How to Format Words from the Communication Revolution

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Please welcome Denise Loock, my guest today. As an editor, she must keep abreast of the currently accepted ways of formatting what I call cyber words. Learn more about Denise after her post. Here’s Denise:

A revolution began in 1972. The word internetwork entered the English language that year, referring to “the linked computer networks of the US Defense Department.”[1] Few recognized the potential power of such a network, which now affects every aspect of our lives.

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Shortened to Internet in 1984, the word was capitalized for almost forty years because it referred to something particular and novel. But by 2016, the term had become so commonplace that the Associated Press Stylebook de-capitalized it. The 17th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) and the 4th edition of The Christian Writers Manual of Style (CWMS) also lowercase it.

Born in 1990, the World Wide Web has expanded and changed our communication in astounding ways. Even though CMS still recommends uppercase letters for World Wide Web, other related words are lowercased: the webwebsite, and web page. Cyberspace and social media have coined hundreds of words. The 2019 additions to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (M-W) include page viewscreen time, and unplug. Words added in 2018 include airplane mode and Instagramming. None of these web-related terms existed in 2000: selfie, photobomb, hashtag, and unfriend

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Nouns have morphed into verbs (inbox), adjectives into verbs (unlike). Maybe the most famous noun-verb transformation is Googol. As a noun—“a number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeroes”—the word dates from 1940, first used in Mathematics and the Imagination, written by Edward Kasner and James Newman.[2] The domain google.com was registered in 2000. Although M-W lists the word as both an uppercase and lowercase verb (Google or google), most dictionaries lowercase it.

E-mail was born in 1982, its cousin snail mail in 1983. Most dictionaries now list email as a non-hyphenated word, but e-commerce and e-book remain hyphenated. Expect those hyphens to disappear soon.

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Many writers wonder how to format emails and text messages. Format an email’s content the same as a letter’s content (roman font, block quotation). Some publishing houses format text messages as dialogue, but very few use an alternate font. As for emojis and emoticons, both CMS and CWMS advise authors to omit them in both print and e-books. Some social media abbreviations are now included in the dictionary (LOL, BRB, and OMG). But CMS cautions “the mere presence of a word in the dictionary’s pages does not mean that the word is in all respects fit for print as Standard Written English” (CMS 5.250). 

Cyberspace and social media have changed not only the way we communicate but also the way we write about communication. Keyboard functions are such an integral part of our lives that CMS has created capitalization protocol for these terms. Here are two examples:

  • On a Mac, the Option key is similar to the Alt key on a typical PC. 
  • Save the file as a PNG or JPEG, then press Send.

Keeping up with communication trends and practices is a lifelong learning experience for writers. My best advice? Consult the dictionary often and read writing blogs—like this one.


[1]“Internet,” Online Etymology Dictionary, Accessed 8 March 2019, https://www.etymonline.com/word/internet#etymonline_v_9422.

[2]“Google,” Online Etymology Dictionary, Accessed 5 April, 2019, https://www.etymonline.com/word/google#etymonline_v_25832; https://www.etymonline.com/word/googol?ref=etymonline_crossreference.

Former high-school English teacher and college professor Denise Loock is an editor, author, and inspirational speaker. She is a general editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, based in Raleigh, NC. She also accepts freelance editing projects from writers who want to submit clean, concise, and compelling manuscripts to publishers (lightningeditingservices.com).

She is the founder of Dig Deeper Devotions, a website that encourages Christians of all ages to dig deeper into the Word of God. Two collections of devotions from the website are available on Amazon: Restore the Joy: Daily Devotions for December and Restore the Hope: Devotions for Lent and Easter.

She is the author of two devotional books that highlight the scriptural truths of classic hymns and gospel songs, Open Your Hymnal and Open Your Hymnal Again. Her articles, stories, and devotions have appeared in various publications, including Chicken Soup for the Soul compilations, The Upper Room, and Vista.

Denise teaches two online PEN Institute courses: Sentence Diagraming 101 and Editing Devotionals 101. She also writes “Mind Your MUGS,” a grammar and usage column for Christian Communicator.

Ten Things You Never Say to an Editor

 

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My guest today is editor and author Denise Loock. Denise shares with us what a writer should never say to an editor. At the end of her post, you’ll find more information about her editing services and devotional books.

Denise: Hiring an editor is wise. But you’ll waste the money you’ve invested if you’re unwilling to accept an editor’s advice. Here are ten things you may want to say to an editor but shouldn’t.

1. No one will notice. No one cares. If you’ve ever noticed a misspelled word or a misplaced comma in a newspaper or on a billboard, you care about accuracy. More than that, though, God cares. He loves excellence. In fact, He demands excellence. Colossians 3:23-25 says, “Don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God. … The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work” (MSG). Ouch. God never excuses “shoddy work.”

2. My friend, an English teacher, told me this was correct. I taught English for 29 years before I became an editor. The differences between English-teacher style and publication style are many. Get the right resources. Here are three: The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, fourth edition (CWMS); Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors; The Associated Press Stylebook.

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3. How will readers get my point if I don’t use italics, all-caps, and exclamation points? Make your words work. Don’t glitz them up with fancy fonts and superfluous punctuation. “The craft of writing involves arranging words and phrases in such a way as to emphasize the important points without depending on typographic peculiarities” (CWMS 77). “Typographic peculiarities” attempt to mask mediocrity with gaudiness. Don’t insult your reader with such shenanigans.

4. Max Lucado does it that way. According to his website, Lucado has sold 92 million books. Yes, he’s successful. But if God wanted another Max Lucado, He would clone him. Be your best self. Find your voice.

5. This is God’s message. I can’t change it. Yes, the Holy Spirit impresses on us a message. He reveals fresh meanings and applications in Scripture. But He also uses traditional means of education. Paul’s letters are filled with post-resurrection connections to Old Testament Scriptures. Revealed by the Holy Spirit, yes. But Paul had studied the Hebrew Scriptures thoroughly. He learned under Gamaliel, the most respected rabbi of that era (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Messages need refinement. So do messengers. Just ask Paul.

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6. That’s the way I talk (or blog.) The CWMS devotes three pages to the difference between blog style and book style. It covers topics such as tone, structure, transitions, repetition, and references. Learn the rules of good writing and practice them in everything you write.

 

 

7. I like it the way it is. Stubbornness is the twin of arrogance. Everyone makes mistakes—writers and editors. But wait at least 24 hours before insisting, “I won’t change it.” Pray about it. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer says of the student: “And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” That’s my goal as both a writer and an editor.

8. But I love that song (book, speaker). We all have favorite books, speakers, and songs. But that doesn’t mean we insert lyrics, paragraphs, and illustrations from those sources in our books or blogs. Find a fresher way to say it that reflects your experiences, your environment, and your interests.

9. I saw it somewhere on the Internet (heard it at church, at a conference, on TV). Documentation is essential. If you don’t know the source, don’t use it. Misquotes and wrong attributions permeate the Internet. Avoid using brainyquote.com and goodreads.com/quotes. And never depend on Wikipedia. Respect the sources you admire enough to read the original version of their words.

10. It could mean that, couldn’t it? Use Scripture accurately and appropriately. Context is everything. Don’t mix fiction with fact. Even if you’re using only one verse, study the context, read a few commentaries, and pray about it. Research Scriptures as thoroughly as other citations. Plant 2 Timothy 2:15 in your heart and “correctly handle the word of truth” (NIV).

Remember, an editor is your friend. Editors want your manuscript to be the best it can be. Editing is a humbling career. Writing is a humbling career. Neither writers nor editors are infallible. But we both can strive for excellence and make our heavenly Father proud.

Thank you for these reminders, Denise.

Ten things a writer should never say to an editor. Click to Tweet.

Which of the ten no-nos do you have trouble with? 

Denise Loock is an editor, writer, and speaker. As a book editor, she uses her twenty-nine years of experience as an English teacher to help Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas produce high quality, engaging inspirational fiction and nonfiction books. As a freelance editor, she helps published and unpublished writers create clean, concise, and compelling manuscripts that will attract publishers and intrigue readers.

 

 

Denise also shares with others the joy of studying God’s Word through the website she founded, DigDeeperDevotions.com. She is the author of two devotional books that highlight the scriptural truths of classic hymns and gospel songs, Open Your Hymnal and Open Your Hymnal Again. Contact her at denise@lightningeditingservices.com.

Redundancy: An Excessive, Oppressive, Pervasive Disease

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My guest today is editor and author, Denise Loock. Denise shares with us one of her Boot Camp posts on redundancies. At the end of her post, you’ll find more information about her editing services and devotional books.

Denise:

“Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.” That’s #47 in William Safire’s entertaining and enlightening book, Fumblerules. The principle is simple, but its mastery elusive, even for seasoned writers and editors.

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Too often we’re unaware of the redundancies that lurk undetected in our sentences. Did you catch the needless repetition in the previous sentence? Using unaware and undetected with lurk is redundant. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, lurk means “to lie in ambush, to be hidden but capable of being discovered.” I should have written this: redundancies lurk in our sentences. Use precise verbs.

A devotion in the December 2014 edition of a daily devotional magazine was titled “Free Gift.” Again, Merriam-Webster exposes the redundancy. By definition, a gift is “transferred … without compensation.” If it isn’t, the writer should use reward, bribe or exchange. Use precise nouns.

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In a book written by a well-known author, I came across “unsuspected surprises.” By definition, a surprise is “something unexpected or astonishing.” The fraternal twin of unsuspected surprises is unexpected surprises. Avoid both. And use a dictionary.

Sir Ernest Gowers provides some helpful advice in The Complete Plain Words. And no, helpful advice isn’t redundant. Haven’t we all received plenty of unhelpful advice? Back to Gowers:

“Cultivate the habit of reserving adjectives and adverbs to make your meaning more precise, and suspect those that you find yourself using to make it more emphatic. Use adjectives to denote kind rather than degree … economic crisis or a military disaster … [not] acute crisis or a terrible disaster.”

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Recently, I almost used actual proof in a Facebook post. See what I mean? Redundancy is a virus that can threaten the health of any sentence. (Check the definition of virus, and you’ll realize that adding an adjective like destructive or pernicious would be redundant.)

Here’s your assignment this week: Examine a page of your work in progress, sentence by sentence. Probe every noun and verb, checking for preciseness. Interrogate every modifier: what value does it add to the sentence? Scrutinize every word under the light of its dictionary definition.

Search for redundancies like these:

Basic necessities

Filled up

Up above

Brand-new

Close proximity

Gave away

Future plans

Reflect back

And while you’re editing, reduce phrases like these to one word:

Made a decision

Faced a need

Have the opportunity to see

Is in need of

Look forward to the future

Rid your writing of redundancies. Click to Tweet.

What is your favorite example of a redundancy? 

Denise Loock is an editor, writer, and speaker. As a book editor, she uses her twenty-nine years of experience as an English teacher to help Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas produce high quality, engaging inspirational fiction and nonfiction books. As a freelance editor, she helps published and unpublished writers create clean, concise, and compelling manuscripts that will attract publishers and intrigue readers.

 

Denise also shares with others the joy of studying God’s Word through the website she founded, DigDeeperDevotions.com. She is the author of two devotional books that highlight the scriptural truths of classic hymns and gospel songs, Open Your Hymnal and Open Your Hymnal Again. Contact her at denise@lightningeditingservices.com.