For better or worse

Writing a book is a lot like get­ting mar­ried. You have to make a com­mit­ment and in­vest time and en­ergy in the re­la­tion­ship. And you have to be pre­pared to stick it out “for bet­ter or worse.”

It all starts with the hon­ey­moon phase. That’s when you get an idea for a sure-fire best­seller. Just like you can’t keep your mind off your new spouse, you can’t quit think­ing about your story. You start draft­ing chapters and con­duct­ing re­search fuelled by a rush of adrenaline.

Then months, or per­haps years, later you’ve com­pleted one — or more likely — many drafts of the story. It’s not so much fun now. You have to work hard to keep up your interest.

You’ve read some of the para­graphs so many times the words no longer seem to have any sparkle. And some­times you secretly won­der if it would be bet­ter to just quit and start all over.

But you made a vow and are de­term­ined to keep it. You slog away and then one day you look at your ma­nu­script and think, “Hey, this isn’t as bad as I thought it was. There are def­in­ite pos­sib­il­it­ies here.”

Somehow things seem easi­er now. By strug­gling through the rough times, you’ve made your story stronger. You no longer think about hit­ting the de­lete but­ton. You want to see this one to the end.

Clean Copy

The Fine Art of Proofreading

Placenta and placemat, the dif­fer­ence is ob­vi­ous. Or maybe not.

Everyone knows how easy it is to mis­spell words, es­pe­cially if you’re go­ing like gang­busters on the com­puter. No mat­ter how good a typ­ist you are, fast fin­gers tend to strike the wrong keys from time to time. And every­one knows how un­pro­fes­sion­al and sloppy it looks when you re­ceive a let­ter, story or email riddled with typos.

Proofreading can be time con­sum­ing and bor­ing. But it’s also ne­ces­sary. Especially if you’re wrap­ping up a re­port for work, sub­mit­ting an art­icle to a magazine or writ­ing the fi­nal draft of The Great Canadian Novel.

And the frus­trat­ing part of it is, once you write some­thing, your eyes and brain tend to see what you meant to write, not what’s ac­tu­ally on the page or mon­it­or screen. So you can read the text over and over and nev­er spot the typos.

Here’s an ex­ample I found at www​.per​fec​ted​it​ing​.com:

Accdrnig to a rs­cheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deo­sn’t mt­taer in waht oredr the lt­teers in a wrod are, the olny iprmo­et­nt tihng is taht the frist and lsat lt­teer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit por­belm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed er­vey lteter by is­tlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Proofreading tips

  • Proof more than once. Professional proofread­ers think noth­ing of go­ing over a doc­u­ment 10 times or more.
  • If you have mis­spelled a word in the past, chances are you will do so again.
  • Read what you see, not what you think is there.
  • Do your proofread­ing in a quiet place where you won’t be distracted.
  • Read the text out loud.
  • After you fin­ish writ­ing some­thing, set it aside and proof it later. (The next day is best.)
  • Have someone else proofread your work; they’ll spot things you miss.
  • Proof a print copy, as well as from the com­puter monitor.

And then there’s spell check, a won­der­ful in­ven­tion that catches mis­spelled words and gram­mat­ic­al er­rors. But it’s not fool­proof. Spell check doesn’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate between here and hear, to and two or bare and bear. As long as a word is spelled cor­rectly, it isn’t highlighted.

And some­times strange things hap­pen. An art­icle I wrote for a news­pa­per con­tained a word that didn’t be­long in it. I didn’t put it there, spell check did. I didn’t no­tice it and neither did the ed­it­or. Luckily, a proofread­er did.

When the ed­it­or called to check the word­ing and read, “The com­pany is present­ing a new line of col­our­ful pla­centas,” I laughed so hard I nearly fell out of my chair. The cor­rect word, of course, was placemats. Somehow dur­ing the spell check my hand must have spasmed and clicked pla­centa to re­place the mis­spelled word placemat.

So, if you want people to be en­gaged in your con­tent, not dis­trac­ted by ty­pos and spelling mis­takes, take time to proofread. And yes, that means emails too.

What WD-40 can do for your writing

In North America, WD-40 is a house­hold name. Nearly every­one has one of the small blue and yel­low can­is­ters un­der their kit­chen sink or on a work­shop bench in the base­ment or garage.

Marketed as “The Can with 1,000 Uses,” people of­ten use WD-40 to stop squeaks, pre­vent rust and re­move dirt from hard to reach places. In our house it’s the go-to can for fix­ing squeaky door hinges and loosen­ing nuts and bolts.

A vis­it to www​.wd40​.com re­veals oth­er pos­sible applications:

  • clean­ing and lub­ric­at­ing gui­tar strings
  • eras­ing cray­on art­work from walls
  • un­tangling jew­ellery chains
  • keep­ing flies off cows
  • clean­ing bowl­ing balls
  • get­ting pea­nut but­ter out of shoestrings
  • pre­vent­ing bath­room mir­rors from fog­ging up
  • giv­ing a floor that “just waxed” sheen without leav­ing it slippery

(Just so you know, the 2,000+ list of po­ten­tial uses found on the WD-40 web­site has been com­piled from pub­lic sub­mis­sions and in no way im­plies en­dorse­ment by WD-40 or me.)

The su­per spray was de­veloped in 1953 by California res­id­ent Norm Larsen. As founder of the Rocket Chemical Company, he was look­ing for a way to re­pel wa­ter and pre­vent cor­ro­sion. His in­ven­tion was first used to pre­vent rust and cor­ro­sion on the out­er skin of the Atlas mis­sile and was avail­able on store shelves by 1958.

But the really in­ter­est­ing thing about WD-40 is its name. The WD stands for wa­ter dis­place­ment. And the 40 in­dic­ates that the for­mula was Larsen’s 40th at­tempt. That’s right. He re­worked and tested his idea 40 times be­fore cre­at­ing some­thing mar­ket­able. Continue read­ing “What WD-40 can do for your writing”