Thursday, March 7, 2013

Slavations, Dance Parties, and the Wicked Bible: Why Editing Is Your Friend

(Originally posted by Mary Claire on January 26, 2012)

Today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite things: EDITING.  I have always had a love of all things GSP (that is, grammar, spelling, and punctuation to those in the know).  Most people just think I’m weird.  I’ll allow that grammar is a very dry thing, but it is also important.  The purpose of grammar is to systematize and standardize language.  And what is the purpose of language?


Communication is what we’re about here at Chalk Line.  We want you guys to be able to communicate with your peeps as effectively and efficiently as possible.  You have amazing stories to share, and when one of your primary methods of communication is written, it’s important to always keep an eye out for mistakes that may cause ambiguity in what you’re trying to say.

We don’t usually see big problems in our letters, but one typo has become infamous here at Chalk Line Mission Control.  In the letter, the word “salvation” was misspelled as “slavation.”  Oops.  The letter was sent to us as in an uneditable format, which meant we couldn’t correct the mistake, and while the typo was an obvious one and most readers would know immediately what the intended word was, there are moments when even the simplest of typos can cause major miscommunication.

Ever heard of the Wicked Bible?  It’s an edition of the King James Version printed in England in 1631.  In this version, a very small but very important word was omitted from Exodus 20:14.  The seventh commandment read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”  I’m pretty sure that is NOT the commandment Moses wrote down on Mount Sinai, and it was definitely NOT the commandment I sang about in my children’s choir production of Good Kings Come in Small Packages.

Editing is important because it helps ensure that you’re saying exactly what it is that you want to say.

Below are a few common mistakes we see:
  1. “Apart” and “a part” are two different things.  One means separate from and the other means included in.  If I wrote, “Tiffany is having an impromptu dance party, and I’m turning up the volume and going to be apart of it,” what I’m really saying is that I’m turning up the music and then...sitting and watching Tiffany dance.  Oh no no no.  If Tiffany is having an impromptu dance party, you bet your dance pants that I will be A PART of it.

    Similar to that, we see the word “alot” a lot.

  2. Sometimes    people’s      thumbs   seem to  rest    a  bit too      heavily  on  the space         b a  r  .

  3. Apostrophes have specific usage, but unfortunately, people sometimes overuse the poor little guys.  In general, apostrophes are used for contractions and possessives, not for plurals.  The place where we see mistakes most is in the plural of a family’s last name, e.g. the Smiths.  There is more than one of them, so there is no apostrophe.  

Here’s a breakdown:

    Those things over there are the smith’s.  (Those things over there belong to the smith.)
    Those things over there are the smiths’.  (Those things over there belong to a collection of smiths.)
    Those things over there are the Smiths.  (Those things over there are a collection of Smiths.)

    See the diff?  For more info on apostrophes than you’ll probably ever need, click here.

  4. Consistency is key.  There are gray (grey?) areas in the world of grammar and punctuation.  Is the serial comma is obsolete?  Is it toward or towards?  What is the subjunctive tense in English?  (These are all things I think about.)  What I recommend is that you pick a standard and stick to it.  For example, how do you handle the capitalization of pronouns with God or Jesus as the antecedent?  Is it proper to capitalize He or Him?  Here’s what the Chicago Manual of Style has to say

    “Chicago lowercases such pronouns, but it’s not wrong to uppercase, especially if you are writing for a religious readership or anyone else who might take lowercasing as a sign of disrespect. In matters of style, in contrast to those of grammar, there are few right or wrong answers. Different houses follow different style guides in order to make their publications consistent.”


    So there’s no hard and fast rule here.  Even the Bible differs on this one, depending on which version you're reading.  Just pick a standard, and then be consistent.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  We’re not here to be your English teachers, but we are here to support you guys.   We can also proof your letter for you before it mails.  Just let Tiffany know, and she’ll look at it for you or send it my way.

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