Monday, September 10, 2007

The Freelance Life, Again, and an Instructive Abomination

Alas, my time managing the editorial department at the Little Shop of Textbooks has come to an end, rather sooner than I should have preferred. When publishers want editors to do acquisitions, they should either have an established acquisitions procedure, or hire people who have done acquisitions before. At the very least, they should be prepared to tell the inexperienced editor how they'd like things to be done. Hiring a managing editor to manage your acquisitions process, when you don't have an acquisitions process, is not a recipe for a successful acqusitions programme.

And that is all I shall say about that here, at least for now.

So I'm freelancing again, and embarking on New Literary Adventures!

Among these is my latest assignment corrupting the innocent teaching at one of the local colleges' editing programmes. I'll be teaching Grammar for Editors and I'm really quite happy.

For my first class, I'm supposed to introduce the course, familiarize students with the college's policies, and then cover the topics: What is Grammar? Why is Grammar Important? and Review of Parts of Speech. The short version of this is "Why are you here?"

Rather than beginning with a paen to clarity, correctness, and grace in written language, I thought it might be both fun and instructive to start with a paragraph full of all the common errors that cause would-be grammarians to write in to publishers.

So I wrote an Abominable Paragraph. I'm going to ask students to circle every error of style, grammar, and usage, just to see which ones they notice.

Here it is. It's dreadful, I know. Anyone want to suggest any other common errors? Remember, I'm going for the kinds of errors that even fluent writers make, that editors need to know how to identify and correct.

Welcome to Grammar for Editors! The goal if this course is to enable you guys to function competently as editors. Hopefully you will find it an interesting and rewarding experience, due to both the fascinating nature of the material and your instructor’s charm and wit.

Hopefully, you will be able to come to all classes. If you cannot come to a class, due to illness or other commitments, please contact myself or a classmate to find out what you missed, and make sure that you obtain a copy of any handouts. There will be a large amount of handouts, and material from the handouts will be on the tests.

The handouts and the texts contain many exercises on grammar, usage, punctuation, and style. We will refer to them frequently, but I will only mark the tests. For the exercises which you will be asked to complete everyone will be responsible to check their own work and asking about anything that confuses you in class. If you share your questions with your classmates and I, together we can help sort things out.

I look forward very much to exploring the ins and outs of grammar with you.

My goal was to fit as many of the common errors, gremlins, and hobgoblins of grammar and usage as I could into a short paragraph, using only those errors that are generally acceptable in informal speech and writing. I'd like to get my students talking and thinking about how the etiquette of written prose is different from that of informal writing or speech.

What do you think?


torgana said...

I think you should include dangling participles, because I always come across those when I'm editing. That's a great introductory lesson: It's interactive and will help you gauge the students' knowledge.

Just curious: Do you follow a particular style guide?

jennie said...

Oooh. You're Right. Dangling participles.

Not sure where to put one, but I'll work on that.

As to style guides, when I'm freelance I use whatever style guide the client specifies. For books this tends to be CMOS 15 supplemented by Editing Canadian English, a Canadian dictionary, and the publisher's in-house guide. I've done next to no magazine work, and no newspaper work, so I have minimal experience with the Canadian Press Style Guide.

--E said...

I realize your emphasis is on the difference between spoken and formal written English, but you might want to misspell grammar just once. It always cracks me up when people declare themselves "grammer experts."

If your students are anything like ones I've had in the past, there will be at least four in the room who think this class will be easy for them; at least three of these will be very, very wrong.

Anita said...

How about adding in some spellchecker bloopers, their/there, it's/its, and some of those awful apostrophes inserted into plural nouns?