Sunday, October 24, 2010

Write Right Part Two: Punctuating with Purpose

If you were to ask any successful writer what their style was, it's probable, they’d be unable to verbalize the exact elements of their style. Effective writing style resembles fashion in the respect that there are many ways to dress nice, but a flawed garment will immediately ruin an entire outfit. This brings us to another writing error we frequently see: the lack or misuse of punctuation. If and when used correctly, punctuation can add a great degree of style to writing, because a variance of punctuation usage will lead to a variation of sentence structure and length. Just as traffic lights and signs are needed to create practical paths of navigation while driving, punctuation is almost required to direct readers through your writing with the least amount of clutter, obstruction, and/or boredom. Let’s pretend for a moment, that a school-teacher was making preparation to submit a statement of purpose to enroll in law school. How do you think his letter of intent would be received if it read as followed?
My name is Bradley Hall. I teach 4th grade. I live in Wilmington, Delaware. I have taught for seven years. I now desire to go to law school. I hope to enroll in the Blue Bonnet University. I have no money for tuition. I offer many great things. I am creative. I am passionate. I am transparent. I am willing to work hard.
Have you died of boredom yet, or are you like any review board, ready to reject this letter of intent with no questions asked? There are no grammatical mistakes here, no spelling errors, no botched homophones; however, there is no life or style in the text. There is nothing that would suggest that Bradley is passionate about this endeavor. Now, let’s take the same sentences and add life to them by simply adding punctuation.
My name is Bradley Hall—a fourth-grade teacher from Wilmington, Delaware. I have taught for seven years, but now I desire to go to law school. I hope to enroll in the Blue Bonnet University; however, I have no money for tuition. I offer many great things such as: creativity, passion, transparency, and a willingness to work hard.
Let’s examine the punctuation added to our simple paragraph to make it more stylistic.
  1. Em Dash: It allows for a break in tone, or in thought.
  2. Comma: In the paragraph above it was used to separate a clause and it was used to list.
  3. Semicolon: It is used to separate two independent clauses. Be careful though, both clauses must be able to stand alone as separate sentences if the semicolon were absent.
  4. Colon: In this case, it was used before a list of ideas or concepts.
In conclusion, there is only one way to master the effective usage of punctuation: PRACTICE. Don’t be afraid to try out various sentence structures in order to improve your writing style. Remember, there IS a writer within you. Again, writing is no ominous task that is set aside for some elite group of people. We are committed to help establish and discover as many writers as possible. If there any questions surrounding the use of punctuation please leave a comment. Also, check back in a few days for Part Three of the Write Right series…

Monday, October 18, 2010

Write Right Part One: Homophonic Homicide

After much prodding from customers, family, and friends, I am running a six-entry blog series dedicated to helping others overhaul bad writing practices. Again, it is our desire to see all professionals and aspiring professionals be transformed into functional writers. Recently, I was asked to pinpoint the most annoying mistake I see while proofing documents for others. Initially, I wanted to focus on the mistakes that I find my pen making the most, but that wouldn’t be in the best interest of my audience. If I could only verbalize how atomic the war against words can get, I could properly illustrate the turmoil that we go through to ensure documents are error-free, polished, and as concise as possible. Having shared that, the first offender of bad writing we will attack is the incorrect usage of homophones.

It has been said, that it takes twenty-one days to break a habit. If that is true, are you willing to do what it takes to eliminate the habit of misusing homophones? First, let us define a homophone. A homophone describes a word that sounds similar to another, but possesses a totally different meaning. Here are a few examples of homophonic errors.

1. Lucy chose the club witch would be the closest to there house.

2. Bobby plans to take his favorite toy plain on the airplane with hem.

3. Before they set out to see, they each had a peace of pie.

I will now give three-fourths of you a moment to ask yourselves, “Is this guy crazy or what;” but you would be surprised how many documents come across my desk with these exact types of preventable errors. I always express to my clients how errors immediately begin to cancel out the author’s credibility. Imagine if you went to have a final will and testament prepared by a lawyer; how offended would you be if the title plastered across the top of the page was “WHEEL AND TESTAMENT”? You would most likely think that this lawyer is not only incompetent, but it would probably prod you to read the entire document with a raised eyebrow and fine toothed comb. I ask you to reference the 15 common homophones below that I typically encounter while editing. I beg you to double-check this list to make sure that these homophones are not murdering your writing style. Perhaps it is necessary that you create a cheat sheet to identify homophones that you accidentally interchange. Remember, it takes consistency and dedication to break bad habits.

1. Affect/Effect
2. Break/Brake
3. Fair/Fare
4. Hair/Heir
5. Have/Half
6. Here/Hear
7. Holy/Wholly
8. Hour/Our
9. It’s/Its
10. Made/Maid
11. Their/There
12. Then/Than
13. Too/To/Two
14. Weather/Whether
15. Your/You're

Monday, October 4, 2010

Proofreading vs. Copy-editing

Often, we get requests to proofread letters, brochures, newsletters, etc. Sadly, most professionals and businesses who proposition us for editorial services are aware of what copy-editing actually is. Copy-editing speaks to the more structural aspect of a document. Proofreading handles spelling errors, simple grammar gaffs, and mistakes that the mind may let pass onto a page. Copy-editing deals more with formatting errors, inconsistencies in typesetting, and other errors that would potentially lead to marginal printing and publication issues. In addition, a copy-editor will also fix passages that lack clarity and/or has confusing dialogue or factual errors. A proofreader can make a document error-free; however, a copy-editor can perfect your document.

While we don't expect our customers to be avid copy-editors, we ensure that we at least introduce our customers to the copy-editing process. Anyone who creates documents, spreadsheets, pamphlets, newsletters, etc, should be able to differentiate between copy-editing and proofreading. Besides being able to pinpoint errors in the text, correct margins, rational fonts, page numbering must be adhered to. Before committing to an editing project, Rasilliant Enterprises offers our customers a one-time complimentary 500-word sample edit. By doing this, customers are able to get a brief taste of our editing process; moreover, this sample gives our customers a chance to look at their document through the veil of a more detailed analysis. So, if you are unsure as to whether your work needs proofread or copy-edited, contact us immediately! We are more than willing to work with you until you possess a functional understanding of both.