Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Time out for a little fun

As an editor, I consider it my duty to keep up with the latest guides to proper, grammar, word usage and styles, so I couldn't wait to read this new release from Three Rivers Press, Write More Good written by The Bureau Chiefs also known as @fakeapstylebook on Twitter and Facebook.

Part of the book blurb is worth sharing here just for laughs. "Still clinging to your dog-eared dictionary? So attached to The Elements of Style that you named your rabbits Strunk and White? Maybe you’re a beleaguered reporter, or a type-A newspaper reader who unwinds by e-mailing the editor about whether “tweet” is a verb? It’s time to face up to reality: Writing clearly, checking facts, and correcting typos are dying arts. Whether you’re a jaded producer of media or a nitpicking consumer of it, this book will help you to embrace, not resist, the lowering of standards for the written word!"

I suppose I could end right there, but this is supposed to be my post, so it should have more words written by me than by The Bureau Chiefs or their PR person.

I loved this book. It made me laugh so hard in places that I woke up my cat who was napping by my computer. The cat is used to all kinds of noises, the clack of the keyboard, the announcement, "You've got mail" and the ring of the telephone. What he isn't used to is a loud snort accompanied by coffee splattering all over his resting place. 

One of the first things to be cleared up in this phony style book is the use of sexist language. Where once the pronoun "he" was acceptable in sentences where gender wasn't specified in the antecedent, alas, that is no more. Now we have to use inclusive language when we write and that can get tricky as the Bureau Chiefs point out. "None of the options people have come up with like "shim", "zie", or Hershey" (and "he/she", which has only a narrowly applicable use within the world of transgender porn), have satisfactorily caught on. So it is up to you to find some solution that will make your writing nonsexist in order to appease all the PC whiners while avoiding pronoun-antecedent agreement errors."

Good luck with that.

I sure could have used this book when I was working as a reporter. The authors offer some helpful guides for interviewing a politician about a scandal in which he or she is involved. (Note the proper use of inclusive language there. Good boys.)

The correct interpretation of a politician's response to certain questions is as follows:
    "I didn't do it" really means "I totally did it.
    My wife is standing by me in this time of crisis" really means "I'm gay."
    "I will not resign" really means "Please forward my mail to this township in Mexico, beginning immediately."
    "Yes I did it. I take full responsibility" really means "I 'm really not cut out for politics."

Other helpful sections included a list of words to stay away from to avoid being sued for libel. Those included goober, Glenn Beck, bad, unethical, and Democrat. Not necessarily in that order.

On punctuation and grammar the authors have this to say, "Truly we live in a frightening time, when the ancient skill of diagramming a sentence may fade into obscurity as the human race evolves teeny tiny fingers attached to the main fingers in order to better mash cell-phone buttons. Will grammar and punctuation remain constant in this strange new world?"

My fellow writers and editors, the answer is up to you.
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest book is Open Season, which has gotten nice reviews from Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly. One Small Victory, is a top seller in the mystery bestseller list at the Amazon Kindle store. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. She will stop playing with her horse and work, honest.

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10 comments :

  1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Kathryn. The book is really funny and I will keep it handy on my desk for when I need a good chuckle.

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  2. Reminded of another lite approach to grammatical humor ... Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne truss (have I used up my 140 characters?)

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  3. Maryann, I like the idea of creating our own stylebook Q & A. Do we dare have a fun Ask-the-Editor-Free-For-All? With clever and hysterical answers?

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  4. They need a sequel: Write Gooder Signs 4 ur Business.

    Anyone else feel the urge to correct business signs?

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  5. Dani, funny you should mention having our own stylebook. I have been in contact with the authors to see if they would be interested in doing a spoof on Morgan's Ask the Editor, and they are very interested. It could be fun, and maybe we could springboard off that for something unique to BRP.

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  6. So funny! I must look out for this one.

    Elle
    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

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  7. Abso-tooting-lutely terrific! I've got to get the book. Thanks!

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  8. Thank you for the kind words, everyone. We worked quite hard on this and it's always gratifying to see people enjoying it.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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