Words To The Woods

Today’s post comes from Bart, the bear who found a cell phone in the woods.

H’lo, Bart here.

Out of hibernation for sure now, and looking for food. Still a little early, though.  SO HUNGRY waiting for the berries to arrive.

The fishing opener is good, ’cause stuff gets left on shore. Sometimes chips and even burgers and hot dogs and stuff like that!  Drunk fishermen are the best kind.  Bears and fish say so!

But you can’t count on people to leave food out.  In July, yes.  Not so much in May.

That’s why I got excited to see this article about self-publishing and how there’s a lot of great opportunities to make extra $$ as a book editor.

All writers need a smart, caring, sometimes brutal, roaring rage-filled editor.  And I’m a pretty good one!  You wouldn’t expect it – me with the big paws and doing all my writing on a smart phone.  But that means I’m always cutting words.  Most writers generate a ton of blah-blah-blah that needs to be gobbled up!

Yes, I’m a Nounatarian and a Verbivore.

And it’s all done online, so you don’t have to worry about making a face-to-face impression on your clients if you have bad breath or don’t look very professional or you happen to be a wild animal who lives alone in the woods .

Some writers complain that with self-publishing, the freelance market has been flooded by unqualified people claiming to be editors and proofreaders.

Maybe so.  I’m not going to dwell on it, though.   Here’s my deal.  I edit your book, you don’t have to pay me in money.  Just ship a loosely secured bag of groceries to a campground address I’ll send you once I get your manuscript.   That’s all there is to it!

Maybe your book is good.  If so, my job is easy and your big payday still comes.  But if your book is an aimless, pointless mess, it can hardly hurt things to slap a sticker on that cover that says “Edited By A Wild Bear!”

Your pal,

How are you at proofreading?

98 thoughts on “Words To The Woods”

  1. I think I’d be pretty good at this were it not for a few grammatical glitches – all of which I blame on growing up in Iowa, of course. Words like “a whole nuther”; “crik” rather than “creek”; “winner” rather than “winter”; “how come is that?”. About the only thing I remember out of english classes is never to end a sentence with a preposition and what a verb is. I also don’t know whether it’s “whomever” or “whoever” or if they’re both OK under different circumstances? What on earth is a “concenet”? See, I can’t even spell whatever it is! Maybe I wouldn’t make a good proofreader after all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As someone who taught writing for several years, it saddens me when people think writing well is mostly about honoring the “rules” of English. It isn’t. And if someone knows a rule of English, it is usually that prohibition against ending sentences with prepositions. Which isn’t a rule at all!

      Would you like two rules for writing well? Here are two worth respecting: 1) Be clear; and 2) Be interesting. There probably is a legitimate role for fuzzy, boring writing, but god knows we have enough of that already!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. This reinforces what I was telling “the children” (s&h and his equally competitive young lady friend) about the writing section of the ACT exam.

        Your score on that is all about the technical, and has precious little to do with whether or not you are a good writer.

        On the other hand, having graded essays for college students in my day, I do think there is a place for technically correct writing to a point. The point at which the writing is so un-grammatical that I cannot follow your thinking is where all the wheels start to fall off the bus.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. The lawn is the highest expression of American culture.
        Spelling is the highest expression of American education.


    2. Cb, keep in mind, too, that writing is entirely different than proofreading. While you may be good at finding errors in others people’s writing, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good writer yourself, and vice versa.


    1. i just submitted a document to a business contest i am entering to launch my new fundraising business. it requiresd a 100 word intro, a 500 word chnk of inr , another 500 word chunk of info a spreadsheet showing numbers and a 100 word close.

      boy did i require some input. i see the same thing over and over and miss the same thing over and over.

      i am not too good at self proof reading. maybe would be better a other peoples.


      1. Good luck, tim. I bet that was quite the challenge for you to stay within those parameters. Knowing you, however, I feel certain that you found ways of pushing the boundaries a bit.


  2. I’m better at spotting other people’s errors than my own. I usually spot mine at the moment I am hitting “POST COMMENT”.

    I do have a habit of rewriting awkward sentence constructions in my head as I’m reading, and I have an imaginary red pen that always circles the apostrophes in the possessive “its”.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I can relate, Linda. There seems to be a fraction of a second’s delay between hitting “POST COMMENT” and noticing a glaring error. Don’t understand why WordPress doesn’t allow you to edit your own submissions; even Facebook does that.


    2. I’ve learned to never send an email if my emotions are charged. I always regret it and so wish that the laptop had a “retrieve” tab. Beyond this, I try to put it in draft and revisit the next day. Either that, or I share it with a trusted confident and get feedback. It’s embarrassing to share this – maybe I should leave it in draft?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This was in response to Linda’s post above about it being easier to spot the errors in others’ posts than in your own.


  3. Good morning. I am not at all good at proof reading. As most or all of you know, I frequently fail to do a good job of proof reading my Trail Baboon replies. I am not ready to follow tim’s approach of not bothering to check for errors, although it might look like that is what I have done in some cases. Even after looking over my writing 2 or 3 times, I often fail to find errors. I might be better at proof reading another person’s writing than I am at doing my own, although I’m sure that anyone who wants a good job of proof reading done should not ask me to proof read their material.


  4. Like Linda, I am excellent at the moment POST COMMENT has gone into effect.

    I’m actually a pretty good proofreader of other people’s stuff, my posts here are absolutely no indication of my command of written English, please forgive.

    and thank you Dale, for Nounatarian and Verbivore.

    When and where is the next Blevin’s Book Club and what are we reading? I will be changing my weekend availability in the next day or so.


  5. I’m a pretty good proofreader and editor. Not good enough to make a living at it full time, but above passable. Got good at it when I was a tech writer – the other writer and I would swap what we were writing and proof each other’s work, but only after a first pass ourselves (you learn tricks to keep you from skimming things and then missing stuff like inconsistent periods at the end of bulleted sentences). I would be one of those frightfully nerdy folks who was delighted that I could go back and edit my Facebook posts when that feature was added. And yes, I do correct my typos when I see them on FB.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If a Verbivore is someone who devours books, I certainly qualify! Great coinages. I hope these are going into the glossary.

    I’m a pretty good proofreader, I think. I was first taught by an excellent professor, and have kept in practice with my poetry group, submissions for the intermittently-published semiprozine, and now my roommate’s fiction. I think I’m best at line edits: spelling, grammar, the rhythm of a line or sentence. I can and have deconstructed a story to figure out why it doesn’t work and how to make it better, but it’s very hard work and not always appreciated. Grammar and spelling are rule-based, thus easy to spot and fix. Figuring out the mechanics of the story is half storytelling rules and half personal taste, and it’s harder to quantify or to justify. That’s why working in a professionally-oriented critique group is good–if one person makes a criticism, it may be an issue of personal taste. If three or more people make the same criticism, you know it’s rewrite time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. After reading posts here for several years, I am quite sure that you are the most accurate, clear and error-free person posting here. If I were to hire a proofreader from this gang of baboons, you’d be my choice.


      1. Conjures up the image of Steve, green eyeshade on and red pencil in hand, sitting there correcting and grading all baboon submissions to the blog.


  7. I would be a better proof reader if I took more time. I write a couple of psychological evaluations a week and I sometimes miss minor errors. I am fortunate to have a crackerjack transcriptionist who rarely makes mistakes.

    I have a bread proofer that works realy slick, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I used to be in a sci-fi writer’s group. (In fact, it’s where I met my ex.) It was a bit of a stretch because I prefer writing 1930’s-era hero pulp and noir detective stuff but we (sort of) made it work.

    For a small group of ‘writer wannabe’s,’ we did pretty well. As a group, we collectively wound up with about 6 book or story publishing credits and a winner of the prestigious “Writers of the Future” contest.

    My critique specialty was general story flow and character behavior. I tend to be very conscious of a story’s pacing…if it feels rushed, if it’s flagging, how it’s building up/slowing down, etc. And if a character does/doesn’t say or react to something in a relatable way, that tends to jar me out of the story.

    We had some members come and go. I’d say that some were better at wordsmithing and critiquing than others. I still remember the first line of the first story I had to critique for the group: “He waited for the knock on the door that never came.” …ugh…

    I was also an agent of entropy. Everyone else had degrees in English, had taken classes at the Loft, etc. I just come from a family of storytellers. I go by what the writing ~feels~ like, whereas they all espoused the ‘rules of writing.’ So, I’d question them, “Why does something -have- to be that way?” The answer usually boiled down to either a) because we say so or b) because that’s what we were told. Neither of which I accepted as valid reasons to change a story if I thought it was working well.


  9. I worked as an editor for several years. In spite of that, I’m wobbly when proofreading other peoples’ copy and even worse when I try to proof my own stuff. In time I came to believe that the word “editor” applies to two types of people, two types that are amazingly different from each other. One kind of editor is aghast when he encounters errors, like grammar booboos or typos. The other kind of editor is obsessed with good storytelling that makes a connection with readers. This kind of editor is irritated by the expectation that writing be free of flaws, for the most serious flaws of all are being vague or boring.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I’m better than most writers at proofreading, but I’m certainly not as good as a pro. Mainly because I’m a spelling whiz (6th grade classroom champ ;-0 ), but also because I’ve critiqued hundreds of stories and novel chapters and you get good with practice.

    That said, I, like many others here, have missed my own errors after numerous passes during my self-editing and revising of my writing.

    Chris in O-town

    Liked by 1 person

  11. In the strictest terms before word processing, a “proofreader” read the “proof,” which is the first print of the set-in-type text. Proofreaders only matched the “proof” to the final approved version. Proofreading is hard, has nothing to do with changing content. It is a visual skill.
    Editors look at the content more than the mechanics. In novels they advice on characters, plot, narration, etc. Copyreaders were the people who looked more at the mechanics, although there was never a 100% distinction. It is a rare person who can edit and copyread. We did employ a free lance person who could do both in one read for technical writing, not fiction. She would stink at fiction work. Ideally you want text read more than once for each level, preferably by more than one person for each. I can do both but not in one read. I did it both in my work as a publisher. Usually it was many pages of text. So I would edit, give back to writer, edit a few days later, give back to writer, etc. Then I would copyread and give to another copyreader or leave it alone for a week at least, if possible, and then reread. Technical is a different world from fiction.
    I was only mediocre at copyreading, decent at editing. I am terrible at copyreading my own fiction because I read at the editing level all of the time. Almost all writers of all sorts need editing and copyreading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have several students who are editors of various kinds and writers of all sorts, a few reporters. They tell me that smaller newspapers do not really do much checking of content at any level.It is left mostly to the writer. Lots of content, I assume, is submitted releases or stringer work, which has always been weak on content of both levels. Mid-sized newspapers still have a double check, edit and copyreading, or sort of both at once. I assume larger newspapers have at least a double check. Newspapers leave the title of editor to the boss level folks and copyreader to the flunkier positions.


  12. I sometimes wish I could get work reading some of my favorite series and finding the inconsistencies in them. Those make me more crazy than they really should. But geez, either the character is a Muslim or a Mormon, I just don’t see how you can ask me to believe she is both.


  13. Morning all. I’m fair at proofing; like other baboons I don’t usually grind on punctuation and rules. I love “Nounatarian and a Verbivore” – makes me wish for another Thursday Next book!


    1. My partner used to spray text on the page and leave it to the rest of us to sort out. One of the hardest parts for all of us who read and edited was struggling with consistency issues with him. What he called something on page 12 was not likely to be called that on page 54 and then something else on page 102. He could never grasp why this mattered. With his writing one person used to go through and highlight in different colors the places we thought he was likely to be inconsistent and then check all the colors at once. We always caught errors and always missed errors.


  14. It’s very hard to proof your own writing because you know what you expect and that’s what you see whether or not that’s what’s really there. I need tricks to proof my own stuff and frequently don’t bother unless it’s more than averagely important. There’s a huge difference between proofing and editing. Continuity errors in published works constantly leap out at me. I can’t imagine how any editor can let some of the things I see sneak by them. One catch (among many similar) that stands out, was in a novel (maybe a Kinsey Milhone) where the character very deliberately left the key in her car’s ignition to facilitate an expected need for a quick departure after a stealthy snooping expedition. When she did have to leave in a hurry, she frantically searched through her bag and found her keys in it! How to you let that happen and get paid for it? It puts editing on a par with weather forecasting as a way to make money without having to be accurate.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. I can catch quite a few errors having to do with punctuation and spelling without much effort. Apostrophes are my specialty (or is that apostrophe’s?) and certain mis-spelled words such as defiantly when it should be definitely. But I could never be a pro; my eyesight is not sharp enough to catch stuff like an extra space between words, and I don’t know all the punctuation, spelling, and grammar rules that a really good proofreader would know. But I looked over my kids’ papers when they were in school, at least for the two older kids; the youngest didn’t need much help, and she still doesn’t, as she is finishing up her second year in college and is doing just fine without mom looking over her shoulder or nagging her to do her homework (I didn’t do much of that anyway, but when she’s 1500 miles away, it’s impossible to do now).

    And, of course, I can’t proofread my own writing. As OC said, it’s very hard to proof your own writing. The best way I can do it is to set it aside for several days and then look it over again. That’s for both editing and proofreading. But in these days of quick emailing and comments on blogs, I don’t have the luxury of waiting a few days before hitting “send” or “post comment.” Also, now that I have a smart phone, that has taken my ability to make mistakes to a new level – sometimes, after very carefully “typing” in a certain word, the phone will change the word to what it thinks the word should be and I don’t notice it until after I post, if I ever do notice it.


  16. Renee brings up a relatively new distinction: the difference between spell checking and proofreading. (I agree with those who think of editing as an altogether different process.)

    We’re all familiar with the squiggly red line that appears below a word that our computer doesn’t recognize, a line that usually means the word is misspelled. And as ljb and others who use their smart phone to send messages have experienced, the pitfalls of your phone replacing a word you intended to write with a totally different, and often inappropriate, word.

    I’m a reasonably good proofreader, and by that I mean I have the visual skill to recognize words that are misspelled and numbers that are transposed. I’ve done a fair amount of proofreading of audit reports where accuracy is essential.

    Renee’s “church bizarres,” whether intended or not, is delicious. It took it to be intentional to include the sometimes hilarious announcements in church bulletins.


  17. I was hoping that Dale hid some editable spots in Bart’s post but I couldn’t find any.
    Like Linda, I have the imaginary red pen at the ready when I read things and I take way too long just to answer an email or comment on the Trail. However, I think that my changes to both are pretty superficial (grammar, spelling, boring, repetitive use of a single word, etc.)

    I have decided that writing is darned hard for me. My HS Boyfriend was in town for a meeting and we had dinner together and then read through a few of the tens if not hundreds of letters he wrote me during that time (we were separated by many miles most of our dating years and my brother returned the letter collection to me when he cleaned out our mother’s house). We discussed our relationship, how miserable he was (in general, not with me), how subsequent relationships we’ve both have had relate to that first, important one.

    He sent a followup email saying that the process was quite depressing – seeing how sad and desperate he was, seeing how he has repeated patterns (he just came through his second divorce). He also mused about what would happen if we were to get together again. He described the effect his emotional, complicated, East Coast life would have on my happy, passive, Minnesota life as putting jet fuel into a Prius.
    (my hairdresser, with whom I shared all of this, of course, thought that was insulting but I saw what he meant).

    I have been composing a response for a week (!) in my head. I’m mainly hung up on coming up with a corresponding simile about the fact that adding my happy, passive, MN life to his would not even be a blip on the radar – adding a wisp of cotton candy to a rich boeuf bourguignon? adding a blade of grass to a field of tulips in Holland? It seems too sad and self-deprecating.

    Look, I just wrote a bunch! Not great stuff but it’s more than I can usually produce.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it is great stuff, Lisa. Your similes are spot-on and give me a mental picture of how you feel.

      In my opinion, this blog isn’t the place for scrutinizing our words and grammer and spelling too much. It’s a conversation and it works best if you don’t over-think your responses or pick them apart for errors. Sometimes I think better of a comment or reply and don’t post it, but the conversation would die if we all did that all the time. Nobody can beat tim for keeping things flowing and spontaneous, but I know I could learn a lesson about conversation on this blog from him.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well put, ljb. I acknowledge that I often write things that must make the true writers here cringe. Sometimes I know better, sometimes I don’t.

        I am just grateful as all get-out that I never have to read corporatese here. I loathe corporatese.

        no humor, no poetry, no artistry, just clunky cinderblock doublespeak that lets you know just how important your call really is to them.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I’ll re-visit this question and reach-out to you timely. I’m copying PJ on this for her input and I am sure we can onboard something.


    2. My suspicion is that Dale is conducting research. By asking this question he’s trying to determine if baboons make less errors in their posts when they know attention is on proofreading. As several of us have already proven, the answer is NO.

      I agree with ljb and Clyde, just go for it Lisa, we miss you.


  18. OT: a mushroom hunter just walked down the ravine by me with a net bag holding several already-picked mushroom, thus letting me know her purpose.


    1. found my first morel on saturday a fist full of half frees and a monster pheasants back. went home and sauted the pheasants back and made a meal of it. need to get the morel and half frees done up soon. its time

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I have already established myself as an obnoxious smarty pants, so I could not resist furthering my reputation as such.;-)


  19. Entirely OT. A couple of flower shop vignettes.

    I’ve been working the customer service desk for Mother’s Day, as I usually do.

    On Saturday, I had a call from an irate woman who said her flowers hadn’t been delivered to her grandmother. This was at a Marshall Avenue address not far from our shop. The driver’s notes said the flowers were signed for by a man whose last name matched the recipient’s last name. When we gave this info to the sender, she swore up and down that no one by his name resided at that address and insisted that we had never delivered the flowers.

    A quick internet search revealed that the home at the address in question was listed by Ramsey County as owned by the man who signed for the flowers. Probably the husband of the recipient. A further search revealed that the woman who placed the order was pictured on the website mugshots.com, with information on her arrest and conviction for fraud in Florida, in connection with a fraudulent public assistance claim.

    I’m having serious revenge fantasies about her, after being on the receiving end of her vitriolic phone call.

    Later, and more poignantly, I tried to handle a phone call from a mother in New York who tried to send flowers and balloons to her daughter today at a local elementary school. It was the girl’s golden birthday, eleven years old. The delivery was made to the school, but the student was absent, so the office could not get the flowers and balloons to her. When I talked to the mother, she was in tears. She said she and the girl’s father, the custodial parent, are not on speaking terms. She sent the flowers to the school because she couldn’t trust the father to accept a delivery at home. She apologized to me for crying on the phone. I left today with the situation unresolved, and I’m not sure I’ll find out what happened on this one. Probably won’t be back at the flower shop till next year.

    So it goes, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, and another…it gets hard to remember at the end of a long day. A guy in New York wanted to send lilacs to his mother in Lilydale. Lilacs can’t be bought from flower wholesalers, because they wilt so quickly, they’re completely impractical for use in floral arrangements, which are supposed to last several days to a week. The sender swore he wouldn’t blame us if the flowers didn’t last. So I went down the alley and poached lilacs in glorious full bloom from the neighbors’ shrubs. Jeanne, the designer, put them in a lovely clear glass cylinder vase, and they looked and smelled GLORIOUS. They’ll be dead by tomorrow, probably, but oh, what a gift.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh my, Linda. Had no idea that such trauma and stories were connected with Mother’s Day in a flower shop. I love that you “poached” some Lilacs from a neighbor. My sister “borrows” forsythia branches in early spring from hedges and shrubs she passes in her daily walks.


    2. mothers day has to be hard for moms who have husbands who have custodial control. they obviously screwed up and have a husband who is not allowing them to be close. husbands never get control unless the mo screwed up. nothing uglier than a custody situation. people can be so ugly. hard on the kids.


      1. Lots of bad situations. Parents of either gender can have problems relating to substance abuse, domestic violence or he said/she said accusations. Taking sides can be treacherous.


      2. Mother’s Day is one of the worst days of the year for the toll it takes on mothers and children for many reasons. Ask any pastor. You get afraid to mention it on that morning.


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