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Big Moves and Big Changes

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Photo by Igor Dernovoy on Unsplash

I don’t think it is hyperbolic to say that we are in the midst of a slow-creeping cultural shift. You might be confused with my use of the phrase “slow-creeping.” Let me explain:

These changes that we are seeing may seem abrupt and swift, but they have been ongoing since at least 1776. Democracies, just like language and people, are living things, and they change over time. Sometimes those changes are chaotic and sometimes they are not noticeable. But changes are always in motion.

2020, just like 1920, is the year of change, and these changes are proving to be rather painful but necessary. And can we just say that there is something about the decade of the 20s that seems to signify radical change? This is true of the 1820s as well, which would see the planting of the seeds for the American Civil War.

There’s something about the 20s.

This year started off normal enough, if not a bit crazy, largely owing to the political—and by extension social—wreckage we currently find ourselves. Nevertheless, we were still making plans, setting new years resolutions, and doing the daily grind. Then there was Kobe (seems like a long time ago). Then there was Corona. Then there was George Floyd. I have to say, I am kind of anxious about what July will bring.


On a personal note, I am also going through changes. Because of the roller coaster of uncertainty that came with COVID-19, I went through my own little personal upheaval.

I began the year in Seattle, interviewing for a job. By February, I informally received the job. By March, a hiring freeze was instituted, and my job along with it. By April, I was able to get through the hiring freeze and get employed.

So, now I am moving across the country and away from my family. Big, big changes indeed.

Despite all of the craziness, we have to move the pieces of the wreckage out of our way and keep going.

Here’s to making it to the midpoint of the year and hoping for something better!

-KRW

blog, Uncategorized

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Sane

Times are really tough right now. As the stress piles up, and the uncertainty widens, we all may feel a little insane.

As a teacher, I have many colleagues that are walking the line between sanity and hard mental breaks. I also see students overwhelmed, stressed, and deflated. I don’t have any solutions here, but I wanted to send a little note of encouragement.

Since the transition to online, I have signed off every lecture with the same mantra: Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Sane. All of these things seem impossible right now, but do try. Do try.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Sane, and Take Care,

-KRW

blog, Books, copyediting, Uncategorized

What’s So Scary about Scare Quotes and Italics

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Welcome to the latest edition of “copyediting adventures!” I had the pleasure of editing a great book with some really interesting content. But there was one tiny flaw. Rather, it was a tiny flaw that turned into a big annoyance: the overuse of emphasis in the manuscript. There were scare quotes and italics everywhere. Multiple words were italicized in a sentence. Some times, one sentence had a combination of italics and quotation marks. There were even words that were italicized, quoted, and underlined simultaneously. This, my friends, is what we call overkill.

As a copyeditor, my job is to make the texts readable while respecting the voice of the writer. But in my experience, some writers don’t understand the power of their own voice. So they try to make the reader see that power. This is a mistake. The fact of your written words is already important enough. To say it another way, if the words are not already important, they should not be in your book.

Sure, writing is a process, and each word should be carefully chosen for clarity, comprehension, and impact. And of course, there are moments when some words need to be emphasized over others. However, if you use too much emphasis, you actually de-emphasize the entire sentence or paragraph.

Everything in the book is already important. But if a reader has to pay attention to every emphasized adverb, preposition, concept, or phrase, then readers will forget to pay attention to the big picture of the book.

So, this is my public service announcement: Too many scare quotes are scary. Excessive use of italics is irrational. Every word in the manuscript should be significant on its own. Just keep writing and let the reader decide their own experience.

—KRW

copyediting, proofreading, teaching, Writing

Proofreading and Copyediting Dilemma: The Art of Reading

I find myself in a bit of a dilemma, one that should be easily avoidable for someone like me. Copyediting and proofreading is a skill that is a combination of the art of reading and the art of writing. As a teacher, I spend a lot of time pouring over the details of my young writers’ work; I want them to be correct and creative. But first, I have to teach them to write. This, of course, requires a certain attention to grammar for the sake of readability.

A fundamental problem that happens with young writers is that they don’t understand the power of punctuation. There are either too many commas or no commas at all. And don’t even get me started on semi-colons; it’s too much to bear to think about. There are usually always periods, but usually after a long, rambling run-on sentence. Did I mention the commas?

Don’t get me wrong; I understand why the problem exists. My students are all writers in their own way, but social media writing does not translate well in any setting other than social media writing. And generally speaking, excellent grammar is not always the marker of a great writer (this is why copyeditors exist). Nevertheless, I have to hammer on the grammar to make the writings readable, then hammer on the art to make the writings creative.

Sometimes creativity necessitates the breaking of certain grammar rules. It’s a necessary sacrifice. One that I see all the time as a professional copyeditor and proofreader, and this is where my dilemma comes in.

Proofreading Code of Conduct

I had to do a proofreading job recently, and I was in full teacher mode because, well, there were dangling and misplaced modifiers every where. Every description of every place, person, or thing included a dangling modifier. Of course my instinct was to fix all of the dangling because in a sea of nouns, I couldn’t tell what was being modified.

I wanted to correct these dangly bits. But then I noticed that the color begin to drain from the text. That’s a problem. A book without a voice is a terrible thing. So, I contacted my editor to get some parameters, and she told me that some of those dangling bits are literary. And she was right. And so I let the modifiers dangle, cringing a little in the process.

This led me to reconsider the work of the proofreader versus the copy editor. Proofreaders generally check for grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and syntax. Copy editors check for some of those things plus accuracy, mechanics, consistency, organization, clarity, and more. In some of those sentences, I thought the meaning was confusing. However, this meant that a copy editor didn’t think so, and likely signed off on those sentences. If I were to proceed with too many changes, I would be overstepping my proofreader role.

So I deleted some of my suggestions, probably a bit too much. But the writer’s poetic style remained intact. I guess we can call that a win, and I had to remind myself about the limits of proofreading. Here is the capital-T-truth: while proofreading is less work, copyediting is much easier. Go figure.

Reading is Art

While I sit here stressing over whether I did an adequate job on the project, I am reminded of this simple principle: reading is art. Copyediting and proofreading are artistic endeavors that facilitate the reading experience, an experience that can rise to the level of art if the writing is good.

I have to remind my professional self that what I do in the class room can actually limit me as a copyeditor. I also have to remind myself to allow my students to be creative and not just correct. Sometimes, breaking the rules of grammar is necessary for the sake of capturing experience. Knowing when to do that—or better, when to allow that—is the major dilemma of copyediting and proofreading.

teaching, Uncategorized

Happy Halloween: It’s Job Market Season

Happy Halloween: It’s time to find that job! Isn’t this just great.

Unfortunately, it’s been some time since I’ve updated this blog. Fortunately, it’s because I have been extraordinarily busy with teaching, researching, writing, and, of course, copyediting!

Now I have entered the time of year where I have to do the job market dance. In academia, the job market is, well, it generally feels like an ongoing hazing ritual that may or may not end with a beneficial outcome (a positive outcome is too much to hope for). So we dance.

We work through the endless personal statements, teaching statements, research statements, curriculum vitae updates, evaluations, interviews, and more. My experience so far, after sending out upwards of 40 applications last year, is that while there are jobs, there is no money. One interviewer for a job I was offered, in a very expensive city, told me that I may have to get a second job to make ends meet. Yeah, I didn’t take that job.

Another job at another university had their funding pulled for new hires after they told me they would like to hire me. Fun times. Most I didn’t hear back from at all. I am not a fan of ghosting, and it is especially frustrating when you have to go through so much to apply and hear nothing back. Application packets in academia can be up to 10-15 pages long or more. It’s frustrating.

So I am, of course, considering the non-academic track because, well, I like to eat. And pay my bills. And save money. And get that oil change I so desperately need.

Witch of All Hallows Eve

Sometimes, I just want to wave a wand, do a little jig around a cauldron, and swoosh: Hello Dreams! I’ve been so eager to meet you! Where have you been? Too bad magic is not real.

But I’ve been thinking of ways to plan my job market strategy because, well, tis the season. In between Halloween candy and teaching statements, I have to find a way to maximize my time so that I can do an effective and efficient job search. Plus there is all the writing that I have to do (and the writing that I want to do, which is probably not appropriate for the academy).

This season I have been thinking about costumes, more specifically, personas. If you are the type do dress out, Halloween is all about trying on something different, exploring a side of yourself. Putting on the costumes and makeup is an aspect of the rigmarole you have to do for the job market, minus the fun. The strategy here is simple: put on the face and hope for a good outcome. Pablo Neruda said it best in his poem, “Parthenogensis”:

Well, I’ll try to change for the better:
greet them all circumspectly,
watch out for appearances, be dedicated, enthusiastic—
till I’m just what they ordered,
being and un-being at will,
till I’m totally otherwise.

And so we dance!

Figuring Things Out

Despite the web of crazy that is the job market, it is an interesting challenge because it really is about deciding not just who you want to be but also how you want to be for a period or maybe even for the rest of your life.

I know for sure what I want to be—a writer and copyeditor—but there is so much more to life than just work. That’s the other thing that Halloween represents—an opportunity to make the day something more than every other day.

Recently, a student came to me to say that his best friend was killed in a tragic auto accident. He said that he just could not bring himself to do any work at all. I understand that. This kid was 19 when he died. My student is also 19, and he said, crying at this point, that he has never had to deal with someone’s death before. He doesn’t know what to do. He kept asking me what is the correct thing to do.

It all got me thinking about Halloween and having fun and living life and personas. And I realized that my job plan has to be a life plan. Yet, life is unpredictable, so the best thing about Halloween is the energy, the spirit of fun that surrounds it. That has to be a part of the job market plan and the life plan too.

Happy Halloween, folks!