Monthly Archives: July 2010

Pet hates and the things everyone seems to do

I put a post up on my facebook page for Libro asking for people’s pet hates in language use, and got a good range of interesting comments, so I thought I’d open it up on here, too.

Personally, I try to stay calm when confronted with errors and irritations – after all, it’s my job to sort them out and help the writer to express themselves clearly and confidently. In real life, yes, I do hop up and down when I see grocers’ apostrophes (however, I did NOT go out with the white-out and amend some signs near the University, contrary to the opinions of quite a few people!) and I’ve been known to mention them to the staff of the shop in question.

In my proofreading life, I come across the same things over and over again. Academics using “… and whatnot” rather than “etc.”. People starting off using “organise” and switching to “organize” and back again, and back again, and back again. The formation of “a lot” into one word.

I do worry that clarity and the wide range of expressiveness held by our language is being lost. OK, so you can understand “There are less people in this queue”, but isn’t it just nicer to know it should be “fewer”? (I have one dear friend who is very keen on that one…) Or maybe I’m just too pedantic.

Well, I’d rather have someone who’s too pedantic as my proofreader, wouldn’t you?

So just to mix it up a little – what language misuse do you own up to? I will admit to being very good at saying “Ali and me went to the cafe” when of course it should be “Ali and I”. I know what to do in my written English, I hasten to add! What about you..?


Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Language use



On (not) crossing the line

I had another learning experience last week. I offer a proofreading and copyediting service to students, but obviously I have to be really careful about authorship and plagiarism. Plagiarism is not just “copying”; it also encompasses “passing off someone else’s work as your own”. Now, I’m sure none of my clients would intend to do this. Usually, I’m tweaking spellings, word usage, the occasional sentence re-write – I do everything in “track changes” in Word so the client can see what I suggest and make their own decision about what to change and whether to change it or not. That means they retain their own authorship. People in the know with whom I’ve discussed it are fine with this approach and it just gently helps the meaning come through.

But just sometimes, there’s a piece of work where I feel uncomfortable with the amount I’m suggesting and working on. For “working on”, read “re-writing”. I did always wonder where the line was drawn; well, it turns out that with this one, I *should* go for gut reaction (unlike in my previous post, where I thought I couldn’t do the work, but it turned out I could). If my gut reaction says that I’m crossing the line where your work is concerned, I will – politely – turn it down and return your work to you without corrections. There are probably people who wouldn’t act like that, but I very firmly believe in doing what is right, above doing what is profitable. Work on which someone is given a grade should be their own work.

Of course, if you’re not a student and you want me to re-write your mangled metaphors, your tortured text, your slippery sentences, then bring it on!


Posted by on July 5, 2010 in Ethics, proofreading, Students, Writing


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