Sunday, December 7, 2014

Creating poetry in the lead

The following entry strays from the journalism path, but perhaps we need that sometimes. As this semester draws to a close I am reminded just how submerged in journalism I’ve been over the last 15-weeks. Two, 600 word stories, reported on and written in a revolving 7-day turnaround. Add to that a 40 hour work weeks, family and full-time school. It’s all been very exhausting. So much in-fact that it got me thinking: Is journalism helping me lose my grip on the art of writing?

Entertaining that thought, I decided to crack open one of my favorite verse novels, Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones. The book is a collection of poems, layout in the form of a novel. It tells the story of a girl who has a mental breakdown, told in the narrative of her younger sister. The beginning poem reads:

I can
remember what
things were like before she
got sick: my whole family climbed

the big
hammock on the
moondappled beach, wove
ourselves together, and swayed
as one.

This is a fanatic lead to a very completing story. It provides the reader with a taste of what the book is about, while withholding the information just enough to keep them reading. Sones, as all good writers, can teach us something as journalism. It doesn’t always have to be about the cut and dry newsroom bubble. We can learn how to be better writers from anywhere. I wrote about a similar topic a few weeks ago and I invite you to check out that article titled, “GoodWriters Listen.”

The editing mistake this week comes from the accursed 144-character world of Twitter.

Dolph Ziggler is one of the most active, witty and punctual wresters on Twitter. I think this tweet is a matter or sacrificing punctuation for character space. This is one of the follies of the 144-character format on Twitter. things like "you're" and periods at the end of sentences are sacrificed for the sake of the message. I guess that still doesn't make up for the obvious capitalization error at the beginning. Come on Ziggler.  

Last Blog Post

Wow, what a busy semester for editing! I feel like I have learned so many valuable skills that I can apply to my future careers. This week’s editing assignment was quite interesting. I enjoyed reading my sister’s paper she wrote for her English class. It was pretty awesome actually applying what we learned all semester to help someone improve their writing rather than doing assignments. I only ran into one challenge while editing her work. He writing was for an English 2010 class, and the writing style is slightly different than Communication. As I was correcting her errors, she would tell me that her professor insisted that her paper was properly written. For me, I find it challenging to transition from English to Communication. I found it extremely helpful to check back with the AP Style book to double check and make sure we had the correct form.

After editing my sister’s paper, I felt like a real editor! I was proud that I could take what I learned in this class. The main take away from this assignment was how important it is to provide constructive criticism. I did not want to bash on my sister’s paper, but at the same time I felt it was important to lay it out honestly for her. In the “real world” we are always going to be asked to provide criticism to our fellow employees, and I feel like this assignment prepared me for that skill. 

Overall, this was an extremely valuable and effective class, and I absolutely loved it!

Last Editing Mistake of the Week:

This poor individual thought he or she was doing a good dead. Apparently we should try to smoke a little quieter next time! The correct spelling is "allowed."

Working with a husband, to be exact.

            For this assignment my husband had me edit a paper he wrote for one of his classes.  The paper was a case study analyzing his strengths and weaknesses as a video game developer (he's working on his Master's Degree in Video Game production at the U).  I have spent a good deal of the last 4 years editing his papers, so I feel like I know what questions to ask, and what changes to anticipate.
            Some of the things that I do when I edit is to focus on grammar and punctuation, and note any glaring problems that I notice on my first read.  I realize that this is very backwards from the way most people edit, but it allows me to get the easy things out of the way, then I can go back and really get into the meat of the text and focus on consistency and clarity.
            One suggestion from the reading that I did try and focus on this time was asking questions rather than making statements.  Usually I will comment with, “this doesn’t make sense.”  This time I made a point of asking things like, “are these jargon words going to be clear to your reader?”  My husband tends to use a lot of industry jargon like “white box” and “kits” in reference to a prototype and art packages respectively.  I wasn’t sure if his professor would know what he meant, since the course isn’t exactly a game development course.  Turns out, the professor has worked in the video game industry and knows all the “code,” so-to-speak, so he clarified that with me and we moved on with the paper.  It helped that he was on the other side of the room rather than states away, though.
            I like to draw on my past experiences as an editor as I move forward editing, too.  I used to work with the Air National Guard as a journalist, and was told on a number of occasions that I was one of the best editors in the office.  I’m not sure why that was the case, I stuck to what I knew and understood, but I also tried to work with my colleagues to find a better solution when I came across a sentence or paragraph that I wasn’t particularly fond of, which happened more often than not. 

            I don’t feel that I have a lot of diverse editing experience, which I hope to eventually get in the future.  My experience is limited to academic and journalistic writing, and I hope that on day I will be able to broaden that experience into fiction because it seems like more of a challenge that I am ready to explore.  


This week’s assignment was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed working with my friend and his essay in order to help him edit it.  The best part was reading the chapter and understanding how to effectively work with a writer.  I think it was very good for me because before the chapter I thought of editing as marking up a piece of paper with a red pen detailing what needed to be corrected.  After reading the chapter, I was able to understand that you are working with a writer and not a work. 
            We worked really hard on making sure that we were constantly communicating in order to make sure that his ideas were being heard and that my editing wasn’t eliminating the main message.  We did this by talking through edits and using different resources, such as the A.P. Stylebook and already written essays.  This helped justify our thoughts and also end any confusions we had.
            I think that making sure he understood that I was seeing what was good in the essay really helped him have more confidence in me.  I made sure to point out every good thing that I saw and praise him for them.  I also made sure to praise him for anything he corrected on his own during the edit.  It was great to learn from this chapter so that I can become a better editor.
            This week’s grammar error made me laugh.  It tells us not to litter, but if we do, it’s not that bad.  I thought it was great because one letter can change the entire meaning of something.

Working with writers

During my internship for the Weber School Foundation, I was asked to publish a “thank-you” brochure for the Foundation’s donors that would be distributed at their annual golf classic fundraiser. The brochure had several ads, articles and photos. After the initial brochure was designed and printed, I was then asked to turn it into a year-end report that would be distributed to local businesses and every donor, not just the ones that were at the golf tournament.

This process taught me the valuable lesson of collaboration and allowed me to utilize my design, editing and writing skills. The first edition of the brochure was easy; it had been done the same way for several years. The second edition proved to be a little bit more challenging because the Foundation needed to have a clear vision and message. During the collaboration process, it was determined that this brochure would highlight the successes of the Foundation and share some of the stories of the children whose lives have been impacted by the generous donors.

The most challenging editing I did was reworking a story that had already been written. I found that it was more of a lesson in patience than in editing. I essentially re-worked the entire story into one that was more concise and really told the story that the Foundation was trying to convey. The original story was full of attribution errors, grammar mistakes and just poor writing. At first I found myself frustrated at the poorly written story and the number of editing mistakes to correct. But then I started reworking the sentences and grammar mistakes and it turned out being a lot of fun. After the editing was complete, the story turned out great. It made sense and really conveyed a message that was important for the Foundation to tell.

This editing class has taught me so much about writing, proper grammar and punctuation. It’s a great skill to have and one that I know will be essential after graduation.

Why is eating out so complicated?

The reading this week made me smile because the biggest thing that I took away is that we need to remember the people we are working with are humans. It is unnecessary to be mean or harsh. Jumping to conclusions about writing can be irresponsible and you might miss out on something valuable because you didn’t take the time to reach out and really understand what was going on.

I liked that the chapter talked about talking with the writer to get an understanding of where they were coming from. You might be sitting on a gold mine of a written product but if all you can see is the mistakes or a style you don’t like, you might miss it. The chapter discussed how editors get carried away and rewrite articles completely bypassing what the original intent was. Different people have different interests and as an editor it’s important to recognize that some styles of writing might not appeal to you but it may to your readers. If I ever find my self in another situation where I am editing someone’s writing, before I start changing things, I hope I will talk to them to ask where they were coming from, the emotion or feeling they want to emit and where they want the writing to go. Understanding these things can give you a better direction to keep the final product more authentic to the original idea.

Editing mistake of the week:
When I was looking at this menu, I had troubles trying to even understand what was happening in item #33.
Choice of protein stir fired with seasonal mixed vegetables and black pepper in house special sauce.

For starters, I am assuming it is stir-fried protein not stir fired. But the bigger issue I had was when it gets to the last line. I read it differently every time I try. Are they saying this is an “in house” special black pepper flavored sauce, or is it the restaurant’s house sauce that black pepper has been added to for this dish?

Sexy headlines lure pervs, police say

The Internet is filled with some amazing headlines this week. This one is specific and makes great use of nouns in doing so: Man broke wife's nose with McChicken sandwich. One of the best headlines this week utilizes tip 7 beautifully and makes me giddy like a schoolboy: CM Punk joins UFC, will fight in 2015.
Whenever I think about poor headlines, I’m reminded of a stand-up bit by John Mulaney, one of my favorite comedians, Mulaney said, “I like reading the New York Post because reading the New York Post is like talking to someone who heard the news and now they’re trying to give you the gist.” Mulaney may be a comedian, but his words are no joke, the New York Post is terrible. Right now, the first headline on their home page reads: Sexy Russian spy ‘tried to seduce’ Snowden. The word “sexy” is sexist, arbitrary and opinion-based in a non-opinion piece.  Another New York Post gem includes: Victims abused by perv teacher spoke positively about him: lawyer. You don’t use “perv” in a headline. You don’t say “perv” in journalism at all; unless of course you’re quoting it, in which case, pull a different quote. That is all.

The editing lesson this week comes from Ikea. It’s not a mistake, it’s not as though there’s anything wrong with it at all. It does show that some things can be a bit lost in the translations when running multinational corporations. Either that, or this is like that movie, "They Live" and there's subliminal messaging in the advertising.