Geode Editorial Services

Idiom Shortage

February 29, 2008
1 Comment

Please, please read this hilarious piece from The Onion on our dwindling supply of cliches; the lede:

A crippling idiom shortage that has left millions of Americans struggling to express themselves spread like tugboat hens throughout the U.S. mainland Tuesday in an unparalleled lingual crisis that now has the entire country six winks short of an icicle.

I even forgive them for using lingual instead of lingustic.


Posted in Uncategorized

Another Good One

January 21, 2008

Although, sadly, it’s from a book about how to teach kids better composition and editing skills:

This paradigm shift in your teaching is a slippery slope, and kids will want to jump on.

To be fair, there’s nothing in the book on how to avoid mixed metaphors.

Posted in Grammar, Word Use

Department of Redundancy

January 18, 2008

Unedited excerpt from a book I’m editing:

Dance can be incorporated as a part of a multimethod research design, where dance or movement serves as one of multiple data collection methods. As with all multimethod projects, the use of multiple methods isn’t simply about “adding” additional methods but rather employing multiple methods so that the methods inform each other.

Geode’s translation:

Dance or movement can be employed as one of several data-collection tools in a multimethod research design. As with all multimethod research projects, the point isn’t simply to add more methods but rather to let them inform each other.

Still a little repetitive, but I did the best I could. Other suggestions?

Posted in Excerpts

Getting Back on Track with a Good Cause

December 19, 2007

Come January 2, I’ll be full-time at Geode Editorial and will likely have a lot more time to keep up this little site. In the meantime, I’ve become addicted to the perfect computer game: Free Rice. It has everything–crazy vocabulary, maddening setbacks, obsessional simplicity AND it generates food for starving people around the world. It presents you with multiple-choice vocabulary questions; for every correct answer, they donate 20 grains of rice to hunger relief organizations. For every three correct answers, they bump you up a level (highest is 50); for every incorrect answer, they bump you down a level. If you think a mere 20 grains doesn’t make a difference, consider this: I’ve only been playing for 20 minutes and I’m up to 7,760 grains (and have been as high as level 49). That has to be at least enough to make dinner for a family of four, right? Anyhow, play and learn–I’ve never seen a lot of these words.

Update: It took me nearly 12,000 grains of rice, but I made it to level 50. This is really honing my root-word skills.

Posted in Word Use

A Word-Nerd’s Bookshelf

October 2, 2007

Oh poor, neglected site. I promise this will be a more active blog once I’m a full-time employee of Geode (January 1, 2008!). But as I start the countdown to self-employment, it’s time to take stock of the company library. Below is the Geode reference shelf. Chime in with your own reference/style favorites!

Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.)
American Psychological Association Style Manual (5th ed.)
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (4th ed., text rev.)
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.)
Words into Type (3rd ed.)
The New York Public Library Desk Reference
Webster’s New Biographical Dictionary
Webster’s Geographical Dictionary
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
The Careful Writer: A Modern Guide to English Usage
Usage and Abusage (Partridge)
Fowler’s Modern English Usage
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
Revising Prose (Lanham)

Something Else to Ponder

August 3, 2007

I just ran across the following on another blog post devoted to “classy” insults of days gone by:

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” (William Faulkner, about Ernest Hemingway)

As most of you know, these writers, both Nobel laureates, had a decades-long rivalry and writing styles at opposite ends of the spectrum–Faulkner was abstruse* and florid, and Hemingway was direct and spare. I am a long-time devotee of the latter and a firm believer in simplicity. In fact, I think it’s a testament to Hemingway’s brilliance that he could write so powerfully with so few flourishes. So I put it to you, readers: Is Faulkner’s dig a true insult, or is it an unwitting compliment?

* I had originally written “obtuse,” but Will pointed out that that has more the connotation of stupid, which wasn’t my intent. I just meant that he seems to be deliberately difficult. And this isn’t to say I don’t like Faulkner–I’ve read four of his books and enjoyed them to a certain extent (not as much as I enjoy Hemingway’s books). I just think his remark was wrong.

Posted in Word Use

Thought for the Day

August 3, 2007
1 Comment

Best thing I’ve read all week, in the NYT review of Becoming Jane:

“In the age of ‘whatever,’ who doesn’t relish receiving a scrupulously considered, grammatically correct answer to a question?”

Posted in Grammar

Why Everybody Hated ‘Tender Is the Night’ in 1934

August 1, 2007

From Malcolm Cowley’s introduction to the corrected 1951 edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night (boldface ours; hyphen in “copy-edited” his):

It is not too late . . . to correct the mistakes in spelling and punctuation, and sometimes in grammar and chronology, that disfigure the first edition of Tender. On this mechanical level the book was full of errors; in fact, a combination of circumstances was required to get so many of them into one published volume. Fitzgerald had a fine ear for words, but a weak eye for them; he was possibly the worst speller who ever failed to graduate from Princeton. His punctuation was impulsive and his grammar more instinctive than reasoned. Maxwell Perkins, his editor, was better in all these departments, but had an aristocratic disregard for details so long as a book was right in its feeling for life. Since Fitzgerald was regarded as one of his special authors, the manuscript was never copy-edited by others. The author received the proofs while his wife was critically ill. He worked over them for weeks, making extensive changes and omitting long passages, but he was in no state to notice his own errors of detail. Scores of them slipped into the first edition and, though they were unimportant if taken separately, I suspect that they had a cumulative effect on readers and ended by distracting their attention, like flaws in a window through which they were looking at the countryside.

Posted in Excerpts

The Start of the Don’t-Do’s

July 30, 2007

I’m determined to get back in the saddle with this whole style gripe and discussion thing. Back in February, before this site got its feeble launch, Will contributed a hilarious post to Always Double Back about the list of cliches he was determined to purge from all articles that crossed his desk at Esquire. Our readers jumped in on the comments and helped us geek out a little further with other egregious examples. See that post here.

Now, inspired by the list cited in the post below, I’m going to start a list of common usage errors that I run across with disheartening frequency. Here’s a few off the top of my head; please, smarty-pants readers, jump in with ones that I’ve either forgotten or haven’t thought of. One of these days, when I have enough, I’ll pull together the whole list of errors, clumsy phrases, and cliches and spread my manifesto throughout the land so that Americans will stop sounding like such dumb-asses.

Errors of Usage:

comprise: Once and for all, five people comprise the group. The group is not “comprised of” five people!

myriad: It’s an adjective, not a noun. You don’t have “a myriad of” choices, you have myriad choices. I rejected an intern once for getting this wrong in her letter of application.

Update: Sendhil points out below, and Webster’s 11th backs him up, that this apparently is okay to use as a noun, but I still can’t bring myself to agree. The first definition is (noun) ten thousand (but I wouldn’t say “a ten thousand of”). The consensus seems to be that both are correct, but I just can’t accept that–it just looks and sounds wrong to me as a noun. Then again, I once had strong feelings about split infinitives, and now I allow them when the alternative would sound too stilted. Perhaps it will be so with this.

further/farther: Further applies to more abstract concepts (to further one’s career); farther applies to distance. I can’t believe how many people get this wrong.

principle/principal: Again, these are shamefully misused. A principle is something you believe in. A principal is someone to whose office you’re sent when you’ve been caught smoking in the bathroom.

who/whom: Who is the subject, whom is the object. Why is this considered to be such a complicated concept?

impact: This is my mom’s favorite. I will allow that you can have an impact on something, although that veers into lame cliche territory. But if you start talking about impacting stuff, you’d better mean that you’re squashing it into a tiny little cube or something. In my last job, I often had to purge the made-up atrocity “impactful” from various reports and speeches.

that/which: Most common misuse throughout academic writing. “That” introduces dependent clauses and “which” introduces independent clauses. As with who/whom, this stymies people as if it were advanced calculus.

decimate: Latin class! To decimate means to reduce by one in ten–this is often significant, but it’s not the total wipe-out that people mean when they misuse this word.

where/when: Seriously, how could someone mess these up? “Where” refers to places, “when” refers to time. Why, then, do I so often see something like “there was this time where I was so embarrassed”?

who/that: “Who” refers to people, “that” refers to objects. It makes my skin crawl when people refer to their friends that are so much fun.

I’m getting tired of typing now, but there will be much more where this came from. Please contribute your own peeves in the meantime.


July 27, 2007

Talk about being lax. But, since Bethie scolded me below for neglecting this site, I’ll pop something up that caught my eye this week. A few weeks back, my former boss directed my attention to an e-newsletter called The Head Butler that gives general information and tips about good music, books, movies, and other things. Yesterday, my daily Butler update contained the editor’s grammatical pet peeves, prompted by the ubiquitous misuse of apostrophes. Honestly, if English is your first language and you passed the fourth grade, these should not stump you. Anyhow, he has most of the usual suspects in there, including my pet since/because and over/more than peeves. Perhaps this would be a good starting point for the official Geode Style Guide.

Click here for the list.

Posted in Grammar, Style Sheet
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