Category Archives: editing

A contract and a murder, and this is not even fiction

My younger daughter’s class is learning the names of the provinces and their capitals. The class has to take their Canadian geography test until they get it all right. My daughter practiced at home over and over – and she really knows her stuff.

But she will have to take the test a third time, just like the rest of her class. Yes, she knows it all, but she keeps making little errors. Like writing “WinniPeg”. Like placing Iqaluit on the mainland by accident. Little stuff like that.

Little stuff that proofreading would fix.

Why is this so important?

Well, I was reviewing a contract recently, full of the usual legalese, when I came across something most non-usual:

“Where it shall appear to the partners that this Agreement, or any terms and conditions contained in this agreement, are in any way ineffective or deficient, or not expressed as originally intended, and any alteration or addition shall be deemed necessary, the partners will enter into, execute, and perform all murder be an instrument as their counsel shall advise. Any addition, alteration, or modification shall be in writing, and no oral agreement shall be effective.”

Did you miss it?  OK, here is the abbreviated version:

Yadda yadda yadda yad yadda yadda yad. Yadda yadda yadda yadda yad yadda yad yadda.  Yadda yadda yadda the partners will enter into, execute, and perform all murder yadda yad yadda. Yadda yadda yadda yadda yad yadda.

Murder contract?

OK, clearly something went wrong in that paragraph. In fact, my best guess is that two things went wrong. First, it looks like a bad cut and paste left out a few words, because the end of that sentence doesn’t quite fit onto the rest of the sentence. Like trying to sort through the plane crash debris and placing Julia Roberts head on Hulk Hogan’s body (Yes, as a matter of fact I did have a troublesome sleep last night – why do you ask?).  Second, at the junction between the two parts of the sentence, we discover a murder – probably a spell-check anomaly as a result of the bad cut-and-paste, but still leaving us with some important questions unanswered:

  • Exactly who are these partners supposed to murder?
  • Does it matter what weapon is used?
  • Will the murderer be indemnified by anybody (contracts are always full of people indemnifying each other for their sins, right?)

READ ALSO: How a typo turned a celebrity chef into a cannibal

I love a good murder mystery as much as the next guy. And contracts are common in murder mysteries. But a murder mystery is pretty rare in a contract.

So, for the benefit of my dear daughter, you see that proofreading can save a person from more than just being caught in an endless loop  geography test. It could even save you from murder.

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K.I.S.S your writing or kiss your readers goodbye

Have you ever felt the need to use big, long words to sound more authoritative or to fill up space?  In most situations, all you are doing is sounding more difficult to read.  Your writing should be as simple and easy-flowing as possible.

This is a problem our manuscript editors often encounter:  sesquipedalian words where a simple word would do.

Let’s look at three very common words that are overused and should be replaced with simpler ones.

UTILIZE.  Wow, just three syllables to replace one. Honestly, have you ever heard anyone utilize this word in normal conversation, like at in the stands at the ball game or over a mid-week lunch?

“Hey, dude.  Wait up.  I just need to go utilize the washroom.”

“He just wanted me for my money.  I feel so utilized.”

“It’s easy to choose a password, but all the best utilizer names are already taken.”

Yes, there is a much simpler word to use: use.  And “use” is a fine word, even if it doesn’t sound pretentious.

“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious!
If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious “

 

PURCHASE.  More pretentiousness, perhaps?  I go out to buy things, not to purchase them.  How about you?  Why do we need an extra syllable?  Because a lot of advertisers think you will spend more money if they sound more educated an fancy?  Or because they want to avoid you feeling like you are being pressured into buying things.  So instead they pressure you into purchasing things.

Phew – that’s a relief.

ACQUIRE. This is the word that inspired this article, after I read the following message that somebody posted on the Warrior Forum :

In one of my titles, I had a confusion of whether to use “get customers” or “acquire customers”.

The former is simple but the later looks more sophisticated.

Google Search Says:

“acquire customers” 283,000 results
“get customers” 1,500,000 results!

So now the choice is obvious. I don’t want to look sophisticated. I just want to CONNECT with the readers with the right titles.

“Acquire” is another laughable word that people just don’t use in normal conversation.  Can you imagine…

“Please, Daddy, can I acquire another candy.”

“The phone is ringing.  Can somebody please acquire the phone?”

“I need to acquire some new light bulbs.  This one is burnt and I’ve run out of replacements.”

Whether you are writing a book or a blog post, you want to connect with your readers.  And unless you are writing a sales page for an expand-your-vocabulary course, it is almost always the simpler word.  Or put more bluntly, the world with the least syllables.   The smaller word, not the littler word.

 

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Celebrity chef becomes a cannibal

It all happened so innocently.  In fact, at first nobody even noticed. Rachael Ray, a well-known celebrity chef loved her family.  And her dog.  Apparently, she really, really loved them. In fact, she was normal in every sense of the word.

But then, somebody made a fatal mistake.  A proofreader failed to proofread…

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