Happy Spring!

Happy spring, everyone!

The first day of spring always reminds me of crawling across a finish line, battered and bruised but utterly relieved. In a climate like the one in which we live, north of the Forty-Fourth Parallel, the arrival of the vernal equinox is really more of a moral victory than an atmospheric one—snow and ice will reign supreme here for many weeks more—but the knowledge that we have achieved a balance between daylight and darkness and that we are far closer to milder days than we were months ago is indeed worth celebrating.

It is also worth the optimism of springlike photographs!

I also really enjoy the glee heralded by last day of winter … in some ways even more than the first day of spring. Because while the first day of spring is like eagerly planting a flag on a long-anticipated and enticing patch of turf, dreaming of pleasant things to come, the last day of winter offers the smug satisfaction of accomplishment. Finishing the last page of a book, after all, is much more gratifying than finishing the first page of a new one.

Best wishes for your springtime! May the seeds you plant—whatever they may be—burst forth with all that makes your spirit sing.

Happy Winter Solstice!

sun1_s

Shhh ….

Hear that?

That’s the sound of us smiling at the knowledge that we’ve officially reached the shortest day of the year, which means that we’re now beginning our collective, slow, ever-spinning swing back toward gradually and increasingly lighter days, a journey around the sun that we all make together.

One of the really great things about solstices is their unifying characteristic—everyone in the world experiences them more or less simultaneously, together. Better than that, they also connect us with the celebratory traditions of countless cultures around the world, transcending both space and time, as well as our natural world and everything of which it consists. They remind us that we’re all more alike than we are different, and that’s particularly comforting on the darkest night of the year.

Sunlight is returning!

If you are so inclined to celebrate, perhaps you may consider borrowing traditions from one of the societies around our planet that have welcomed the lengthening days over many thousands of years. Forgive grudges, as did folks in ancient Rome, share food with others, as was done in Poland, or create your own way to celebrate the occasion. Light candles, invite loved ones to share a special meal or pause to remember those you cannot be with, volunteer, recommit to a goal or an ideal … or perhaps do nothing at all save feeling smug and pleased that there will be more daylight tomorrow than there is today.

Happy Winter Solstice … Happy Holidays!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

This holiday comes at a particularly good time of year, not just because it is a season of harvest and bounty but also because we are heading into days with increasingly less daylight … and that makes it particularly important to rally our spirits and focus on what is right with our lives.

We encourage you to not place overly lofty expectations on yourselves during this Thanksgiving and the season of festivities soon to follow. In the challenging whirl and hubbub of the entire holiday season and its seemingly endless string of obligations, stress, and exhaustion, is easy to agonize so much over the details and minutiae that we largely miss the point of this longtime tradition—which is to celebrate our blessings, contemplate our gratitude for everything that is going well, remember those who are less fortunate in some way, and—if we choose—to break bread with loved ones. Our holidays need not be Hallmark moments; setting ourselves up for such an expectation may not be to our collective advantage.

It's beautiful, yes, but is it a requirement?
It’s beautiful, yes, but is it a requirement?

In fact, simplicity is often preferred.

Simple is beautiful!
You might choose instead to fill up on love, laughter, and good conversation and save yourselves the additional hours of planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning up. Simple is beautiful!

If at all possible, consider taking some time to rest and relax, to breathe deeply, and to reflect on the goodness in your lives.

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In closing, we offer these wise words:

It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.

—Author unknown

Thirty Million (30,000,000!) Words! And 450 Books!

Today marks an exciting day here at ScriptAcuity Studio! We have officially surpassed the thirty million–word mark and have also received our 450th full-scale manuscript!

(While we technically have logged 687 unique manuscripts to date [with another one due to arrive imminently], some of them have been very short, such as children’s books or brief web-based educational content.)

Today’s 450th full-scale book also serves to push us solidly over thirty million words edited. This is of particular note given that we conduct multiple rounds of edits on every manuscript, meaning that those same thirty million words have all been edited multiple times.

We love what we do!

“Huh?”

Noted in a recent magazine article* was the following side blurb: “Four officials were suspended from their posts for allegedly mismanaging flood in China’s northern province of Hebei …”

In reading the phrase Four officials were suspended from their posts, one might (correctly, in this case) interpret it to mean “Four officials were halted from returning to the jobs to which they were assigned” or some variation thereof, but might one—particularly one for whom English is not a native language—also understand it to mean “Four officials were dangled from their stanchions”?

The culpability for such potential confusion cannot be placed solely at the feet of our poor friends the homonyms. Given the intricacies, subtleties, and complexities of language, it is little wonder that what a person often attempts to communicate to others is not necessarily interpreted as he or she intends by those on the receiving end. Such is a situation that occurs in all forms of communication—with sometimes hilarious or even tragic results—and it is certainly rampant in written communication, particularly with the still additional layer of complexities introduced by the vast universe of punctuation.

Consider, if you will, this second example, taken from The Chicago Manual of Style, sixteenth edition, section 6.29, concerning commas with compound predicates:

“She recognized the man who entered the room, and gasped.”

Do you see why the comma is necessary here?

If read without the comma, the reader may incorrectly infer that the person who gasped in this situation was the man who entered the room rather than the woman who recognized him.

Such a tiny piece of punctuation … so profound its impact on the intended message.

(Speaking of tiny pieces of punctuation with profound impacts on the intended message, we invite you to check out our November 2015 article “CMS Says …” for a brief, happy little chat about the hyphen versus the en dash versus the em dash. All distinct, all with a purpose.)

Tread carefully, friends.

In our work, we assiduously focus on an author’s intent and try to assist him or her in selecting the most appropriate words to convey his or her message, as we discussed in our June 2016 article “What We Mean and What We Say.” And by working with writers to increase their work’s clarity, editors can help writers to present themselves and most accurately impart their message, as we explained in our July 2014 article “Can’t You Just Run a Spell Check?”

Finally, we leave you with this bit of dialogue from a story familiar to many:

Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.

“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least–at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.”

“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see!’”

“You might just as well say,” added the March Hare, “that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like!’”

“You might just as well say,” added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, “that ‘I breathe when I sleep’ is the same thing as ‘I sleep when I breathe!’”

—From Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

* “The World This Week: Politics,” The Economist, July 30, 2016.

The Many Cogs in the Manuscript-Publishing Machine

Josh Mitteldorf and Dorion Sagan‘s joint venture, Cracking the Aging Code, formally launched in June of this year. Similarly, author Serena Burdick’s debut novel, Girl in the Afternoon, officially launched in July. Dr. Mitteldorf and Mr. Sagan and Ms. Burdick were kind and thoughtful enough to acknowledge us in their books—and Ms. Burdick also tweeted her appreciation—for which we are truly very grateful.

Look closely at these two different pages of acknowledgments (above). There we are!
Look closely at these two different pages of acknowledgments (see above). There we are! Whee!

GirlInTheAfternoonTweet What a sweet tweet!

Such acknowledgment—in our case, it has happened only a handful of times over the years—is a rare treat for most editors. There are so many people involved in a book’s publication that it would be hopelessly impractical for authors to personally thank every single person for his or her involvement in the project (and that’s assuming the author even knew of everyone or even wanted to!).

There is the author, of course, and anyone with whom the author speaks about the manuscript—formally or informally—to discuss and solidify ideas, solicit feedback, read drafts … and the myriad of other ways authors’ friends, associates, and coaches assist with the creation and smoothing of a manuscript. Let’s not forget about anyone with whom the author interacts for research purposes in the course of writing and refining the manuscript and those from whom third-party permissions must be sought and obtained. Such processes alone can take years, and there are always unsung heroes involved.

Then, often, there are such players as literary agents and independent marketing professionals who assist with garnering interest in the manuscript.

Once the book is picked up by a publishing house—and let’s remember that there are contracts directors involved with the various legalities of the deal—there are seemingly countless professionals whose job it is to facilitate the process. Just among editors alone, there are a variety of types, all of whom have distinct (yet often overlapping) roles. Acquisitions editors, managing editors, developmental editors, copyeditors … they all play roles in the process.

Who designs the cover art? Who writes the jacket copy? Who on the publisher’s legal team reviews the content? Who indexes the manuscript if required? Who screens the revisions? Who typesets the book after its copyedit? Who proofreads the final proof before publication? What about the marketing and promotion team? Those involved in communicating and monitoring the production schedule? And the people who read advanced readers’ copies to provide feedback? What about the innumerable folks in various ostensibly unrelated-yet-still-mission-critical positions—administrative assistants, accounting professionals, interns charged with a variety of responsibilities? How many countless people work hard to manufacture and distribute that glorious hard copy that you lovingly hold in your hands?

And if the book is self-published, there are often entirely different processes and people to shepherd those processes along!

It is little surprise, then, that copyeditors’ names only very occasionally make it into the printed glory of the manuscript on which they so dedicatedly worked—check out the acknowledgments of the books you read and see for yourself—which is part of what makes receiving one such a distinct honor and privilege.

What We Mean and What We Say

When we’re working, we keep our dictionaries close at hand when we edit, and we do this for several reasons.

First, our clients’ preferences determine what our go-to reference will be and which resource gets the final say in case of disagreement. In some cases, the authors’ preferences—especially in the case of nontraditional spellings or made-up words—can trump all other resources. (It doesn’t matter if the author spelled XXXXXX like that, even though the dictionary prefers XXXXX, especially when it’s a sequel to a previously published work!)

Second, and we’re not ashamed to admit it, we don’t know every single word in the English language, and in some cases, some terms are very specific to certain industries or fields where we don’t have the same expertise-level knowledge as the author. (If we had doctorates in biology, physics, astrophysics, economics, American history, world history, chemistry, medicine, law, and philosophy, we probably wouldn’t have time for editing.)

When we read and edit, we try to pay attention to an author’s intent and try to assist him or her in selecting the most appropriate words. Notice that when we say most appropriate, we don’t always mean correct; this is especially true of fiction. In nonfiction, using an incorrect or inappropriate word can call an author’s credibility into question. If fiction, however, the incorrect word can be used as characterization. What does it say about a character who consistently uses the wrong word? What if a character uses the same fifty-cent word repeatedly, whenever he’s given the chance? What if a character uses an outdated term or one now considered offensive?

Word choice can be powerful when applied correctly, even when the word is used incorrectly.