Category Archives: English and Editing

Proofreading Catalyst

A rough sample of the Catalyst Cover

The final edits are done. The picture cover has been designed by Bob Hobbs. All that’s left to do is the cover setup (the font will hopefully change), the formatting of the book itself, and the final proofreading.

The proofreading is tough. Even though I’m pleased with the story and believe it’s well crafted, by now I’ve read the darn thing at least five times in the space of a few months and, frankly, I’m a bit sick of it.

Soon I’ll have to read it again, and this time it’s a different way of reading. This type of reading is at the same time mindless and extremely focused.

It’s mindless because you can’t afford to read the story. Reading for the story is a different mode of reading. If you’re a moderately fast reader, like I am, you read ahead and anticipate the words. Even though you read the words, your brain doesn’t “see” them; it sees the story, the characters, the action, the setting. The words –if the story is well written– weave a picture, a mental movie of what’s going on. Even in a literary work, this vision building is the goal of writing.

With proofreading, you must focus on every word. Forget the computer’s spell checker. You are the spell checker. You must look at every word and make sure each is spelled and used correctly. It becomes a witch hunt for any spelling mistakes and false friends like “it’s” and “its”, “they’re” and “their” and “there”, “who’s” and “whose”, etc. Every word is scrutinized. If you fall into the trap of beginning to read the story, you have to back up and start over.

Granted, at this point there shouldn’t be too many spelling mistakes, which makes it even more arduous because, let’s face it, reading words for the sake of words is tedious.

And as a writer, when I get to that point, I must fight the compulsion to fiddle with the words one last time before it’s too late. This is a bad idea for two reasons: first, because major changes at that point can greatly delay the publication of the book and second, because there are chances that I’ll make things worse. The story is completed. Let it be.

And very soon, I’ll be holding a copy in my hands. Can’t wait.

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Can I write?

Yesterday, on LinkdIn, someone asked a question: My mom says my book is good, but is it?

The question turned out to be bogus, asked by a brand-new publisher trolling for potential authors. I didn’t realize it until I’d answered the question. When I thought back, I decided the answer I gave her shouldn’t be lost. I asked a version of that question when I first started to think I wanted to commit to writing more seriously. So, here is the answer I gave her:

Any writer, agent and publisher will tell you that the opinion of a family member is not a reliable gauge of one’s writing ability, even if they’re published writers themselves. Why? Because they love you. Because they don’t want to hurt you or your feelings. Because sometimes there’s a fine line between critique and criticism, and they’re afraid to cross it.

There are several thing you can do:

  1. Join a writing group. You can join a local writing group that writes in your genre. Your local library might be able to help you with that. You can join an online writing or critique group, although some of them are simply admiration societies and are pretty useless. Some of them, though, are quite good and can help you perfect your craft.
  2. Take a creative writing course. You can also take a creative writing course at your local college, or online. Some are quite good and don’t cost a lot of money.
  3. Read on writing techniques. There are tons of books on writing and self-editing that you can either buy or borrow from the library. One book that helped me tremendously is Orson Scott Card’s Characters & Viewpoint.
  4. Ask for unbiased advice. If you’ve always lived in the same town, you can go visit one of your English teachers, be they from high school, college, or university, and ask them for advice. But don’t send your manuscript or story to your favourite published writer. It is unlikely he or she will respond, unless you know them personally.
  5. Don’t stop writing. Don’t stop at one book. Write continuously; it’s only in doing it that you get better.
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The difficulty of English language

I’ve said before that I learned to speak English when I was twenty-one. Learning the language is not only about grammar, vocabulary, or spelling, but also about pronunciation. Dessert and desert: why are they pronounced the same, yet spelled differently? Walk and salmon. Both have a useless “l” in the middle and you’d think that they’d be pronounced in the same way. Noooo. Dough and cough have only one letter difference. Excuse me?

I found this poem, The Chaos, by Gerard Nolst Trenité that exemplifies exactly what I mean. Continue reading

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Confusing Words

I learned to speak and write English when I was about twenty-one years old so English has never been a language I use naturally. In fact, it is one of the most difficult language to learn — if you step away from the basics. It has a lot of subtlety, derivations from other languages, turn of phrases that are difficult to master. Prepositions, and their use, have been, and continue to be, a challenge. Some words are similar (lay, lie) others are grammatically confusing (their, there; its, it’s).

Confusing Words is a website that helps with those challenges. It boasts over 3200 words and their definition and use. Here is an example from one of my own confusion:

take to go with
bring to come with


Bring a covered dish when you come to the pot luck supper, but be sure to take your dish home with you when you go.
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2007 Word of the Year

The American Dialect Society (founded in 1889) voted subprime as the word of the year for 2007.

Subprime is an adjective used to describe a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage, or investment. Subprime was also winner of a brand-new 2007 category for real estate words, a category which reflects the preoccupation of the press and public for the past year with a deepening mortgage crisis.

Contrary to the Academie Française, the Dialect Society, comprised of lots of word people such as linguists, librarians, writers, and grammarians, do not judge whether a word should enter the English language. They simply note the appearance of a “new word” that is being used often and in different ways. For instance, a worker would say “I subprimed that project”, meaning that it came out less than best. Here are some other words the ADS felt were worthy of mention, with the number of votes for each word:


  • WINNER subprime, an adjective used to describe a risky or lessthan ideal loan, mortgage, or investment. 79
  • green– prefix/compounding form Designates environmental concern, as in greenwashing. 9
  • surge an increase in troops in a war zone. 1
  • Facebook all parts of speech. 11
  • waterboarding an interrogation technique in which the subject is immobilized and doused withwater to simulate drowning. 1
  • Googlegänger A person with your name who shows up when you google yourself. 7
  • wide stance, to have a To be hypocritical or to express two conflicting points of view. When Senator Larry Craig was arrested in a public restroom and accused of making signals with hisfoot that police said meant he was in search of a anonymous sex, Craig said it was a misunderstanding and that he just had a wide stance when using the toilet. 2


  • WINNER green– prefix/compounding form Designates environmental concern, as in greenwashing. 43/59
  • bacn Impersonal email such as alerts, newsletters, and automated reminders that are nearly as annoying as spam but which one has chosen to receive. 14
  • celebu– prefix Indicates celebrity, as in celebutard. 13
  • connectile dysfunction Inability to gain or maintain a connection. 5
  • wrap rage Anger brought on by the frustration of trying to open a factory-sealed purchase. 39/55


  • WINNER Googlegänger Person with your name who shows up when you google yourself. 84
  • boom An instance of a military explosion in the phrases left of boom, which describes the US military’s efforts to root out insurgents before they do harm, and right of boom, which describes efforts to minimize attacks with better equipment, systems, and medical care. 1
  • lolcat On the Internet, an odd or funny picture of a cat given a humorous and intentionally ungrammatical caption in large block letters. From LOL + cat. 20
  • tapafication The tendency of restaurants to serve food in many small portions, similar to tapas. 4 ó


  • WINNER Happy Kwanhanamas! [Kwanza + Hanukka + Christmas] Happy holidays! 63
  • ruther Someone who espouses a conspiracy theory about the events of 9/11. 5
  • vegansexual A person who eats no meat, uses no animal-derived goods, and who prefers not to ave sex with non-vegans. 35


  • WINNER toe-tapper A homosexual. Senator Larry Craig was arrested in June for an encounterin a public restroom in which toe-tapping was said to have been used as a sexual come-on. 70
  • nappy-headed ho An expression used on the Don Imus radio show, and repeated by the host,about the women’s basketball team at Rutgers University. 27
  • make it rain To drop paper money on a crowd of people, especially in strip clubs, nightclubs, or casinos. 2


  • WINNER human terrain team A group of social scientists employed by the US military toserve as cultural advisers in Iraq or Afghanistan. 60
  • shmashmortion/smushmortion Abortion. 8
  • va-j-j Also va-jay-jay or vajayjay The vagina. 30


  • WINNER green- prefix/compounding form Designates environmental concern, as ingreenwashing. 70
  • global weirding An increase in severe or unusual environmental activity often attributed toglobal warming. This includes freakish weather and new animal migration patterns. 3
  • Super-Duper Tuesday Feb. 5th, the day 23 US states will hold primary elections. Also knownas Tsunami Tuesday. 1
  • wide stance, to have a To be hypocritical or to express two conflicting points of view. WhenSenator Larry Craig was arrested in a public restroom and accused of making signals with hisfoot that police said meant he was in search of a anonymous sex, Craig said it was amisunderstanding and that he just had a wide stance when using the toilet. 13
  • locavore someone who eats food that is grown or produced locally. Nominated by Dick Bailey.13
  • texter a person who sends text messages. 5


  • WINNER strand-in Protest duplicating being stranded inside an airplane on a delayed flight.31/74
  • Billary/Hill-Bill Bill and Hillary Clinton. 1
  • earmarxist A congressman or senator who adds earmarks–money designated for a particular person or group–to legislation. Coined by the blog Redstate to refer to Democrats. 32/2
  • quadriboobage The appearance of having four breasts caused by wearing a brassiere that is too small. 40/19


  • WINNER subprime Used to describe a risky or poorly documented loan or mortgage. 65
  • exploding ARM An Adjustable Rate Mortgage whose rates soon rise beyond a borrowerís abilityto pay. 10
  • liar’s loan/liar loan Money borrowed from a financial institution under false pretenses,especially in the form of a ìstated incomeî or ìno-docî loan which can permit a borrower toexaggerate income. 1
  • NINJA No Income, No Job or Assets. A poorly documented loan made to a high-risk borrower.34
  • scratch and dent loan A loan or mortgage that has become a risky debt investment, especially one secured with minimal documentation or made by a borrower who has missed payments. 2
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