An Overview of Midwest Writing, Editing, and Publishing Groups

Starved RockThose of us who live in the Midwest have a little secret: The Midwest is awesome. We have the Great Lakes, bustling cities, and stunning rural landscapes. We enjoy four beautiful seasons—sometimes all in the same day. And of course, we have the best food and nicest people. (Okay, I’ll admit that as a Midwest native, I’m a bit biased.) We also have vibrant writing, editing, and publishing communities that are supported by a variety of professional associations and organizations, several of which are listed below:

Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers connects writers, editors, and other professional communicators who are interested in conservation and traditional outdoor activities including hunting and fishing.

Chicago Women in Publishing is an organization for women—and men—who work in all aspects of publishing including traditional publishing, self-publishing, and corporate communication. Although its core activities occur in Chicago, it also offers suburban networking opportunities.

Independent Writers of Chicago says that it is the largest organization for freelance writers in the Midwest. It holds informative meetings for members, and its website helps clients find freelancers.*

Midwest Automotive Media Association connects automotive journalists and media-relations professionals through its luncheon program and other auto industry events. It also hosts car rallies in the spring and fall.

Midwest Independent Publishers Association provides information and peer recognition for authors and independent publishing professionals in the upper-Midwest.

Midwest Travel Writers Association focuses on travel journalism including traditional guidebooks and magazine articles, as well as interactive media such as travel blogs, mobile apps, and social networking.

Midwest Writers Association offers networking opportunities and educational events for professional, nonfiction writers.

Midwest Writing Centers Association promotes collaboration between academic writing centers throughout the Midwest.

Society of Midland Authors promotes literature by connecting traditionally published Midwestern authors and playwrights. The Society also hosts public literary events.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. If you know of other Midwest writing, editing, or publishing groups, please don’t keep them a secret! Tell me about them in the comment section below or send me a private message. I will be happy to update this blog post as needed.

And remember, the Midwest is the best! (Okay, there’s my biased again…)

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*I am a member of both the Independent Writers of Chicago and the Chicago Women in Publishing.

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.

Solving the Apostrophe S Puzzle: Guidelines for Possession, Contractions, and Plurals

Dog in Window_edit

Errant apostrophe s’s can infiltrate anything—even game shows. In fact, a recent episode of Wheel of Fortune featured the questionable phrase “Someone’s knocking at the door.”1

While the phrase obviously means that someone is knocking at the door, this apostrophe s actually makes the pronoun someone possessive, as in “Someone’s car is blocking the driveway” or “I just found someone’s wallet.”

As a general rule, the apostrophe s makes nouns and indefinite pronouns (including someone, anyone, and everyone) possessive. It can only be used to create contractions and plurals in specific circumstances:

1. In informal writing, the apostrophe s can create contractions with pronouns that have a possessive form (i.e., he/his, she/her/hers, it/its, and who/whose).

He’s (he is) bringing cheese curds to the party.

She’s (she has) come down with a cold.

The soup is savory—and it’s (it is) spicy!

Who’s (who is) making hot chocolate?

2. In informal writing, the apostrophe s can create contractions with a short list of adverbs and indefinite pronouns (e.g., that, there, where, here, what, how), as well as the verb let.

That’s (that is) the ticket!

There’s (there has) been a data breach.

How’s (how is) the weather where you are?

Where’s (where is) the television remote?

What’s (what is) the rush?

Let’s (let us) go to Trader Joe’s.

3. The apostrophe s can make lowercase letters plural.2 (Please see the first sentence of this blog post.)

We put x’s on the calendar as we count down the days to Christmas.

Why are there so many s’s in Mississippi?

4. The apostrophe s can make uppercase letters plural.3

Joey got five A’s on his report card.

The Oakland A’s won the World Series in 1989.

So the next time you see a correct—or incorrect—apostrophe s on Wheel of Fortune, jump up from your couch and exclaim, “Pat, I’d like to solve the puzzle!”

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1. “Wheel of Fortune Solutions for Thursday, October 30, 2014,” Wheel of Fortune Solutions, accessed November 3, 2014, http://www.wheeloffortunesolutions.com/201410.asp.

2. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 252, 288; University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 353.

3. Please note that The Associated Press Stylebook recommends using an apostrophe s to make uppercase and lowercase letters plural; however, The Chicago Manual of Style only recommends using an apostrophe s with lowercase letters.

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.

Should We Refer to Animals as “Who” or “That”?

Kittens and Chihuahua

In a past post, I explored various guidelines for referring to an animal by the gendered pronouns he and she rather than the neutral pronoun it. But what about the relative pronoun who, which generally applies to people? Can you write “The cat who sits on the porch every morning has bright, green eyes”? Or do you need to write “The cat that sits on the porch every morning has bright, green eyes”?

Much like the pronoun it, the answer depends on your preferred guidebook. The Associated Press Stylebook (AP style) says that animals with names should be referred to as who, while animals without names should be referred to as that or which.1

Sir Snuffles, the terrier who saved the drowning baby, was given an award for bravery.

The bald eagles that arrive every winter always draw a crowd.

The turtle, which lives in the backyard, enjoys sunbathing on the patio.

In contrast, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA style) and The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago style) both say that animals should be referred to as that or which, and neither offers an exemption for named animals (not even for Sir Snuffles). 2

Some animal lovers may be disheartened by the fact that the guidebooks mentioned above do show a strong preference for reserving who for humans; however, if your content isn’t guidebook specific, you can still confidently use the relative pronoun who when referencing animals—because Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says you can! 3 Yes, Merriam-Webster’s third entry for who mentions animals and includes a canine example. Go, dogs! And cats…and turtles…and eagles…and bears…

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1. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 252, 281.

2. American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 79; University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 218.

3. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., s.v. “who.”

 

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.

A Brief Overview of Adobe Acrobat’s Spell-Check Tool

Adobe has noticeably improved the editing tools in the most recent versions of Acrobat Pro and Acrobat Standard. The tools feel more fluid and integrated into the user interface than they did in previous versions; and while they aren’t as intuitive as Microsoft Word’s Track Changes, Acrobat’s text comments, highlight comments, and sticky notes (shown below) actually provide quite a bit more flexibility than Word does.

Acrobat Comment Examples

Plus, Adobe’s subscription-based pricing options have significantly lowered the threshold for accessing the company’s professional programs individually or as a software suite. However, before you wave goodbye to Word, note that Acrobat’s spell-check tool is still quite limited because Adobe assumes that the majority of text-heavy PDF files were originally written and edited in another program.

Currently, Acrobat’s spell-check tool reviews comments, sticky notes, form fields, and editable text boxes (which are technically comments). It doesn’t check content written in another program or created with the Add Text tool. If you want to spell-check regular text, you have to install a third-party script or rely on outside software. (One option is to simultaneously view the document in Acrobat and Word in a split screen.)

I am hopeful that Adobe will eventually provide Acrobat users with comprehensive spell-check capabilities. In the meantime, here are the steps to access the existing spell-check tool in Acrobat XI:

  1. Select Edit.
  2. Select Check Spelling.
  3. Select In Comments, Fields, & Editable Text.
  4. Select Start in the Check Spelling window.

Acrobat Check Spelling Window

 

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.

Tips for Removing Unwanted Settings in Microsoft Word’s Spelling and Grammar Check

When you inherit a Word document, the original author’s settings can affect the document even when you open it on your own computer. These lingering and potentially unwanted settings may prevent you from receiving a complete spelling and grammar check.

Here are four quick tips to help you improve your spelling and grammar check results even if the document was originally created by that peculiar guy in the office who enjoys tweaking the settings on everything from software to the microwave in the lunchroom.

Please note that these steps are for Word 2013; however, the steps are similar for Word 2010 and Word 2007.

Tip 1: Review Your Language Settings

  1. Press Ctrl+A to select the entire document.
  2. Select Review.
  3. Select Language and then Set Proofing Language.
  4. Ensure that English is highlighted and Do not check spelling or grammar is not checked. Just to be on the safe side, also consider unchecking Detect language automatically.
  5. Select OK to save your changes.

Word 2013 Language Window

Tip 2: Review Your Proofing Settings

  1. Select File and then Options.
  2. Select Proofing in the Word Options window.
  3. Review all of your proofing settings. Confirm that Ignore words in UPPERCASE is not checked because titles, headers, footers, and table data often appear in uppercase but should still be spell-checked. In addition, ensure that Hide spelling errors in this document only and Hide grammar errors in this document only are also unchecked.
  4. Select Settings if you would like to explore additional grammar and style choices.
  5. Select OK to save your changes.

Word 2013 Word Options Screen

Tip 3: Run a Fresh Spelling and Grammar Check

  1. Select File and then Options.
  2. Select Proofing in the Word Options window.
  3. Select Recheck Document and then select Yes when the dialog box asks if you want to continue.
  4. Select OK in the Word Options window.
  5. Select Review and then Spelling & Grammar to run a fresh spelling and grammar check.

Word 2013 Spelling&Grammar on Ribbon

Tip 4: Search for Hidden Formatting

If you believe that Word’s spelling and grammar check is performing improperly within a specific section, such as a header, footer, or table, you can use the Reveal Formatting function to uncover any hidden formatting that may be affecting that section.

  1. Select the entire section.
  2. Press Shift+F1 to open the Reveal Formatting task pane.
  3. Review the settings listed under the language heading.
  4. Select LANGUAGE if you need to open the Language window in order to change a setting.

Word 2013 Reveal Formatting Pane
Hopefully these simple steps will help you thwart undesirable Word settings. Now, figuring out how to turn off the potato setting on the lunchroom microwave is a whole other matter…

 

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.

Band Names and Subject-Verb Agreement

Dog Listening to Music

Last week we covered subject-verb agreement for sports teams with singular names such as the Chicago Fire and the Colorado Avalanche. This week we’ll tackle a more complicated subject: band names and subject-verb agreement.

While two of our primary reference materials, The Associated Press Stylebook 2014 and The Chicago Manual of Style, offer relatively clear guidance for sports teams, those same sources are less helpful on the issue of band names.1

The Associated Press Stylebook 2014 says that we should pair non-plural group names with plural verbs but then goes on to say that many singular names (such as Coldplay) still take singular verbs.2 Confusing!

Meanwhile, the print edition of The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t address the issue at all, but its online counterpart refers to the band the Who as they in an example sentence for band capitalization, which (informally) indicates that singular band names can be treated as plural—and can be paired with plural verbs.3

So, what are writers, editors, and music lovers to do? When referencing bands with plural names (e.g., the Beatles, the Eagles, Mumford & Sons), the obvious choice is to use a plural verb. When referencing bands with singular names (e.g., ZZ Top, BlackHawk, Metallica), choose verbs based on pronoun usage throughout the rest of the content.

For example, if you are going to write “Aerosmith is a good band,” the singular verb is works just fine. However, if you are going to write “Aerosmith is a good band. They have sold more than 150 million albums,” then the verb is no longer works because it conflicts with the plural pronoun they. But, you can continue to use they if you recast the first sentence with the plural verb are: “Aerosmith are a good band. They have sold more than 150 million albums.”

Of course, another option is to refer to the band as it instead of they: “Aerosmith is a good band. It has sold more than 150 million albums.” But realistically, most of us are too emotionally connected with music to refer to a band as it.

Rock on!

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.

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1. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 50.

“Chicago Style Q&A,” The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Plurals.html.

2. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 50.

3. “Chicago Style Q&A,” The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed September 12, 2014, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/CapitalizationTitles.html?page=1.

Sports Teams and Subject-Verb Agreement

English Bulldog Puppy with Soccer BallThe Chicago Fire are playing the Houston Dynamo next weekend.

You may have noticed that the sentence above says Fire are instead of Fire is even though the word fire is singular. This idiosyncrasy isn’t limited to Chicago or professional soccer. In modern English, sports teams are paired with plural verbs even if their names are singular:*

The Colorado Avalanche are headed to training camp.

The Minnesota Wild were in the lead at the start of the third period.

The Colorado Mammoth have a cute mascot named Wooly.

However, when those same teams are referred to by their location (e.g., Chicago, Colorado, Minnesota) or as a general collective noun (e.g., the team, the defense, the offense), they follow traditional subject-verb agreement:

The team was excited to play in the new stadium.

The defense is falling apart!

Chicago has the edge going into the playoffs.

Next time, we’ll explore the more complicated issue of band names and subject-verb agreement. (Should we write “ZZ Top are” or “ZZ Top is”?)

 

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.

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*Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 50.

“Chicago Style Q&A,” The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Plurals.html.

Am I a Copyeditor or a Copy Editor?

Two devils debating copy editor versus copyeditor

I have been involved with the copyediting community for over a decade. That’s long enough to have witnessed epic online battles over the serial comma and near fisticuffs at the suggestion that they should be a gender-neutral singular pronoun. (Believe me; no one wants to witness actual grammar-induced fisticuffs. That would just be embarrassing…not to mention the danger of broken eyeglasses.)

I can’t explain why a community with such passion for precision doesn’t insist on a consistent spelling for our profession as a noun and as a verb. In fact, we don’t even have a consensus among our most dog-eared reference materials. Here is a rundown of where several of those reference materials stand on the issue.

The Noun—Copy Editor or Copyeditor?

Those in favor of copy editor:
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary1
The Associated Press Stylebook 20142
Oxford English Dictionary3

Those in favor of copyeditor:
The Chicago Manual of Style4
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association5
The American Heritage Dictionary6

The Verb—Copyedit, Copy Edit, or Copy-edit?

Those in favor of copyedit:
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary7
The Chicago Manual of Style8
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association9

Those in favor of copy edit:
The Associated Press Stylebook 201410

Those in favor of copy-edit:
Oxford English Dictionary11

Those in favor of copyedit or copy-edit:
The American Heritage Dictionary12

So, which spelling should you choose in the face of such divergence? As with all things style-related, there is no right or wrong answer, so make an informed decision based on your preferred reference materials. I personally follow Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and The Chicago Manual of Style but will always defer to clients’ official dictionaries or in-house style guides.

Still, I think we copy editors should have a competition with the copyeditors for naming rights to our profession. A winner-takes-all game of grammar trivia is the obvious choice, but it would never work because we would never agree on the correct answers. Maybe a thumb-wrestling contest?

 

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.

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  1. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., s.v. “copy editor.”
  2. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 62.
  3. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v., “copy editor,” accessed September 5, 2014, http://www.oed.com.gatekeeper.chipublib.org/view/Entry/41299?redirectedFrom=copy+editor#eid8353802. (Please note that this website is only accessible with membership.)
  4. University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 378.
  5. American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 239.
  6. The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th ed., s.v. “copyeditor.”
  7. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., s.v. “copyedit.”
  8. University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 70.
  9. See note 5 above.
  10. See note 2 above.
  11. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v., “copy-edit,” accessed September 5, 2014, http://www.oed.com.gatekeeper.chipublib.org/view/Entry/41299?redirectedFrom=copy+edit#eid8353806. (Please note that this website is only accessible with membership.)
  12. The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th ed., s.v. “copyedit.”

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.