Archive for October, 2011

Editing your grammar: my little pet peeve

I have no bigger pet peeve than people who have poor grammar, or who mix up the spelling of common words.

And it happens all the time.

On Facebook. on Twitter, in emails… I see it everywhere. And it drives me nuts.

Because it drives me nuts, I am always extra cautious whenever I tweet, post on Facebook, and email. And, I also spend a lot of time correcting my friends’ posts.

I know, I know, I know. Some might argue that it’s just Facebook, or just a tweet, but c’mon people… yes, others are out there judging you on your awful grammar, and yes, I’m one of those people.

Some of the most common mishaps I see are as follows:

Oh Hayley, I think your so pretty.  

No. That book is yours. Your house is far. I have your pen.

You are = you’re. Therefore, you’re very pretty. You’re a good singer. You’re fun to hang out with.

There house is very large.

No, their house is over there. And they’re living in it together.

See the difference?

The book was old, and it’s pages were turning brown. 

NO! It’s a very old book ( it’s = it is), and its pages are tearing.

Do I need to reiterate? It is = it’s. Its = possessive. Clear?

I think these are probably the three mistakes I see most often. And as an editor, they drive me crazy. I don’t know how many times I’ve corrected a friends’ email message, or text message – and in turn probably made them very unhappy with me. I’ve even been called the grammar police.

But, if I have one, single tip to pass on to anyone posting messages in a public medium. PLEASE, I beg you, edit your content for grammatical errors before you post it, tweet it, text it, or hit the send button in gmail. Please.


The tattoo oops (the importance of editing tattoos – before they’re inked on your skin)

Both of these photos are of my tattoos. The eagle is my first tattoo– and yes, the saying is from the Robert Munsch book. “Have hope” is my most recent tattoo; a little reminder to myself.

In getting both of these tattoos I sat down with the tattoo artists and went over them extensively. Again, and again, and again. We talked about placement: where I wanted the lettering to go, where exactly I wanted it on my body, and how large I wanted it.

We also went over spelling. Several times. In both cases, the tattoo artist had me check the spelling, and check the spelling again, and then check one more time just to be sure. This was before he even went to make a stencil.

In both cases, once the stencil was made, and on my body – the artists had me look in the mirror and check the tattoo just one more time; even before they opened up the ink and began to tattoo, just to make sure everything was correct, and just the way I wanted it.

In both cases, it was only after about an hour of making sure everything was exactly the way I wanted it, that the artists opened the ink, and put the needle to my skin.

Sometimes however, this degree of carefulness is not the case.

So, what happens when customers aren’t adamant  about checking, and double checking to be sure everything about the  soon-to-be tattoo is absolutely perfect BEFORE it’s permanently inked into their skin? And what happens when tattoo artists forget to double check their work before they pull out the needle and go to town?

I’ll show you a few examples. See if you can “spot the screw ups.” (both examples found on

If these tattoo screw ups aren’t  an indication of why it’s important to be very sure things are spelled correctly before having them permanently tattooed on your skin – I don’t know what is.

I know I sure as heck wouldn’t want to walk around with “spot the screwups” on my skin for the rest of my life – and I have to say: I’m very pleased that my tattoos turned out just the way I wanted them to.

The little errors that drive me crazy

I’m learning quickly that (as much as I love it) editing a newspaper can get extremely frustrating. Yes, I’m talking about The Projector.

The most frustrating thing: Picking up the new issue of the paper and realizing there’s mistakes on the cover, again. 

This issue, there’s an apostrophe on CEOs where there shouldn’t be. On the cover. Gah.

Now, even as the Co Editor-in-Chief, I have to say there are  no excuses for this. But, it happens. It’s not for lack of effort, either. We pored over the copy, inside and out. Two sets of eyes read it. Multiple times. How in the heck did we miss that stupid apostrophe on the cover?

It will forever be those tiny little errors on the cover, and in headlines, that nag at me. They drive me insane. 

Shoulda, woulda, coulda, right? 

I’ve started to make myself lists of things to look for during production in order to catch these pesky little errors. For each issue that comes out I make a list of things that I’ve noticed, and what to watch for when it comes to the production of the next issue. 

Here’s a few things that have made my  list, thus far: 

• Quadruple check the front cover. Pore over it with a fine-tooth comb if you have to. Check. Walk away. Come back and check it again. Do that multiple times. Even when you think everything’s perfect, it’s very likely there’s going to be an error. And it always comes to bite you in the ass when the issue hits the stands. 

• Make sure that the page numbers listed on the front and inside teasers match where the story is actually placed inside the paper. Double check this. Maybe even triple check. 

• Ensure all of the contributors names are spelled right. They tend to be unhappy when they’re not.

• Check that all fonts used for headlines and subheads are consistent throughout the newspaper.

• Make sure the dates at the bottoms of the pages are that of the current issue – using a template from previous issues can make this tricky; and if you’re not careful, it’s an easy one to miss.

• Ensure that all photos have cutlines, and that the cutlines are correct. 

• Print out the PDFs of the pages, go through them with a highlighter. Fix any errors. Repeat if necessary (it’s probably a good idea to look through them more than once).

• Double check (or triple check) the PDFs before you send them to the printer. It’s never too late to catch errors.

There you have it, my editing to-do list. I hope that if you ever find yourself editing a newspaper, these tips come in handy (and will hopefully help you catch those pesky little errors). 

Sometimes you have to tear yourself down, too

Hayley and I have been running story meetings/ workshops for first-years writing for The Projector. We started off these meetings taking examples from the previous week’s paper and discussing them: how to improve leads, how to properly use CP style, and all of the handy tips we’ve picked up in our experience both as writers and editors.

Though we make an effort to always stay encouraging – reminding them that their stories aren’t bad; they just need a few improvements, there were quite a few complaints that we were “tearing apart their work.”  They didn’t seem  too happy with the way we were running our meetings.

I think we might have hurt a few feelings.

So, this week we decided to switch things up. Each of us found stories that we’d written – Hayley’s from when she started out at the Selkirk Journal when she was 19, and mine, one of the first stories I wrote for The Projector last year. We let the first-year’s pick apart our stories: what they thought about the leads, and things they noticed about them that could be improved. We didn’t tell them who wrote the stories.

They went to town.

“This lead’s too long.” ” That paragraph is an entire sentence, where’s the periods?” “The real story is buried halfway down the page.”

At the end of the workshop Hayley and I  looked each other and started to laugh.

“Hey guys, guess what? These were some of the first stories we ever wrote for a newspaper.”

The first-years looked at us, shocked.

“But you guys are the editors-in-chief.”

That made me laugh. It was only a year ago that I was in their very same shoes – and I’m still a long, long way away from perfect. In fact, I know I’ve still got a lot left to learn.

We had a few students come up to us after the meeting and thank us for sharing our own work.

“It doesn’t make me feel so bad about mine,” one student said.

Looking back at my story I realized how much I have learned in the past year – and how far I’ve come since the first story meetings I attended last September.

“The only way you’re going to improve is by practicing. Keep writing. Keep coming to meetings. Keep asking for feedback on your stories. Talk to us, talk to your instructors. Use your Caps & Spelling.”

I said that to a student today when they came to ask advice on how to improve their writing.

I know it’s how I’ve improved.

(And no, I’m not posting the story … the long-winded lead, run-on sentences, and buried story are best left off the internet.)