Tuesday, January 19, 2016

TIP TUESDAY: WRITING FOLLOWS CONVENTIONS

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Writing sometimes must follow conventions, and that doesn't mean it travels out of town, gets drunk, and wears a funny hat.







con·ven·tion
kənˈven(t)SH(ə)n/
noun
plural noun: conventions
  1. 1.
    a way in which something is usually done, especially within a particular area or activity.
    "the woman who overturned so many conventions of children's literature"


When I went to work as a reporter at a newspaper, I didn't know nothin' bout no Associated Press Stylebook. I had taken a Journalism 101 class, and all of a sudden, I found out that I was supposed to follow the conventions of journalism.

When one follows AP style, the conventions include no Oxford comma; spokesman (not spokesperson); and Kansas is abbreviated as Kan., not KS.

When I started editing books, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I continued to follow AP style (I apologize to the authors whose books I edited during that time, but it's not as if I stole their hard-earned money; I received little to no remuneration, and the books weren't widely read and spanked for not following the rules).

It didn't take long for me to learn that the bible of the publishing industry is The Chicago Manual of Style. My very large and heavy copy is always within reach as I work.

The conventions for writing books include using the Oxford comma; writing numbers in particular ways (10 a.m. or ten o'clock--ask Chicago to learn the answer); and God forbid that you place punctuation marks outside quotation marks, as in "I need a drink". It's "I need a drink."

BUT, these conventions are for the United States. The United Kingdom is different. The loonies across the pond put punctuation marks outside of quotation marks, and their quotation marks are a single ' instead of our U.S. " . Oh, dear Lord, help me. I've just put a period outside of a quotation mark. Surely I shall go to hell for this transgression.

When I was in college, I wrote essays according to the Handbook of the Modern Language Association (MLA).

Other styles and handbooks exist for various realms and reams of writing.


It is good to be connected. Connect with the conventions you must follow for the writing task at hand. You might have to connect with the person who assigns the writing to you to learn which style to follow. You might find answers online.

Dear Google,

Please tell me some curiously strange conventions to follow that I can inflict on Linda Kay to drive her even crazier than I already have.

Love,

Janie Junebug, Beloved Editor

I've had the pleasure of editing two books for Linda Kay: Sophie Writes a Love Story, and the recently released Out of Darkness To Accepted Love.

I've never met Linda Kay, but I adore her. In the acknowledgements for Out of Darkness, she writes: "Janie Goltz, your editing was such a great benefit to those who will read these words, even though you made me crazy."

I knew that if I drove Linda Kay crazy, then I had done my job. It's because I made her follow the conventions.

Linda Kay, put on your funny hat, and let's have a frozen margarita––with a sugar rim.


Ya done good, lady.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

28 comments:

  1. Hi Janie - well done on setting Linda straight ... I do what I need to do to fit in with life and conventions - but if I can wander around experiencing other ideas I do ... I really don't like being tied in! Cheers Hilary

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    1. I love being tied in as long as it's with a silk scarf.

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  2. What!?! In the UK they only use a single quotation mark!?! How do they indicate when someone talking is quoting someone else? For example, "I was with my mom when she told me, 'I was poisoning you this whole time!'" What I really learned from this is that writing is anarchy. I can do whatever I please with punctuation and claim I'm following some style guide. Or, I can be like Cormac McCarthy and jettison punctuation all together.

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    1. Sometimes I channel e.e. cummings. I don't know what in the hell they do about quotation marks within quotation marks in the U.K. You people in the U.K., what in the hell do you do about quotation marks within quotation marks?

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  3. At the design college I work at it's MLA style that we're to use. I don't have my students write a whole lot. Just 1 paper. It's on critiquing an illustrators work. That's coming up. They have another class where they do a ton of writing.

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  4. May the Goddess bless all editors. I had a job once where I did extremely technical writing and my editor was an eagle-eyed bloodhound (sorry for the mixed metaphor) who could spot a typo or a misplaced semi-colon from a mile away. I was in awe of his abilities.

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    1. That's a great mixed metaphor. I like it.

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  5. Thanks for the offer to review! I'll be emailing you...

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  6. Great post, Janie. I may have to pick Chicago up. I'm constantly googling.

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    1. Picking up Chicago will build up your muscles. It's also kind of expensive.

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  7. I think the comic at top is more Plumber's Convention:) How much do you want to make a bet that Canucks take a little from the U.S. and a little from Britain:) I have been guilty of the quotations but I am trying to place the period before the quotation mark

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    1. Oh, Birgit, do whatever the hell you like with punctuation marks. I have a photo of my son when he was painting my bathroom. He had a major case of plumber butt. I took great delight in posting the photo on my blog.

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  8. I was instructed to use MLA when I was in college a little over a decade ago. If it was a single quote or say a line of dialogue the punctuation went inside, but if it was an additional quote within the sentence and at the end of a sentence then the punctuation went on the outside. Right? That's how I was taught.

    Well, they say you have to know the rules before you can break them. Either that or have forgotten them altogether--LOL! ;)

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    1. Not anymore. MLA keeps changing its rules.

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    2. Well if they keep changing the rules...screw 'em!
      Unless you're an editor, of course. ;)

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  9. I never studied style, I absorbed it from the books I read. As in, too little knowledge is a dangerous thing. My father explained once that ideas are expressed in descending order of importance so an editor can cut from the bottom up. And, when I taught a grammar class to first year college students, I confess to being one chapter ahead the first time I taught.

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    1. I don't think of style and rules of grammar as the same.

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  10. I can honestly say that I have always been jealous of book smart people. What you do amazes me! I'm luck to get a capital at the beginning of a sentence. Smart on, woman!

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    1. That's kind of you, but I wish I could do some practical things. I can sew on a button or repair a small rip in a seam, but that's the extent of my sewing abilities.

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  11. I have a tendency to add an "s" after toward(s) which I've been told is the British spelling. I love Churchill's comment that the British and Americans are two great peoples separated by the same language.

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    1. Yes, that's the British way. We are quite different from the Brits.

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  12. You know I say it in jest, and absolutely love you, my dear friend and editor. I couldn't do it without you.

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    1. I wouldn't bring it up if I thought it wasn't in jest. It made me laugh.

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  13. I knew none of this and now I do but tomorrow I will have forgotten it all

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  14. Editing is a tough job. I couldn't do it. If I'd realized I wanted to be a writer, I would have paid more attention in English class :)
    R

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  15. Ah, yes, the AP book of style. I still have that book from my journalism class - needless to say, I still can't get used to it. HAHA. :D This entry was very helpful.

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