Category Archives: Reading

Type-ins for Writers

Type-ins are the newest writing frenzy according to Associated Press News (AP) . Writers, poets, and typewriter enthusiasts gather to click keys and roll out paper originals. Could this no-screen craze be the next eye-saver?

Mr. Clyde Quick, my high school typing teacher, agreed. He insisted that his students focus on an oversized keyboard poster centered above the chalkboard to learn touch typing. “Look up,” was his first mantra. His second was, “Keep your hands on the home row.”

My hands hovered above the keyboard of a manual Underwood desk typewriter, left index fingertip touching the “F” key and right index finger on “J,” ready for “Begin.” Later, when the tests were timed for Word per Minute (WPM) achievement awards, Mr. Quick held his stopwatch high and added a little frenzy to the race with “Go!”

Now and then I was fortunate enough to grab a seat behind a manual Royal —much smoother touch than the Underwood.  One morning, two new typewriters, one Royal and one Underwood, shined atop the table in the last row, strategically placed to avoid tripping over the cords plugged into a nearby electrical wall socket. The typewriters weren’t assigned, so the athletic sprinters beat me to those seats most of the time. One day, with an admonition from Mr. Quick to let every student have a chance, it was my turn on the Royal with green keys. No extra pressure for the pinkies to produce a clean, even text. The short return carriage lever made right margin end-of-the-line faster. I fell in love with my first taste of technology. Returning to the stiff manual typewriter was difficult, but it had a side benefit. The electric typewriters were off-limits for achievement tests. I was one of the few who received the coveted 60 WPM level with no errors on a manual Underwood.

Long after my school days, I bought a portable Smith Corona, then upgraded to a full-size IBM Selectric. I was fascinated with the interchangeable typeball fonts and added several to my collection. The Selectric self-correcting feature was fabulous. I pressed a special backspace key, and the letter lifted off the printed page, ready for the correct keystroke.

Thanks to Mr. Quick’s fairness and my few sessions on that electric Royal typewriter, I embraced technology. Now, decades later, I’ve abandoned paper markups to edit on screen with Microsoft Word tracking feature. I delete, insert, or move text and add side comments to the author with soft clicks.

I still follow Mr. Quick’s advice and keep my fingers on the home row of my Dell laptop. His advice to “Look Up” means keep my eyes on the screen.

 

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The Oxford comma has its day in court

I’m an editor. I favor the Oxford comma, but I have to admit it doesn’t fit in mysteries or crime fiction novels. Why? Fast-paced thrillers set the tension with short sentences—definitely no place for extra pauses to slow the action.

In business writing, there’s long been a battle surrounding inserting or omitting the comma in a series of three or more. I edit by the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) 16th Edition, which suggests using the Oxford comma based on H.W. Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2nd edition, 1965, and Fowler’s Modern English Usage, 3rd edition, revised (Bibliography 1.2). But that isn’t where I fell in love with the extra squiggle.

English was my niche in school. I relished phonics, spelling, vocabulary, and writing. I made life-long friends with the Oxford comma. Not because my father was English. Not because it was expected in business letters and reports. Because the extra pause clarifies the meaning and avoids ambiguity.

“She took a photograph of her parents, the president, and the vice president.” (CMOS 6.18, page 312)

Those who argue that the Oxford comma isn’t necessary omit the comma after president. That changes the number of snapshots from three to two—one of her parents and one of the president and vice president.

So when is it better to omit the serial comma? When two words are understood as a pair.

“Their wartime rations included cabbage, turnips, and bread and butter.”

Drivers for Oakhurst Dairy sued for overtime wages in 2014 based on the interpretation of a Maine state law that denied that pay. The trial was bread and butter—actually about wages earned from delivering products.  Title 26 Labor and Industry, Chapter 7 Employment Practices, Subchapter 3, §664 Minimum Wages exempts some employees from earning overtime wages if associated with agricultural produce, meat and fish products, and perishable food.

“The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.”

The lawsuit was based on interpretation of “packing for shipment or distribution of…” as a pair. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the absence of a comma after shipment entitled the drivers to overtime. The finding are detailed in a twenty-nine page document.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Oxford comma finally has its day in court–and wins!

 

Still not convinced you should use the Oxford comma? Try this comma placement test.

I love eating my grandchildren and my dog.

Disclaimer: Cruelty free. This sentence was not tested on humans or animals.

 

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Grammar Cop

computer-books-pencilsThere much ado on Capitol Hill about the importance of spelling. It’s about time. Ask me. I’m a grammar cop with a badge to prove it.

I’m a writer—at least that’s how I use to identify myself before I realized that editing is my niche. I’m a member of California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch also known as Tri-Valley Writers. I’ve been part of a novel group, one of the individualized critique groups that meet monthly. There I’m known as the grammarian—often editing English more than critiquing the story.

Grammar Police Award

Grammar Police Award

Long before Trump was elected president, Lani Longshore, a multi-talented crafter, presented me with a Grammar Police shield embroidered on the right inside of a folding credential case. My editing card fits in a clear plastic slot on the left. I seldom have to flash it because most writers know I spout Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) rules as often as President Trump tweets.

If I had made this award public sooner, perhaps the U.S. Library of Congress would have consulted me (or at least the 16th Edition of CMOS) and been spared the embarrassment of a grammar error in President Trump’s inaugural poster.

Too late to correct the posters but production has been halted. If you bought a first run at $16.95, the odds are that someday it will be a collector’s item—not because of the grammar error but because of the wasted taxpayer dollars for a reprint that reads:

No dream 2 big, no challenge 2 great…

 

 

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Okay to ignore writing rules if you’re Lee Child

Start-screenI’m a freelance editor for individuals and independent publishers. My job is to pinpoint spelling, punctuation, grammar, incomplete sentences, and syntax errors, but the rules are always changing.

For example: Limit the use of anybody, just, like, only, some, and somebody. But or and, once forbidden as sentence starters, are now acceptable, but the author should avoid beginning with because, when, which or words ending in –ing. One more grammar rule: Don’t use incomplete sentence in narrative, only in dialogue. Don’t overuse commas.

Bookpages animatedWait a minute! I just read Night School, a Jack Reacher 2016 novel by #1 New York Times Bestselling author Lee Child. Here are random sentences from that prequel.

  • Reacher thought back, to the conversation in Garber’s office.
  • She drove, back to the place she had only just left.
  • Surprised, and a little quizzical.

Are those commas necessary in these three short sentences? What about the double-up of only and just? I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop on that last sentence.

How about these incomplete, single sentence paragraphs?

  • Twitching and writhing and wringing his hands. [Note: At least this is appropriate syntax]
  • Thinking.
  • Local gentleman, like himself.
  • Like an old black-and-white movie.
  • An inconvenient ratio.

Start-Finish-RoadWhy does Lee Child’s editor let him get away with these writing blunders? Not because he was born Jim Grant in England. Not because he hires a freelancer like me (Delacorte Press can afford top-quality editors). Not because the third-person narrator mimics Jack Reacher who doesn’t waste words. Because one thing an editor doesn’t change is the writer’s style.

P.S. Bestselling is now one word. Lee Child and his editors got that right. It’s possible that the #1 New York Times Bestselling Author blurb is the #1 reason basic editing rules don’t apply to Jack Reacher.

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Penultimate Volunteer

Words

Penultimate. A strange word that doesn’t fit a writer’s day-to-day activities. When I think of P-words, I begin with procrastination, shift to progress, and end with publish. Other P-words like paper, pen, and phrase leave a positive trail to paragraph, page, and print even if they eventually disappear like Hansel’s and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. Penultimate sounds like a harsh ultimatum when a dogmatic person says, “I laid down the law and they obeyed.” The true meaning of penultimate, an adjective, is the second to last issue of a publication.

blog-397826__180Don’t worry. That isn’t applicable to my blog. I’ve resigned from a volunteer position as newsletter editor for a nonprofit writing group where May will be my penultimate issue of that publication. I’m also stepping down from several other volunteer activities to get back to writing. Until July, I hope you’ll enjoy my brief vibes, updated blog reposts, and short, short stories.

 


The Thief

Thief-PixabayHe visits me every day, this unwelcome guest. He slips in unnoticed after I brew morning coffee. He peeks over my shoulder as I immerse myself in the news. (Got to keep up with current events, right?) Sometimes he appears midday while I pay bills online. He loiters in afternoons when I settle in my recliner to read a current mystery (have to keep up with the latest crime fiction trends).

Take the day he accompanied me to several stops on the way home from the dentist eleven miles away (one trip to conserve fuel). I returned home hours later, all energy expended. I microwaved leftovers for dinner to hurry on to more important things (like writing a blog post).  Phone-Computer-Pixabay

First, I checked my phone and email and responded to a dozen messages followed by a chat with a friend (required business and social networking). I critiqued a short story for another writer (reciprocation).

Green Tea CupA tea break (soothing change of pace), then I searched though a stack of get well cards for the right messages to fit a couple of sick friends (have to mail tomorrow before they get better).

My head nodded and my eyes closed. I scratched through the date next to Post Blog, the first item on my Wednesday to-do list, and wrote Thursday.

Procrastination, disguised as productive activity, had stolen my day.

 

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Thursday’s Child

Thursday’s child has far to go

Nancy Dragoo Carr 1915

Nancy Dragoo Carr 1915

My birth choice, if I had been consulted, would have been Monday’s child who was “fair of face.” A Tuesday’s child, I was deemed to be “full of grace.” Fitting, I suppose, because I inherited my father’s pale English skin, bushy eyebrows, and long nose, not my mother’s dark beauty. I struggled to achieve grace thrust upon me by my parents who insisted girls dress and act like girls, not tomboys.

Back then, I thought being a Tuesday’s child wasn’t as bad as the unsuccessful Thursday’s child who had to struggle to achieve her goals. Years later, I learned that the ancient saying meant the opposite: A Thursday’s child would have a long, successful life without limitations. That revelation, not Mother Goose, made Thursday the perfect blogging day for Violet’s Vibes.

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My annual WordPress blog report for 2015 suggested I republish my five most popular posts, beginning with “Christmas Candy.”

 

Courtesy: Vi Parsons

Courtesy: Vi Parsons

What? I blogged that memoir on Christmas Eve, Wednesday, December 24, 2014. Four weeks later, Wednesday, January 21, 2015, the 95th anniversary of my brother Clyde’s birth, “Christmas Candy” received the most views.

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With such great success on Wednesday, then why am I blogging on Thursday? With the exception of that single post, WordPress statistics confirm Thursday as your favorite reading day.

 

Looking back: Christmas Candy 

Looking forward: See you next ThursdayCalendar-January 2016-Vintage

 

 

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Writer’s Advice – Third Quote Challenge

Well-known philosophers—mostly dead—push to the front, vying for mention in this last quote challenge.

“Either write things worthy reading, or do things worth the writing.”

―Benjamin Franklin

Pencils

I’m trying, Ben, but you forgot to publish the DIY how-to section.

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

―Agatha Christie

Book stack climber

Sorry, Ms. Christie, but California is in its fourth year of drought. Until El Niño arrives, I’m using paper plates. The trip out to the green waste receptacle is too short to do anything more than wonder if I’ve scheduled my next blog post.

“Don’t get it right – get it WRITTEN!”

―Lee Child

Start-Finish-Road

Thanks, Lee. I probably know more about Jack Reacher than real-life people because you took your own advice and published twenty novels with him as the protagonist.  Reacher even has short stories to keep me posted on his activities between hardcover books.

CrimeSceneTape

I’ve published a couple of nonfiction books and dozens of short stories, but my first mystery manuscript is old enough to go to kindergarten. Why haven’t I followed Lee Child’s advice and published it?

“I’d rather edit manuscripts written by others.”

―Violet Carr Moore

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