Tag Archives: writing

The Bond Between Writers & Editors 

Let me say, first and foremost, I feel more comfortable saying I’m an editor. Perhaps because I feel judged (even by myself) when I say I’m a writer. It’s an “artsy-fartsy” career– no one makes money writing, right?

 In my heart, I’m a writer; in my head, I’m an editor.

As editor and contributor to Modern Agriculture Magazine, I was asked to speak before the Professional Writers Association of Canada (Fraser Valley chapter) about the relationship between editor and writer. I tried to provide perspective from both sides of the desk, even though they are two very different jobs.

Since 2010, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and editor, and social media manager. I came across an ad for a proofreader for Modern Agriculture Magazine in 2014 and, despite my complete lack of experience in farming or  growing anything other than mould, I applied and got the gig.

Getting a Magazine to Print

I love the grass roots way in which Modern Agriculture Magazine began. In 2013 a small group of students in the agriculture department at the University of the Fraser Valley shared the same view about agriculture publications as one of their teachers: not enough hyper-local interest stories or communication about all the exciting new tech and innovation in the ag sector that they were learning about in class. It was suggested  they start their own publication, and so they surged ahead with that raw courage of youth.

Over the past few years, it has been submissions from writers and suggestions and feedback from readers that has directed the layout and content of Modern Ag Mag. The magazine was created with the farming community in mind, but we now want producers, retailers, distributors and consumers to feel they are gaining valuable, relevant information about food and the ag industry.

The magazine produces four issues a year focusing on local farming stories as well as global innovations in agriculture. Though submissions come in from around the world, the publishers have always preferred to use the talents of local writers with expertise in agriculture and horticulture.

My role with the magazine slowly morphed and grew, and now I might perform the roles of structural editor, line editor, managing editor, writer and proofreader. Traditional publishing houses or larger magazines have distinct titles with specific tasks attached to those titles. Smaller publications have less positions but the same tasks, so the lines between tasks are necessarily blurred.

Titles like Managing Editor, Feature Editor, Editor-in-Chief, Substantive Editor, Publisher, Manager, Director, and departments within the publication: Publishing, Design, Acquisitions, Sales, and Editorial can be an overwhelming hierarchy, but with our little magazine we have a small staff and eventually writers and advertisers get to know our whole team.

If a writer submits work to a larger magazine publisher, they might be working with several editors at different stages and might never work with the proofreaders—the last people to see the work before going to print.

It’s truly a team effort to get an issue of Modern Agriculture published. We are each other’s sounding board, support system, and will step into each role as required without stepping on toes—and that in itself is the key to a successful issue. Respect and politeness go a long way when you’re working with a small team and tight deadlines.

Gurtaj Sandhu was one of the original publishers of the magazine, so he has had input in all departments, but now can focus his energy on advertising as Sales Manager. He also coordinates meetings and our attendance at industry events as the publisher’s representative.

Amanda Thind is our Manager or Managing Editor and she oversees each issue and is the go between for writers, me (the Editor), and our Creative Director. She handles the accounts payable/receivable, the publication schedule, the final proof and the quality of the print. She also is in communication with most of our regular contributors and in touch with all levels of the ag community and resources for stories.

Our Creative Director, Karin Nelson, worked with the original publishing team on the design of the magazine and often shares her opinion on the content and direction we are going. Her artistic, creative mind allows for a different perspective and she contributes to the tone of the magazine.

The Role of an Editor

For me, the self-judgement that goes on sometimes when I write is non-existent when I have on my editor’s hat. As writers, we all know we can be our own worse critics. I think that’s why I have a delicate touch when it comes to editing the work of others, because I truly understand how personal it can feel when your creation comes under scrutiny.

Editors are analytical rather than artistic. As the editor and proofreader for the magazine, I am able to be critical without being cruel, and encouraging without being emotional.

As an editor,  I have to be efficient and focus on correct copy. I need a certain confidence, stubbornness and a critical eye. Sometimes a writer and I will enthusiastically disagree with a change to the work—but that’s rare. We are all working together with one goal which is to produce a quality magazine and educate and inform readers.

But with any disagreement, if the piece is needed and there’s a deadline looming, it’s time to get real. For me, it’s a balance between considering the feelings of others, the reasons the article has to be altered, and will the end result justify the battle over word choice or a punctuation mark. The relationship I’m building with a writer is more important than what I view as a “perfect article”. The writer’s name is on the work, after all.

Disagreeing with an Editor

If you really believe your work has suffered due to a change, bring the issue up with the editor. The best way to approach your editor is to say, “I’d really like to understand the reason behind the change in case it’s something that comes up in the future.” If the editor can make a case for the edits, then you have learned something. If not, then the editor might decide the change wasn’t really necessary. Now, you’re working as a team, and future issues, hopefully, will be easier to address.

That being said, writers (myself included) have to remember that editors are not there to be mean or unreasonable. They are doing an important job and might even be able to offer an unbiased view of your work that will make you a better writer, or at the very least be more open to criticism.

It might be that you realize you hate this person and just cannot work with them anymore. This is also helpful. If an editor isn’t supportive, open to suggestions, willing to listen and respectful of the work, time to move on.

Get Paid for Writing

If you submit work to a publication on spec, hoping to be hired for future work, I suggest you send your rate with the submission with the understanding that you will be paid. It is your job as a writer to make this clear, because if a magazine can get your work for free, they will! It’s not illegal, as far as I know, not to pay a writer who sends in unsolicited work.

State that you have submitted the work for consideration and ask who you send your invoice to should your work be chosen. Contracts are not used with our magazine, and there hasn’t been a problem so far, but if you’re new to a publication I suggest you at least ask about contracts or have one ready to send if you feel you need that assurance.

Editors should be open to receiving queries from writers. IF they’re not, then that’s just surprising . . . and odd, because after all, the content supply needs to keep flowing.

I always welcome questions, story suggestions and submissions. We might not always use them, or even get back to you. This is just because of the volume we sometimes get or our busy schedules. It’s not a rebuff, and please don’t take it personally. I would invite you to send another email or message me, or even phone me. Then I can apologize profusely for my scatter brain and it might result in me asking you to write an article cos I feel so guilty.

Can Writers Submit to More Than One Publication?

Writers own their work and they have copyright and it’s their intellectual property, but editors have control over how the work is presented in its final form. Though you own the work, it is – of course – best practice to have your work paid for and printed in one published medium at a time. Many editors don’t accept previously published work – unique and fresh is preferred, and magazines don’t want to get embroiled in conflicts over articles.

We will accept older work if it is still relevant and can be altered enough not to be recognized by readers. Sometimes magazines will ask a writer to sign a contract, promising not to publish their work in any other medium for a year or so after printing. This means NOT in print, online, in an anthology, or on your website. This is just good practice. You want to build a reputation as a writer, and loyalty to each publication is paramount.

How to Build on Your Writer-Editor Relationship

It’s important to have an original voice, a perspective when you write, and though it’s good to be able to write on any subject, it helps to focus on what interests you as a writer and become the expert in that field. You become the go-to person for that subject when an editor is looking for a writer for a topic.

We DO appreciate when writers share their articles or snippets of the article leading back to our website on their social media channels and help spread the word about our free subscription – the more subscribers, the more ads we can attract, and the more writers we can hire.

We include bylines with our articles, a contributors page with short bios about the writers and links to websites so we can help promote you as a writer. Just don’t start charging us more when you become famous!

Of course, the most important way to build trust with an editor, is:

  • Send them a bottle of wine — just kidding, really it’s…
  • Meet deadlines no matter what!

Deadlines are terrifying to editors and managing editors. The expected article doesn’t arrive . . . and the magazine layout is affected as the editor, managing editor, publisher, and designer scramble to choose a suitable article in the files, or have to contact another writer to whip something together just in case, or the editor now has to drop everything to write something to fit. Pages might need rearranging, new images sourced, the contents page and contributor pages and cover are affected — and the last weeks or days before files go to print are stressful enough without that added burden.

What Happens After Submitting an Article?

When we receive an article, we expect it to be as close to perfect as possible. We want it to be one hundred percent original, have been thoroughly researched, fact-checked and contain accurate quotes. If you don’t already record your interviews, I would suggest you start. Digital recorders are inexpensive and you can store digital files of interviews if sources or quotes need to be checked. Biggest tip – extra batteries! Those suckers burn through batteries.

If material is referenced, we would appreciate tables, graphs and charts to back it up and use with permission. Images are so important, and if a writer can ask the person they are interviewing for photos to include in the article – that is stellar! It means we don’t have to try and find images to represent the article, or bother interviewees ourselves, but have access to approved images from the source.

Basically, any sources or information you have to help support what you’ve written should be submitted along with the article. Editors try to fact check, but we don’t have access to your recordings or online research you did, so make sure everything is accurate and if you think it would be helpful, include links to websites or publications used as references.

After an article reaches me and it’s ready for insertion into the magazine, I proofread it. I generally won’t get back to the writer once I have the article . . . I will only make small edits for spelling, verb tense, or grammar etc. if necessary, on which the writer need not be consulted.

If the writer requests that I send edited copy to them, I will . . . but not for debate. If there are significant changes required, I would let the writer know and send a revised copy for their approval. Reasons for big changes usually have to do with space, but there have been times when a lot of structural editing was required, and I want to share that with the writer so they have the changes for future reference. They may want to submit a tweaked version to another publication down the road, and any corrections I make might help them with that submission.

It may just have been that we made a list of points into bullets for easier reading, or shortened sentences or added subheadings to break up a longer piece. Sometimes headings are added or changed to create a hook. I tend to be a sucker for alliteration or a pun – cheesy but fun!

Timeline of a magazine from planning to print

We gather the team together up to a year prior to plan a few issues ahead, consider each season, make educated guesses as to what will be in vogue, review past issues and what topics need to be revisited, sketch out a rough list of articles and potential writers. We plan the cover—to suit the season, but also leave room for developing stories or advertisers that want to pay for a cover.

The printing house needs at least five weeks heads up that we are sending print files, and they need to receive print files about roughly 2-3 weeks before expected print date.

We asked writers to submit articles for the January issue by mid November at the latest. That gave us a month to coordinate articles, edit, do layout, source images and finalize cover and proofread a few times before print files went to the printer. So we started handing out article assignments in September for the January issue.

We like to try and give our writers a month or two to conduct research and interviews, and write the articles. We like a bit of a cushion because we are all part-time freelancers and we need to work the magazine schedule in with our other jobs and responsibilities. Every issue can be a little different, but those deadlines, once set, have to be kept – the health and sanity of our Creative Director hangs upon it.

Queries, Questions & Quick Tips

It really is best for freelancers to research reputable publications, or submit to ones recommended by a fellow writer, and if you’re hired for a series of articles, make sure you’re paid immediately for the first before submitting any more—or get signatures on a contract.

You can request a style guide or submission guidelines from a publication, and these can often be found on the publication’s website. This can be a good way to make that first introduction as a writer. And if you are a regular contributor, following a style guide saves some time for the editor.

Though, I find it’s just easier for me to make any necessary style changes to freelance work as I go, as some writers are submitting work to several places, and it isn’t feasible to try and match different style requirements as each magazine will follow their own.

How do Writers & Editors Connect?

Places I’ve connected with potential contributors:

  • Writing and editing association meetings or events
  • The Pacific Ag Show or Horticulture Shows
  • Industry events and media gatherings – news releases
  • The BC Tech Summit
  • SRCTec open houses
  • I receive queries through my editor@modernag email, my business website, LinkedIn, or other social channels

We’ve also found writers on:

  •  UPwork Freelancer, or PWAC or similar freelance sites
  • Online: If you have a strong online presence with sample works on your website and links to articles online, you’re much more likely to be contacted for your services.
  • 100 Best Websites for Writers 2017 (from The Write Life)

If you are looking to write for a particular magazine, I suggest stalking them. Research their style, the subjects they cover, attend events they might attend, share what they publish, be visible and ready to introduce yourself and talk about what you’ve written (and where you are published).

Don’t be shy—I always hold back as a writer. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t take that first step—advice I still struggle with.

So, I wish you all good luck with your writing, and I want to invite your questions below or you can email me.

The 12th and FINAL Blog of Christmas

web pic with christmas tree 2Now for our FINAL post for the 12 Blogs of Christmas from the organizer himself, Martin Crosbie.

In a press release, Amazon called Martin Crosbie one of their success stories of 2012. His self-publishing journey has been chronicled in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. He’s the author of six books including the Kindle Scout winner “The Dead List – A John Drake Mystery”.

Martin was born in the Highlands of Scotland and currently makes his home just outside Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada.

HERE IS MARTIN’S BLOG POST:

Last year on the night after Christmas, even though it had been an exceptionally busy day, I drove a car-load of family members around the streets of our town. For two and a half hours we drove up and down roads searching out the brightest, most illuminating lights on people’s houses and lawns. My eighty-six year old passenger in the back seat, wrapped in a blanket and clutching a mug of hot chocolate, smiled the whole time and asked me pull over and look at every light on every street. Two days later we took her into hospital and three weeks after that we lost her.

Doreen Clark was diagnosed with cancer when she was thirty years old. It was a form of cancer that took ninety-five percent of its victims. She beat it. In the following fifty-six years she lost a kidney, suffered heart failure, lost the ability to walk without a walker and overcame it all. She beat everything that was thrown at her. Some people are resilient, she was more than that. She was unbreakable…Click here to read more…

To read the 12 Blogs of Christmas from the beginning, CLICK HERE.

The 11th Blog of Christmas

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When I was asked to participate in 12 Blogs of Christmas, I was thrilled. Not because it was about Christmas–which is awesome, but because I would be motivated to share a story each day. I hope you enjoyed all the posts by other writers and have a wonderful Christmas Season!

Here is my contribution for December 23rd, the 11th Blog of Christmas. And before you ask, there’s nuthin about 11 pipers piping!..

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My Christmas Mystery Man

There is a certain magic I experience right at midnight every Christmas Eve. The entire world seems to pause and the air is different somehow. I relax completely, despite the recent whirlwind of activity over the past few days and the maelstrom which is to come Christmas morning and continue until New Year. My spine tingles with anticipation as the hour and minute hands join; I almost want to cheer, “It’s here, it’s here!” I look forward to it every year. I cannot recall ever going to bed earlier than midnight on that auspicious night— especially as a child, as I waited for sounds of bells and scraping hooves on the roof.

When my son and daughter were young, it was the same performance each Christmas Eve; I knew my cues perfectly and waited until I heard regular breathing through my daughter’s bedroom door. She was always last to fall asleep. Her father had been the first.

I collect the presents hidden under my bed, in closets, above bookcases and wedged between storage containers. I tiptoe towards the tree with an armful of brightly papered boxes with colour-coordinated bows (and extra tape) . . . then freeze as the ball of my foot puts pressure on that squeaky floorboard I’d forgotten about in my excitement. I imagine the cracking of wood sending shudders through the hall, and under the beds of my sleeping children, jarring them awake.

“Mama? What are you doing? Did Santa come already?” they would whisper as they rubbed the sleep from their eyes. Christmas ruined! But my racing heart slows and I let out a breath as I chase that image from my head. The children sleep on.

I lay each present just so, hoping the end result looks haphazard and not carefully strategized so the best gifts are near the back of the tree.

I finally ease myself quietly into my chair, sip on a glass of something laced with alcohol and breathe in the air which is almost vibrating with energy; and yet, there is a peace and eternal stillness about this evening that reaches on forever and as far back as I can remember.

There is one particular Christmas Eve which might have sparked the reverence I feel for this special night. I was about five years old and was jarred awake from dreams of being smothered by Christmas crackers and paper hats.

I crept out of my room and down the darkened hallway to use the bathroom. As I began my journey back to bed I heard something in the hall below.

I stood at the top of the stairs waiting for my blinking eyes to adjust to the darkness of the pit before me. There, at the bottom of the stairs, I noticed two glowing lights. They were still one moment, then danced about and made me jump. I was terrified and if I hadn’t already emptied my bladder I think I would have done so then.

A faint jingling sound made me giggle with relief when I realized it was my grandmother’s dog, Wimpy, shaking his head and collar. I could almost make out the outline of the black mutt down there on the rug.

I was contemplating creeping down the stairs to snuggle him when I heard another noise, this time from the kitchen. The house was as quiet and dark as could be, so I knew everyone must be in bed. I shivered in my nightgown and gripped the wooden spindles of the railing.

The door to the kitchen swung open slightly and the figure of a man emerged, lit from behind by a street light shining through the kitchen window. I gasped. The man turned his head slowly to face me and by now my eyes had adjusted well enough to see him give me a wink and a smile. He raised his finger to his lips to silence me. His other hand gripped a bag slung over his shoulder.

As the man moved below me towards the living room, I heard a low growl from Wimpy. We all froze for a moment: child, man, dog. Then the jingling sound again—Wimpy was wagging his tail! So, this midnight intruder was not a danger after all.

I relaxed and sat at the top of the stairs, and observed the man as he entered the living room. He was an older fellow, with a scraggly beard and a shuffle in his walk. He was dressed in a long coat, dark in colour, but not red as I had seen in the images on the front of Christmas cards. He wore a cap, but it did not have a white pom-pom on the end. His shoes were plain—not boots at all. And he definitely had not come down our chimney.

When he was done, he closed the door to the living room and left . . . just as silently as he had arrived.

I felt suddenly cold and I scurried back to bed and huddled under my covers, squeezing my eyes shut and wishing for sleep so I could wake up Christmas morning and see what the man had left for me.

As I drifted off to dreamland I heard the faint sounds of jingling bells . . . and was that the sound of hooves scraping the roof tiles above my head?

I will never forget that night. When we gathered around the tree the following morning, everything was just as it should be. No one believed my story. They all laughed and continued to nibble on chocolate caramels and dates.

This is a real memory to me—as real as any other memory I have of my childhood, so how can it not have happened? My children are almost grown . . . the magic of Christmas has dulled in their eyes, but not for me. Perhaps that is why I look forward to staying up late by myself every Christmas Eve, sitting in silence, waiting.

To read the 12th and Final BLOG OF CHRISTMAS, CLICK HERE

To read the 12 Blogs of Christmas from the beginning, CLICK HERE.

The 5th Blog of Christmas

Our next featured blogger in 12 Blogs of Christmas is Gordon A. Long.

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Brought up in a logging camp with no electricity, Gordon Long learned his storytelling in the traditional way: at his father’s knee. He spends his time editing, publishing, travelling, sailboat racing and writing fantasy and social commentary, although sometimes the boundaries blur.

Gordon lives in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, with his wife, Linda, and their Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Josh. When he isn’t publishing, he works on projects with the Surrey Seniors’ Planning Table.

He has published two books this Christmas:

“Mountains of Mischief” Book 3 in the World of Change series,

“Storm over Savournon” a novel of the French Revolution

A Cold Canadian Christmas

My transportation for the Christmas of 1967 was Dad’s 1958 Mercury pickup. It was one of the first “full box” pickups, instead of the old “step sides,” and I thought it was pretty classy. Think of the picture above with a front bumper and a two-tone paint job: white above, teal below. I was home from university, and Dad was out of the bush because it was too cold to work, so I was pretty well free to drive it around. Loggers can’t work below about -30 because metal gets so brittle that equipment breaks. It’s rather hard on people, too.

Yes, the Christmas of 1967 was rather cold. I came home from visiting friends on Boxing Day, and the weather report said it was going to be -60F that night (That’s -51 for you Celsius types). I plugged in the block heater of the pickup and waited for that reassuring gurgle that told me it was working.

No gurgle…Read More

To read the 6th Blog of Christmas CLICK HERE

To read the 12 Blogs of Christmas from the beginning, CLICK HERE.

The 4th Blog of Christmas

The Xmas Blogs continue with our fourth author.

IMG_9021_4044 WEB copyVirginia Gray is a bestselling women’s fiction novelist. A former university professor, she stepped away from academics to pursue a writing career. She is a great lover of humor, music, and all things food, and is best known for The Susan Wade Saga.

Website  and Blog

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

I wasn’t always so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to believe—very badly, in fact. I also wanted to believe in the stories I read. I wanted to know for sure that there had been a Middle Earth, where hobbits and wizards and dragons ran amuck. I prayed that Narnia existed, and that I might be lucky enough to discover one of its secret passages—they’re everywhere, you know.  I truly hoped there were wrinkles in time, and that I might be called upon to save our very universe. I wanted to believe in magic! READ MORE

To read the 5th Blog of CHRISTMAS, Click HERE

and to read the 12 Blogs of Christmas from the beginning, CLICK HERE.

The 2nd Blog of Christmas

Author Sarah LaneIt’s the second day sharing stories with you from various writers’ blogs. My guest today is author, Sarah Lane, and she is going to read to you…what a treat!

Sarah Lane is the author of The God of My Art, the story of a young woman’s journey to become an artist and a quarter finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Lane’s short fiction and poetry have also featured in a number of literary magazines, including The Antigonish Review, Roar Magazine, and Quills: Canadian Poetry Magazine.

Lane’s upcoming young adult novel is a psychological read about a cerebral seventeen-year old who struggles to learn salsa dancing only to be shown up by her doppelgänger. (You can sign up on her website to be notified when it comes out).

Sarah Lane hopes you will enjoy listening to this reading from her young adult crossover novel The God of My Art. This chapter is taken from near the end of the book, when Helene visits her mother over the winter holidays. Watch the video here.

TO READ the 1st Blog of Christmas CLICK HERE

Head to the 3rd Blog of Christmas from Keith R. Baker HERE

 

On the First Blog of Christmas

Join me and 11 other authors and bloggers on our Christmas blog hop! A gift that keeps on giving…better than a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get!

Our first illustrious writer is Ellen Chauvet! Check back each day for a different post from our 12 Blogs of Christmas contributors or click SUBSCRIBE to this blog to receive an update each time one is posted. ENJOY!
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Ellen Chauvet lives in Vancouver, Canada, where long months of rain are particularly conducive to writing dark stories.

Visit Ellen Here

or Read her BLOG 

A Visit From St. Nick

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
Composed by Clement C. Moore

When Martin Crosbie invited me to participate in the 12 blogs of Christmas I immediately said yes. I’ve always treasured Christmas and the opportunity to share my love of Clement Moore’s ‘A Visit from St. Nick’ poem appealed to me. After several hours of research, the following is what I gleaned…READ MORE

Go To 2nd Blog of Christmas

The Comma Queen Answers Your Punctuation Questions

I often get questions about punctuation usage from friends and clients. I enjoy explaining the rules and helping people understand why a semi-colon must be used in place of a comma, or why a hyphen is not appropriate between parts of a sentence, because it helps to reinforce the rules for me too.

The folks at the New Yorker recorded some very helpful videos on punctuation with great examples from copy editor, Mary Norris — or as you may refer to her, the Comma Queen.

Enjoy the videos and if you have any questions about punctuation, grammar, spelling or writing fill out the contact form below and I will get back to you!
http://player.cnevids.com/embed/551583d861646d22ba010000/52f2ad0169702d21a5080000

 

Smells Like Success!

Smells invoke memories…and produce emotions…and affect our bodies, minds and spirits. I’ve always believed this and it took colourful wax and a guy with a penchant for sniffing stuff to help me remember how important our senses are to help us connect! Our senses can create such powerful memories and reactions that using senses in writing will strengthen a story and round out characters, and help you plug back into your creativity. Allowing your senses to guide you in any business venture might produce effective results.

Our sense of smell might be our most powerful, and scents that take us back to childhood are particularly emotionally charged. As children we are influenced by our environment and our reactions are more honest. When something takes us back to those moments when we were more open and vulnerable, it connects us with our real selves–our more creative selves.

When I am writing about a character and describe a scent or how a character reacts to a scent, it helps to create a deeper connection for the reader. It makes the “character” more real.

Try it for yourself: try and connect with the younger, more creative you–you will relax and find answers. And if you are writing about a character, help the character connect with his past and you’ll find that the character will guide you and surprise you with how he reacts to the imaginary world you are building around him.

What smell brings your childhood memories flooding back? How does connecting with your childhood help you create in business and in your writing projects?

To watch the inspirational video that will get you sniffing a box of crayons: https://youtu.be/p5kMHXuO_kg

Apostrophe Atrocities Appall Aware Authors!

If you’re sick and tired of blog posts about apostrophes, well too bad…here’s another one! Until we learn our lesson and stop making the same mistakes over and over again (we all make ’em), we’re doomed to endure constant lecturing. Even I make mistakes sometimes (I know…shocking!), so please tell me if you spot an error, ’cause — damn it, I have to learn!

don’t know about you, but I am constantly amazed at the amount of apostrophe errors out there. Why is it we, as an English-speaking and -writing culture, can’t get it right? I see mistakes painted on the sides of vehicles, plastered on signs, emblazoned on book covers and sprinkled through articles. Some examples:

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Do NOT get a tattoo here unless the owner’s name is Tattoo. Even then, bad idea!

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This person sadly ignored the blatant signs that Tattoo, though a business owner, did not possess the necessary English skills to craft an eloquent indelible message. I say tattoo artists should stick to images.

Dont Look Back Bob Dylan

This may have been a design choice…I get it, but I don’t have to like it!

Ribs Ontario

Oooh, wait a minute…I think they’re telling us the Best Rib is actually in town. Well, I’d like to meat him (see what I did there?)

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This is completely understandable — the sign printer obviously ran out of apostrophes.

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Their price for perfection is having to fire the proofreader.

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At least they reword the invitation underneath as they know something is wrong in the first sentence but aren’t sure what it is, so they kindly clarify things for the reader. And what’s with the time? Another pet peeve — there should be a colon between 9 and 30 and a space before am!!!! I also hate overuse of exclamation marks…but sometimes…I tell ya!

So, I have some questions for you. Should we point out these egregious errors to the perpetrator? Or, is it not our place to be the punctuation police? And who is to blame: the business owner, the copy writer, the proofreader, the printer, the sign installer, the first person to see the printed copy? I imagine the text passes through multiple stages and past several people before being presented to the public. Just carelessness then, I suppose.

The only way we will learn as a society is to keep reminding people the correct way to punctuate, and point out the errors so they aren’t made again. Ask someone else to proofread, or at least double-check your work. Appalling apostrophe application should not be tolerated. So let’s go over the rules again…

Only use apostrophes for:

  1. Contractions. When squishing two words together, the apostrophe is like a bookmark for the missing letters. For example:  “I’d (I would) love to attend the party, but I don’t (do not) like boring conversation or frozen sausage rolls passed off as hors d’oevres.” ( I had to look up how to spell hors d’oevres — French: outside of the main course).
  2. Possessives. To show who or what owns something. For example: “My parents do not make a habit of throwing boring parties. Mother’s quiche is often spoken of the next day and her guests’ palates are discerning, I assure you. I insist you attend Thursday’s party.”
  3. Abbreviations. For example: “Well, excuse me! I would hate to upset you ’cause your parents are terrible hosts! They haven’t thrown a good party since the ’70s!” (note there is NO apostrophe required after ’70 as it is a plural word — 1970s, nineteen seventies).

* TIP: When typing an apostrophe, make sure it is the apostrophe– the curly quote mark or straight quote mark ( ’ or ‘ ), and try and pay attention to the way the apostrophe faces. It is NOT an opening quote, but an END quote  not ‘.

Apostrophe use

Now there are odd rules, and exceptions, and even preferential treatment for apostrophes. E.g. an apostrophe can help clarify things as in: Mind you P’s and Q’s — it just looks better with apostrophes, though they are not needed.

It is interesting to note that the creator of Mother’s Day wanted the apostrophe inserted before the ‘r’ although there are three usage camps (Mother’s Day, Mothers’ Day and Mothers Day). So, my final piece of advice is to look it up if in doubt, or ask a superlative editor like me…or is it myself?

Leave your comments or questions below, and PLEASE point out any errors, because we all need reminding sometimes!