e-book authors (and I use that term extremely loosely) who are guilty of this, although they are the worst offenders, but online journos too.

Here are three I’ve seen a lot of recently:

1. Your nerves are stretched TAUT not TAUGHT, which is that thing they did to you at school.

2. A zombie has a shambling GAIT not GATE, which is that thing that lets you through a fence.

3. Lots of people is a HORDE not HOARD, which is that thing your mum does with useless crap.

These zombies don't have a shambling gait.

These zombies don’t have a shambling gait.