Friday, February 28, 2014

Copy Editing

A while back, I signed on as an assistant copy editor for Dewpoint, which is the literary magazine of my university's chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society.

I had to read through one poem and three short stories, find all the typos and grammar errors and all that, and compile of a list of them and their locations to send on to the editors.

So I did. I went through each piece with a few colorful pens and marked all the things that needed to be corrected. Then I put them all into a big, detailed list and sent them on to the chief copy editor. It took a while. I kept finding things. I was definitely nitpicking, but I feel like nitpicking is kind of a copy editor's job.

Today the chief copy editor sent out an email saying that the copy editing staff had sent in a total of thirteen Microsoft Word pages of corrections.

I personally contributed seven pages and a smidge.

I guess some people only had four little poems to read... but still. I contributed over half of the corrections in the entire lit mag. By myself. I'm still trying to decide whether that's impressive.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Art of Brevity

So I'm an English major, and I'll graduate from college in about a year. As of this moment, I think I'd like a job in the publishing industry, although I'm also keeping my eyes open for jobs that involve creative writing opportunities. If at all possible, I'd like to have a job lined up when I graduate. Or pretty soon afterward.

How does one acquire a job of any kind? I've heard it's nigh impossible if you don't have experience. And the best way to get experience, I've been told, is to get an internship.

That's my goal for the summer: Get an internship, learn cool things about editing and publishing (or possibly creative writing?), get experience. As it so happens, I already have an internship lined up for the fall semester, and I'll likely apply to work in my school's writing center.

I'm sure there must be a way to balance a job, an internship, and marching band.

But I was talking about summer. After my freshman year, I worked at a museum. After my sophomore year, I studied abroad. This will be (I hope) the summer of the internship.

There are sooooooooooo many internships out there, with a wiiiiide variety of applications. Some applications are long and have trick questions. Some applications ask for a very, very specific cover letter. Some applications time out before you can type a single paragraph and force you to start all over again- four times. Some ask to see a portfolio. Some aren't really applications- just a request for you to send a resume. Those are my favorite.

I've hit a bump in applying for this one internship. It wants me to include a short (4-6 page) sample of nonfiction work along with my cover letter and resume.

"That's easy," I thought. "I'll just pull up my school folders and- waaaaaiiit."


Nonfiction. As in, not creative writing.

"Well, that's also easy!" I thought. "I'll just pull out one of those literature essays I'm always writing. In fact, I've got that really good one from last spring about the ghosts!"

The ghost essay, including the works cited, is seven pages long.

I considered just taking off the works cited, but then I decided that maybe I shouldn't risk the company crying plagiarism and blacklisting me forever. It could happen.

So I looked through my other literature papers from years past.

All the good ones are seven or eight pages long.

Even the okay ones are seven or eight pages long.

Brevity has always been hard for me. I guess I oughta work on that.

Hey, maybe I can just send the ghost paper anyway, and they can just ignore the works cited. Does anybody ever read those if they're not supposed to be grading them?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fingers of Fury

Last night I was writing a paper. Just trucking away. I'd already gone through my distracted hour or so and I was back on track. Then, in the middle of a paragraph, I just went insane and started typing random letters insanely fast. Think button-mashing. It was a little bit cathartic, to be honest. It made me feel like some kind of lightning-fast computer genius on a TV show. How do those people type so fast?

I decided to give it a try. Since the results were so hilarious, I just kept trying. And trying. And trying. And in those wee hours of the morning, I thought it was so funny that I should take a screenshot. So I'm going to share it with you.

As I first began, typing things like "I'm a Little Teapot" and "Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill," I found that my brain couldn't keep up with my insanely fast fingers. A lot of the right letters are present, but often in the wrong order. After trying a few more songs, rhymes, and tongue-twisters, I decided to try my school's fight song, wondering if something I'd sung many times over the last three years would be easier to type quickly. It sort of was. I typed the words of the fight song more accurately- at least accurately enough for spellcheck to recognize them and help me out. 

The most impressive thing about this is the amount of time I spent typing nonsense. Good grief.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Since I did a lot of ranting and complaining yesterday, I'll talk about something I appreciate today.

Let's see... Ah, yes! I appreciate the weather.

It was in the 60s today. Even got up to 70. I wore a light jacket and it was very pleasant.

Still hovering around 60 even though it's close to midnight. Love it.

The air smelled very fresh and springy.

I feel a haiku coming on.

Oh fresh springy air,
You fill my lungs with happy.
Never go away.

Monday, February 17, 2014

About those prepositions at the end of a sentence...

If you've looked at my blog recently, you may have noticed that I went on a rant a few hours ago about people ending their sentences with the word "at," which is completely awful because it goes beyond the rule about ending your sentences with prepositions because it doesn't belong in a sentence beginning with the word "where."

Someone in the comments brought to my attention the fact that the whole no-prepositions-at-the-end-of-a-sentence thing is not actually a rule anymore.

I missed that somewhere along the line.

The website that commenter Lee Seitz provided was the work of Grammar Girl:

The basic summary is that people were traditionally taught not to end sentences with prepositions, but nowadays most grammarians say it's okay. Why? For the same reason I usually ignore the rule: Nobody talks that way.

Astounded, I went to my bookshelf to research this rule a bit and see if everyone is in agreement on this.

My go-to guide for writing and grammar things is Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (4th ed.), and they have this to say on the matter:

Years ago, students were warned not to end a sentence with a preposition;
time, of course, has softened that rigid decree. Not only is the preposition
acceptable at the end, sometimes it is more effective in that spot than
anywhere else. "A claw hammer, not an ax, was the tool he murdered
her with." This is preferable to "A claw hammer, not an ax, was the
tool with which he murdered her." Why? Because it sounds more
violent, more like murder. A matter of ear. (77-78)

So I'm not insane- the preposition rule was once a thing. But do people still consider it a thing? Which people? What would my professors say?

I went to the writing handbook that my university uses as a textbook in the 100 level English classes to see if the preposition rule is still a thing here. It's the University of Alabama's version of A Writer's Reference (7th ed.) with Writing in the Disciplines. We fondly refer to it as the Hacker Handbook, since it's written by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers. 

As a fun side note, I never actually bought this book because I didn't take EN 101 here (AP credit- it's cool!). I was actually visiting one of my professors about a paper and he just gave me his older copy when I told him I didn't have one. Pretty cool. He's an awesome guy.

I looked at the sections about prepositions in the Hacker Handbook, and neither section said anything about the placement of prepositions at the end of a sentence. I guess it's really, really not a thing anymore.

Although I'm personally still going to stick to the rule in academic writing whenever it's reasonable to do so, because while the rule may be what Grammar Girl calls a "myth," it's a very widely believed one, and I don't want to lose points on a paper for something as dumb as prepositions.

But let's get one thing straight, people: It is still very, very, veeeery wrong to end your sentence with the word "at" in cases like the ones I discussed in my previous rant. In fact, it's also usually wrong to end your sentence with the word "to" for the very same reason. It doesn't belong in the sentence. It has no purpose. It's unnecessary. You don't need it. You're wasting your breath and printer ink.

 So end your sentence with "from," "on," and "with" all you want-

Kick "at" to the curb.

(And his equally useless friend "to.")

WARNING: Grammar Rant

Nobody likes a Grammar Nazi. I know this. And I try really, really hard. I do. I've gotten really good at not correcting people's grammar over the years. And this is a good thing.

Because people make mistakes, you know? Slip of the tongue, brain fart, typo- honest mistakes that everyone makes. Even me. So I cut people a break. Because people are human, and nobody likes a Grammar Nazi.

I feel pretentious even talking about grammar. Like I said, I make mistakes, too. Nobody's perfect. But I feel like I just care about grammar a lot more than some people do... maybe that just comes from being an English major? Maybe that's why I'm an English major? I don't know. I couldn't recognize a foul in football, but comma splices rarely elude me. That's just how my brain works.

Long story short: Bad grammar bothers me, I'm sincerely sorry if that annoys you, and now I'm going to talk about grammar that annoys me a whole lot.

So there's this rule in the English language that you're not supposed to end sentences with a preposition.

Prepositions are words like up, over, on, in, out, with, at, from...

You know what, forget it. Schoolhouse Rock does it best.

Yay! Prepositions.

So like I said: the official rule of prepositions is that they must never be the last word of a sentence.

So instead of saying, "Which bench did you sit on?" you're supposed to say, "On which bench did you sit?"

Except people don't really talk like that. Sentences like "On which bench did you sit?" sound overly formal and rather like they're spoken by people who lived hundreds of years ago. So I forgive the breaking of this rule very often and I, myself, break it all the time. The only time I'll pitch a fit about it is in the case of academic writing.

There are just a few exceptions.

For reasons I can't really explain, it drives me up the wall when people end their sentences with the word "at."

"Where did you park at?" "Where is the building located at?" "Where you at?" "Where are the puppies at?" "Do you know where the bathroom's at?"



It's hard to say why this preposition bothers me and the others don't (although sometimes I have a real issue with people ending their sentences with "to," as well). I think what gets me is that the word "at" is completely unnecessary in a sentence that already has the word "where" in it.

It's not like "Which bench did you sit on?" in which the preposition is just in the wrong place.

The word "at" does not belong in the sentence "Where did you park?"

At all.

Again: There is no place for the word "at" in that sentence, or in virtually any other sentence that starts with the word "where."

Where did you park? Where is the building located? Where are you? Where are the puppies? Do you know where the bathroom is?

No "at." Ever.

If you think about it, any function the word "at" has is already taken care of by the word "where." So the word "at" is completely useless and unnecessary. Don't let it stay in the sentence just to make it feel better. Get out of here, at.

So when people end their sentences with the word "at," they're saying more words than they have to. They're spending more energy than is necessary, and all that their extra effort gets them is a grammatically incorrect sentence. That's why it bugs me so much.

I know you're all thinking of that old joke right now: "Where did you park at, @%#&$?"

Very funny. Very classy. But still grammatically incorrect.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Accidental Overachieving

You know what drives me nuts?

When I'm answering a question like- oh, "What differences did you notice between the script and the staged production? Are they positive or negative changes? How?" and I rattle off a few differences and the effects they have on the tone and the setting and the character development and fill up two nice, beefy paragraphs simply because I enjoy analyzing things like this...

...and then I glance back at the directions and see that my professor wanted me to answer all three of those questions in three to five sentences.


Well, I ain't gonna condense it. He should be grateful I showed so much interest and actually put in an effort. And let's be honest, I probably couldn't shorten two beefy paragraphs down to five sentences if I tried.

Just as an experiment, let's see if I can condense this blog post down to one sentence:

I accidentally wrote more than I had to.

Imagine if that was actually the blog post. It'd be awful.

Not that this post is much more than me complaining about a minor thing anyway.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Random Fact #21

Random Fact #21: You can clean a shower curtain with a toothbrush.

I wouldn't recommend it if you have a bigger cleaning apparatus or if you can just buy a new shower curtain, but don't let anyone tell you it can't be done. They're fools.

Source: I've done it.

Yeah, that's right. I just cleaned my shower curtain with a toothbrush and a bottle of Soft Scrub With Bleach. Step aside, Hemingway. There's a new badass writer in town.

(But really, have you heard the story about how Hemingway went out in a rowboat during World War II and shot a U-boat with a handgun? The little bit of research I've done indicates that he never actually attacked a U-boat, but the man actually did patrol for them in a wooden boat, and he had firearms on hand. Considering the "manly man" characters that Hemingway often writes, this shouldn't surprise me. And yet...

Terry Mort wrote a book about Hemingway's U-boat hunting called The Hemingway Patrols: Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-Boats. Google Books has a pretty hefty preview if you're interested. I might have to check it out sometime, because the thought of Hemingway hunting U-boats never fails to amuse me.)

Happy Valentine's Day!

I know it's a day late, but Happy Valentine's Day! Whether you're single or with someone this Half-Priced Chocolate Day, treat yourself well and celebrate all the people you like and love!

I think you're awesome because you're reading my blog. Will you be my valentine?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

French Dreams

When I was but a wee high schooler, my French teacher used to say that it was a sign that the French language was really sinking into your brain if you dreamed in French. This later led to a couple dramatic outbursts from my classmates: "I GOT MY FRENCH DREAM!!!"

I've had a handful of French dreams since high school (but who really knows, since I never remember my dreams?). The first time I dreamed in French was when I was either a freshman or a sophomore. I think that, at the time, I was eagerly preparing for a trip to Disney World, and I wanted so very badly to speak French to the French people working at the French Pavilion in Epcot. The problem was that I really didn't know that much French at the time. So I memorized one phrase and practiced it often: "Je voudrais un croissant, s’il vous plaĆ®t." (I would like a croissant, please.)

And then I had a dream that I was either in Epcot France or Real France, about to go to a restaurant, and I was practicing that one phrase over and over in my head before I got there.

So I guess I had that phrase down pretty well.

French dreams are on my mind today because I had another one last night (along with some weird nonsense about Downton Abbey in a huge modern-day bathroom). As I've gotten better at speaking French over the years, my French dreams have slowly become more sophisticated.

Last night, I dreamed that I was staying in France with a host family again. I was sitting down to dinner with them for the first time and feeling a little bit nervous. The details of the dream are fuzzy, but I do remember specific bits in which I was speaking real French to them, asking where I should sit and such, and they responded to me in French. I also fell asleep, sprawled across the table, because of some serious jetlag (always happens to me- although usually I only fall asleep while I'm standing up or walking).

Although the dream kinda took a lame turn after dinner was over and everybody had gone upstairs to bed except my host mom and myself. She asked me a question I didn't understand the first time (I swear it was just garbled nonsense my brain came up with to make me feel stupid), and when I asked her to repeat it, she switched to fluent English. My dream-self was very taken aback and thought, "Hey, that's cheating! She's not allowed to do that!" But that was the end of the French.