How to Edit Your Ignored Words and Phrases in WordPress

WordPress Ignore Always Option

Here’s the scenario: You’ve written and edited the perfect blog post in Microsoft Word, so you copy it into WordPress for publication. Just to be on the safe side, you run the Proofread Writing tool before clicking the publish button. WordPress tells you that the name of your beta project, WackiFeet, is spelled incorrectly throughout the post. But, you know that the spelling is correct, so you choose to Ignore always, which adds WackiFeet to your site-wide Ignored Phrases list. Later on, you regret this decision because the project’s name may change before the official launch.

Instead of accepting an imperfect Ignored Phrases list, you can edit the list in four easy steps:

1. After logging into your WordPress account, select Users and then Your Profile.

WordPress User Profile

2. Select the X next to any unwanted words listed under Ignored Phrases.

WordPress Ignored Phrases List

3. If necessary, add new words into the text box above the Ignored Phrases list.

Add Ignored Phrases in WordPress

4. Click Update Profile at the bottom of the page to save your changes.

Update WordPress User Profile

Please note that the Ignored Phrases list only applies to words you ignore while using the Proofread Writing tool shown below. Proofread Writing is part of the Jetpack by WordPress.com plugin available to both WordPress.com and WordPress.org users. (WordPress itself no longer includes a spell-check tool.)

WordPress Proofread Writing

If you notice that your content is automatically spell-checked before using the Proofread Writing tool, then your browser is probably set to automatically spell-check anything entered into a text box. In that case, you can choose Add to Dictionary or a similar option to add words to your browser’s custom dictionary file; however, that file can’t be edited through WordPress.

If you crave even more control over your personal dictionaries, check out How to Edit Your Custom Dictionary in Microsoft Word.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance copy editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, technical content, and nonfiction.

Gloriously Grammatically Incorrect Song Titles—Classic Rock Edition

rock and roll cats and dogs

Just a bit of fun this week…

Last month, satirical musician “Weird Al” Yankovic shook up the usually sedate writing community with his song “Word Crimes.” Some writers and editors felt the song promoted grammar shaming, while others accepted it as parody—not as a legitimate teaching tool. In fact, a few of the issues “Weird Al” criminalized aren’t really grammar offenses at all, and his own apostrophe use is frequently incorrect throughout the video. Still, I applaud the song for igniting debate in both creative and business circles.

In honor of the often tenuous relationship between grammar and music, here are a few of my favorite classic rock song titles that commit two common misdemeanors: using lay instead of lie and double negatives.

Lay versus Lie

In the present tense, lay means the subject of the clause places something or someone in a horizontal position, and lie means the subject places himself or herself in a horizontal position. So, Eric Clapton’s song “Lay Down Sally” should actually be “Lie Down Sally” because Sally is the subject of the clause and she must lie down herself.

Bob Dylan also stumbled over lay versus lie in his song “Lay Lady Lay,” which should be “Lie Lady Lie,” because (like Sally) Lady must lie down herself. (However, I’m not going to be the copyeditor that tells Mr. Dylan that he has stumbled over anything.)

Double Negatives

A double negative occurs when two negatives (e.g., no, can’t, don’t) appear in the same clause. Double negatives are grammatically incorrect because they unintentionally turn negative statements into positives. But we all know that the Rolling Stones weren’t actually achieving that elusive satisfaction when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The venerable rockers could have avoided the double negative by writing “(I Can’t Get Any) Satisfaction.” (But rock fans everywhere are glad they didn’t because that extra syllable would have thrown off the rhythm of the song, not to mention the grit.)

Other famous double negative songs include “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Please stay tuned for an upcoming country version of “Gloriously Grammatically Incorrect Song Titles.” In the meantime, here are a few music-related posts you may have missed:

These Songs “Ain’t” Wrong—A Personal Thought on Irregular Grammar in Music

Top Ten Unsung Songwriters

Top Ten Songs about Writers and Writing

 

Erin Wright is a freelance editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, and technical content.

How to Abbreviate United States (according to a Confusing Set of Guidelines)

Rural Scene with American Flag

The individual cities, counties, and states within the United States have very definite borders. We also have relatively firm definitions of our geographic regions, such as the Midwest and the Northeast. Unfortunately, we don’t have such fixed boundaries for abbreviating our country’s name. In fact, the sheer number of conflicting guidelines can make you feel like you’ve driven right off the (grammar) map!

Much of this confusion stems from differences between the primary style manuals, as demonstrated below.

The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual

The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual says that United States should be spelled out unless it is used as an adjective for Government (intentionally capitalized), a government agency, or a general noun, in which case the abbreviation should include periods. However, if the sentence contains the name of another country, the abbreviation should not be used even if United States is used as an adjective.1

The Beatles arrived in the United States in 1964.

The U.S. Government mints coins in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California, and New York.

The U.S. Supreme Court is in recess.

Farmers account for two percent of the U.S. population.

All United States citizens need a passport to visit Canada.

The Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style agrees that United States should be spelled out when it is used as a noun and formatted as an abbreviation when it is used as an adjective. The biggest differences between Chicago and the U.S. Government Printing Office are (1) Chicago allows for abbreviation even if the name of another country appears in the sentence and (2) Chicago recommends US unless the document in question has a strong tradition of using periods in all of its abbreviations.2

The Beatles arrived in the United States in 1964.

The US government mints coins in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California, and New York.

The US Supreme Court is in recess.

Farmers account for two percent of the US population.

All US citizens need a passport to visit Canada.

The Associated Press Stylebook

The situation gets even stickier when we add The Associated Press Stylebook into the mix because it says that the abbreviation can be used as both a noun and an adjective as long as the abbreviation includes periods within text and excludes periods in headlines. In addition, the Associated Press says that we can use USA, in which case we should never include periods in text or in headlines.3

The Beatles arrived in the USA in 1964. (In text)

The Beatles Arrive in the USA (Headline style)

The U.S. government mints coins in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California, and New York. (In text)

The US Supreme Court is in Recess (Headline style)

Farmers account for two percent of the U.S. population. (In text)

All U.S. citizens need a passport to visit Canada. (In text)

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

Lastly, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association simply says that we should use the abbreviation with periods when United States is acting as an adjective.4

The Beatles arrived in the United States in 1964.

The U.S. government mints coins in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California, and New York.

The U.S. Supreme Court is in recess.

Farmers account for two percent of the U.S. population.

All U.S. citizens need a passport to visit Canada.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine sure is! But as with all things stylistic, the best course of action is to choose the guideline that best fits your unique content—and then stick with it. Sure, that means that your competitors may write US when you write U.S., but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as maintaining consistency throughout all of your documentation.

________________
1. U.S. Government Printing Office. U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008) 222-23.

2. University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 500.

3. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 265-66.

4. American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 88.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, and technical content.

Gendered Pronouns for Animals

Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle

I am owned by two feline brothers officially named Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle. I have several additional monikers for each of them, including Big Guy, Little Guy, Tuffy, and Flying J., just to name a few. One thing I never call them is it. And I know that I’m not alone: most animal lovers use gendered pronouns (e.g., he and she) when referring to pets.

But are we just personifying our furry friends? Maybe! However, most of our primary writing manuals agree that animals can be much more than an it. In fact, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (known as APA style) says that animals with names should be assigned gendered pronouns,1 while The Associated Press Stylebook(known as AP style) says that animals with names or known gender should be assigned gendered pronouns.2

Bones enjoys napping and playing with his cat toys. (APA and AP style)

The mare walks in the field with her foal. (AP style)

A bear left its paw prints in the snow. (APA and AP style)

The Chicago Manual of Style (known as Chicago style) is less specific, but it does suggest that non-human nouns (including ships and other water vessels) can be given gendered pronouns. Interestingly, Chicago clearly states that the use of it doesn’t mean that the subject or object doesn’t have a gender, only that the gender is unknown and doesn’t matter in the context of the sentence; therefore, we can refer to human babies as it in certain circumstances.3 (Strange, I know!) I’m going to assume that this means that Chicago agrees with both the APA and AP on the animal issue.

I wanted to be sure that I researched this topic as thoroughly as possible, so I also consulted with Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle. They said that they don’t give a hairball about pronouns, but they want a treat—right now.

_______________________

1. American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 80.

2. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 15.

3. University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 214-215.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing collateral, web copy, instructional material, and technical content.

 

Four Tips to Boost Your Writing Speed

race car

In a perfect world, we would all have time to write while leisurely sipping an iced hazelnut latte on a beachside veranda. But in the real world, we sometimes have to gulp down that latte (double shot, of course) while writing on a deadline, nowhere near the sand and surf. Here are a few tips that may help you boost your writing speed and meet that deadline:

Start at the beginning—or the middle—or the end. Writing doesn’t have to be linear. Start recording your ideas regardless of where those ideas may end up in the final document. If that means writing the conclusion first, no worries, you can always update the conclusion later on if your message shifts as you develop the remaining content. The most important thing is to start writing—right now. Which leads us to…

Stop copyediting while you’re writing the first draft! That old saying “clean as you go” may increase productivity in the kitchen, but it doesn’t apply to content creation. While you’re writing your first draft, don’t worry about spelling, subject-verb agreement, or sentence structure. The formal editing process can begin after you’ve roughed out your message.

Break the project into timely chunks. Rather than trying to finish an entire project in one limitless, mind-numbing writing session, divide it into manageable chunks of time followed by breaks. For example, work on a specific section for thirty minutes followed by a ten minute break. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in a mere thirty minutes when you’re only thinking about one section rather than an entire document.

Experiment with different writing tools. If you’re more prolific holding a pen than typing on a laptop, then by all means, write the old-fashioned way! Even if that means transferring your handwritten work to the computer later on, you’ll still save time by fast-tracking that first draft. Conversely, if you’re more comfortable using a virtual keyboard, there’s no rule that says you can’t do serious writing on a tablet (or even on a smartphone, if it has appropriate software and memory).

Do you have any additional tactics for improving your writing speed and productivity? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below!

 

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business and creative content.

Should We Use Plural or Singular Verbs with Money?

Dollars and Coins

Some people really like to talk about money. Other people put money in the do-not-discuss category alongside root canals, Brussels sprouts, and giant spiders. But even those who don’t enjoy talking about money occasionally have to write about it. Here is a brief primer on when to use singular or plural verbs with money:

1. Use singular verbs with specific amounts of money even if they include plural words for currency (e.g., dollars, cents, or pounds):

Twenty dollars doesn’t go far at the gas pump these days. (Instead of “Twenty dollars don’t…”)

Fifty dollars goes to the winner of tonight’s raffle. (Instead of “Fifty dollars go…”)

2. Use singular verbs with specific amounts of money even if they include symbols that are read or spoken as plural words:

During this exclusive offer, $25 secures your authentic collectible coin commemorating the great proofreaders of the world. Call now! (Instead of “$25 secure…”)

Today, $5,000 was raised for the local animal shelter. (Instead of “$5,000 were…)

3. Use traditional subject-verb agreement with multiple pieces of individual currency:

US dollars are taken out of circulation if they become damaged.

The British pound sterling comes in coin or paper format depending on the denomination.

In an upcoming post, we’ll explore money formats within text, such as when to use symbols (e.g., $ or ¢) and when to use currency names (e.g., dollars and cents).

Until then, I hope your own money feels more plural than singular!

 

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business and creative content.

Alternative Style Manuals

Bookshelves

In the world of nonfiction writing, there are four primary style manuals that explain everything from proper abbreviation usage to number formatting:

1. The Chicago Manual of Style, called “Chicago style,” is the go-to guide for the publishing industry and basic business writing.

2. The Associated Press Stylebook, called “AP style,” is the primary manual for newspapers, magazines, and news websites. It has also been adopted by a variety of businesses that produce news-oriented content.

3. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, called “APA style,” provides guidance for all social and behavioral science writing, not just psychology.

4. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, called “MLA style,” is produced by the Modern Language Association for academic work in the humanities. The student version, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, is currently the dominant manual for undergraduate studies throughout the United States.

But we’re certainly not limited to those manuals. Here are six additional options to consider:

1. The IBM Style Guide: Conventions for Writers and Editors outlines styles for, you guessed it, IBM. It is a good option for anyone writing or editing for a technical audience.

2. Microsoft Manual of Style is another corporate style manual useful for anyone writing or editing technical or technology documents.

3. The New York Public Library Writer’s Guide to Style and Usage hasn’t been updated since 1994, but it is still viable for those seeking basic usage advice.

4. U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual is a must-have for employees or subcontractors who write or edit for the federal government. It is also a valuable resource for local or state agency writers or editors who want to align their documentation with that of the federal government.

5. Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers is produced by the Council of Science Editors for all types of scientific writing, including physics, chemistry, and astronomy.

6. AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors by the American Medical Association provides style advice for medical researchers, writers, and editors.

Of course, no single manual can cover every situation, so the best option is to find a combination that meets your needs and then document your most recurrent issues in your own in-house style guide.

________________________

Please note: I am not an Amazon Affiliate. I have provided Amazon links purely as a convenience for my readers who may want to learn more about the manuals mentioned above.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business and creative content.

Tips for Writing While Traveling

Traveling Car
Suitcase? Check! Boarding pass? Check! Comfortable walking shoes? Check! Dictionary? Ummm….

Some writers travel purely for the purpose of writing. For the rest of us, vacation is usually a break from the keyboard. But sometimes you have to write even when you’re not prepared to do so. Maybe you’re hit by unexpected inspiration, or a press release can’t wait until next Monday. Either way, here are five tips for impromptu writing while traveling. (Most of these tips are based on the assumption that you’ll have a laptop or tablet on hand. If not, that press release may have to wait after all!)

1. Use your email as cloud storage. You finished writing the final chapter of your debut novel while waiting at the airport. You want to save a remote backup copy just in case your laptop gets lost or stolen, but you don’t have cloud storage. No worries! Just email the file to yourself. You’ll have a copy of the chapter safely stored in your inbox and in your sent folder. And if you’re worried about the security of public Wi-Fi, connect your smartphone to your laptop, save the file to your phone, and then use your mobile email to send a copy to yourself using your regular phone service.

2. Download a dictionary app. If you didn’t stash a dictionary in your carry-on bag, you can always download a dictionary app on your smartphone or tablet. Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster both offer respectable free options.

3. Access reference material without a library card. Most public libraries allow everyone—even tourists without library cards—to read and photocopy material. Of course, you can’t leave the building with material if you don’t have a local library card, but if you just need to do some quick research, don’t be shy about popping into the library at your vacation destination.

4. Access specialty reference material at museums. Many museums have topic-specific libraries or research centers available to paying visitors. So, if you’re visiting a museum during your vacation, ask if it has any reference material related to your writing. Here is a short list of Chicago museums that have topic-specific libraries or research centers:

5. Use photos as visual notes. Sure, your phone probably has note-taking capabilities. But why thumb-type notes on that tiny screen when you could be admiring the view? Instead, try to snap pictures that will remind you of what you want to write about. And who knows, the pictures might become part of the document you’re creating!

 

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business and creative content.

You Don’t Need to Be a Good Speller to Be a Good Writer

Bee on Flower

Yesterday, children from across the country competed in the final round of the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee. All of these young people deserve great admiration for their incredible talent, dedication, and competitive spirits, particularly the co-champions Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe who tied for first place after exhausting the entire word list!

Yet, I always reflect on a rather controversial fact when the Scripps National Spelling Bee rolls around each year—good spellers aren’t always good writers, while terrible spellers can be fantastic writers. In fact, some of our most renowned writers, including William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, were reportedly not just bad spellers, but really bad spellers. Fitzgerald’s spelling was so consistently questionable that literature fans are still debating the word “orgastic” at the end of The Great Gatsby. Was he trying to create a new word, or was it a misspelling?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that spelling isn’t important. (I am a copy editor, after all!) But spelling can’t make a sentence sizzle or a headline pop—only carefully chosen words can do that. And if those words are spelled incorrectly in the first draft, or even the fifth draft, it doesn’t really matter as long as corrections are made before publication. And unlike Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, we have the benefit of electronic spell checking, auto-correct functions, and online dictionaries. (Not to mention a cyber superhighway that can instantly connect us with friendly and nonjudgmental freelance copy editors in Chicago and around the world.)

So if you’re not a spelling bee champion, don’t let that fact dissuade you from writing that novel, business proposal, poem, or blog post—there’s always time for editing!

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business and creative content.

How to Edit Your Custom Dictionary in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word’s spell-checking capability is quite good. Quite good, indeed! However, it occasionally puts that squiggly red line under something that is spelled correctly. Maybe it’s a product, place, or company name. Maybe it’s a person’s first or last name. Regardless, most of us just right-click and select “Add to Dictionary” if we know we’ll be using that word again in the future.

But have you ever wondered where all of those words go once you’ve added them to Word’s custom dictionary? And more importantly, have you ever wondered if you could edit the words that you’ve added?

The following steps show how to access and edit your custom dictionary in Word 2013. The steps are similar for Word 2007 and Word 2010.

1. Select the File tab.

Word 2013 File tab

2. Select Options on the left-hand side of the Backstage view.

Word-2013-Options2

3. Select Proofing in the Word Options window.

Word 2013 Word Options Screen

4. Select Custom Dictionaries in the When correcting spelling in Microsoft Office programs section.

Word 2013 Custom Dictionaries button in Options screen

5. Select CUSTOM.DIC (Default) in the Custom Dictionaries window.

6. Select Edit Word List.

Word 2013 Custom Dictionary Window

7. Use the CUSTOM.DIC window to add or delete words from your custom dictionary.

Word 2013 CUSTOM.DIC window

8. Select OK to save your changes.

Please note that CUSTOM.DIC is the default custom dictionary file for your entire Microsoft Office suite, so you can edit it from any of your other Office programs by following steps similar to those shown above.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business and creative content.