How To Strengthen Your Grammar – With Math!

Ever sit in math class and wonder how ratios, fractions, and percentages would benefit your future life?

Ever laugh at your teacher’s struggle for a good answer?

Ever read your own writing and feel like you just consumed a soggy sandwich?

If you answered yes, this post will solve this age-old math mystery, and improve your writing.

How?

By highlighting weak verbs, nominalizations, and verb-to-sentence-length ratios.

You’ll learn to use more verbs whenever possible (as early in your sentences as possible), use the strongest verbs possible, and avoid using nouns instead of their verb equivalents. Let’s look at an example:

  • Bloggers are in love with Ghostwriter Dad because of his offerings of writing advice.

Two problems exist with this sentence:

  1. Its first verb is the to-be verb are. Am, are, is, was, and were represent weak to-be verbs because they don’t show action or produce a visual for the reader. And they make us wait to learn what the sentence subject is doing. (We had to wait until the forth word of the sentence to learn that love is in the air.)
  2. It contains nominalization, which is wordiness created by using words as nouns instead of verbs. Love is a noun, but it’s stronger as a verb. And in case you didn’t notice, this instance of nominalization carries with it two unnecessary flab-accomplices (the prepositions in and with).

As it stands, this sentence contains 14 words, one weak verb, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of seven percent (1 divided by 14). You should have intuitively known this sentence was soggy; now you should understand why (The higher the verb-to-sentence-length ratio goes, the stronger your sentences become). Let’s modify the sentence and see the results:

  • Bloggers love Ghostwriter Dad because of his offerings of writing advice.

We removed the to-be verb are and used love as a verb, thus removing nominalization. This change cut our flabby sentence length by three words, leaving us with 11 words, one stronger verb appearing earlier in the sentence, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of nine percent. We can further improve this sentence by removing another instance of nominalization:

  • Bloggers love Ghostwriter Dad because he offers writing advice.

By changing the noun offerings to the verb offers, we cut two more words from our total word count, leaving us with nine words, two powerful verbs, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of 23 percent. (Where’d that soggy sandwich go?)

Let’s study another progression from flab to fabulous:

  • Ghostwriter Dad is aware of his offerings of writing advice as the reason for bloggers’ love for him. (18 words, one to-be verb, nominalization, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of six percent.)
  • Ghostwriter Dad knows his offerings of writing advice as the reason for bloggers’ love for him. (16 words, one stronger verb, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of seven percent.)
  • Blogger Dad knows bloggers love him because he offers writing advice. (11 words, three strong verbs, verb-to-sentence-length ratio of 28 percent, AND a 39% reduction in word count.)

Neat stuff, huh?

Practice this dynamic duo and you’ll strengthen your writing, save your readers some agony, and put a smile on your math teacher’s face.


Editor Interview #5 – John E. McIntyre

John E. McIntyre

John E. McIntyre

John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.

  1. What is it about editing that drew you to it?
    I was a failed eighteenth-century man, having (wisely) abandoned a dissertation on Rochester and Swift, and I needed to make a living. Six summers in high school and college working on a weekly paper in Fleming County, Kentucky, had given me experience in journalism, and I presented myself to The Cincinnati Enquirer, which took a chance on placing me on the copy desk and got me started on a thirty-year-plus career in newspapering. I immediately took to the camaraderie—copy editors tend to be smart people with mordant senses of humor. I liked the structure, being constitutionally better suited to meeting other people’s deadlines than my own. I liked taking up an article and making it cleaner, tighter, clearer.
  2. What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?
    Mild obsessive-compulsive disorder is always a help. Obsessive-compulsive because you have to care about all the details, have to itch to make things right. Mild because if you let it get severe, you’ll never be able to finish anything. Sitzlust is also useful. I’d much rather be in a chair at a desk for eight or ten hours than running about trying to extract sentences from people who are inarticulate, hostile, or both. And, if you can keep it under wraps, the warm glow of superiority at identifying other people’s mistakes will sustain you.
  3. What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
    The annoying little things never go away: the erroneous plurals and possessives, the misplaced modifiers, the confusion of homonyms. You’d think that people would learn such simple stuff, but they don’t, and mainly they don’t seem to care much about them.

    But the really egregious lapses are less in the micro than in the macro. The failure to GET TO THE POINT—I’m mortal, and I can feel the minutes slipping past me while the writer indulges in prolonged throat-clearing before tortuously arriving at some identifiable purpose for writing.

  4. What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
    Read a lot, and read good stuff. You can’t be an effective editor without knowing what the ablest writers are doing and seeing where the language is headed when wielded by adepts. (Read some trash too; you need to be connected with the culture.) Keep replenishing your store of general knowledge, and bear down hard on the subjects that most interest you.
    Find some reliable websites, [cough] modesty forbids [cough], that you can trust, and follow the author to the ones he or she likes. Language Log is good for eavesdropping on the linguists.
    Joining the American Copy Editors Society is a good idea. Go to the conferences, introduce yourself to people, attend the workshops, and never neglect to spend time at the bar listening to the stories.
    And write and edit as much as you can. Blog if you must. You will find that your writing and editing will reinforce each other. Look into freelance work if you can’t get anything permanent; the pay will be dreadful, and so will the prose, but you’ll get useful experience. (You didn’t go into this for glamour, you know.)
  5. Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
    Since I am an obvious antique, it should not surprise that I still reach first for a book: a dictionary (I like American Heritage and the New Oxford American particularly and would subscribe to the OED if I could afford it), Garner’s Modern American Usage and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, the Chicago Manual, dozens of other books on language and usage.
    I’ve been meaning to put together a list of electronic references for my students but haven’t got around to it; and I’m between editions now, so you won’t have it here. Start with Katharine O’Moore-Klopf’s Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base, and go from there.
    I mentioned the American Copy Editors Society above. You work solitarily, gazing at texts. No one but writers understands just what you do, and they resent it half the time. Then you go to an ACES conference, and you’re in a room with three hundred people who are just like you: mildly obsessive-compulsive, drunk on language, and possessed of mordant senses of humor. You are no longer alone. You have people. It is too precious an experience for you to pass up lightly.
  6. Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
    I tell my undergraduate students that editing is just about the most fun you can have legally.

    Poor fools, they never believe me.

John, thanks for sharing your editing viewpoints with us. You are right; reading your advice was just about the most fun I’ve had legally in months. 😉


Editor Interview #4 – Camille Gooderham Campbell

Camille Gooderham Campbell

Camille Gooderham Campbell

Camille is the Managing Editor of Every Day Fiction, a magazine that specializes in bringing you fine fiction in bite-sized doses.

Every day, EDF publishes a new flash fiction story that can be read during your lunch hour, on transit, or even over breakfast.

You can read the daily story online or subscribe by email or RSS feed.

  1. What is it about editing that drew you to it?
    I actually got into editing quite by accident – it started with enjoying the critiquing and helping others in my writing group more than I was enjoying working on my own projects, which led to my getting involved with Every Day Fiction and loving the work more and more. That eventually led to the realization that I’d rather spend my days doing that type of work and let my own fiction writing be a pleasure rather than a business.

    The biggest joys for me are being part of a new writer’s first publication experience, discovering emerging writers who I think will go on to successful careers, and making small suggestions that help turn a good story into a great story.
  2. What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?
    I don’t necessarily think that you need to have any particular character or personality traits to edit well. If you’re willing to concentrate fully on the work you’re editing, and you have a fundamental respect for both the author of the piece and the end readers it’s intended for, everything else should fall into place.

    To be happy as an editor, on the other hand, you need to be patient and tolerant and tenacious, have a love of words and language, and possess at least some nitpicky perfectionist tendencies.
  3. What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
    Probably sloppiness, on every level, from the nitty-gritty sloppiness of typos and misused words to the fundamental sloppiness of plot threads left hanging and tacked-on resolutions, not to mention author sloppiness outside the story – lack of attention to guidelines, submission forms not properly filled in, queries and correspondence full of typos and lacking pertinent information.
  4. What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
    Read. Read all kinds of things, old and new; try different genres and styles, push your reading boundaries. Reading will teach you more about language and style than any class or expert advice could.

    Volunteer as a slush reader. The slush piles of the world are full of lessons to be learned, for both writers and editors.

    Don’t fall too much into fashions and fads in writing; listen to the advice that’s out there and apply it sensibly, but beware of absolutes – if everyone cut out every modifier, showed everything and told nothing, banned the passive voice altogether and eliminated all dialogue tags except “said”, we’d lose a lot of unique voices into a nicely crafted sameness.

    Finally, everything in this business takes longer than you think it will (from writing and polishing a novel to developing a career as a freelance editor to starting up a magazine or publishing house), so give yourself time.
  5. Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
    Google is my go-to tool for everything from fact-checking to researching alternate grammatical usage and regional expressions to scouting for prior publication and/or plagiarism. I use Google a lot.

    I don’t tend to actively reference books on writing or editing very often, but I like Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.

    Also, as part of the Every Day Publishing family of magazines, we have Flash Fiction Chronicles, which I read regularly (and to which I occasionally contribute as well). Although it’s intended for writers and is about the craft of writing, I always find the variety of perspectives and opinions enlightening for me as an editor.

    I follow several blogs of writers and editors I admire, and I have learned a lot from those too.

    But really the best resource for any writer or editor is just to read all the time, in one’s field and outside of it, as much as possible.
  6. Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
    Only that there are many kinds of editing jobs and not every editor (or aspiring editor) is suited to all of them.

    Once upon a time, I used to believe that “real editors” worked in-house for large publishers, and that if you didn’t live in London or New York you were out of luck, but that’s just one small facet of what’s possible. Someone who is completely happy working as an in-house fiction editor for a large publisher may not be at all content freelancing or heading a start-up magazine, or vice versa. Someone who enjoys more substantive editing may find copyediting or line editing tedious, where a different person might have trouble leaving the nitpicks aside for the next round.

    Anyone considering an editing career should not be misled into thinking that there is only one kind of editing job; there are so many different things that you can do with editing skills.

Camille, that was a great peek into the mind of an editor. Thank you for your time. I love reading these interviews.


Editor Interview #3 – Sherry Noik

Sherry Noik

Sherry Noik

Sherry Noik published her first article in 1994 and continued to write as a sideline while engaged in another career.

She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years, first as a freelancer and now full-time at a Canadian media chain based in Toronto.

Sherry tweets here and blogs at SherryGrammarian.

  1. What is it about editing that drew you to it?
    You know how in the movie “A Beautiful Mind” John Nash (Russell Crowe) looks at pages of text, and pieces of it seem to glow and pulsate? I’m like that with a misplaced comma. It just jumps out at me, whether I’m looking for it or not. Is there such a thing as being a grammar savant?

    We all start reading when we’re kids. For some, it sparks an interest in engineering; others discover that banana farming is their destiny. For me, it instilled a profound love of language, of how words are used, of how they can be arranged in so many ways to tell a story, impart an idea, evoke an emotion, paint a mental picture, inspire action. Isn’t it amazing how we all have the same words but put them together differently?
  2. What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?
    Call us persnickety if you like, but I think it’s a myth that editors are all just grammar Nazis. Editing is all about making sure the intent of the writer is communicated clearly. If readers have to pause repeatedly or re-read passages, the effect is lost. That involves more than just excising a misplaced comma. What some call persnickety I would call attention to detail.

    We apply that attention to detail in order to take what the writer is trying to say and help them say it, making sure there’s consistency, flow, accuracy, structure, readability. That can involve fixing sentence structures, re-organizing sentences and paragraphs, removing unnecessary text or asking for necessary additions, questioning facts or assertions – and, yes, even correcting punctuation. It helps to have a little mind-reading ability, as Katharine O’Moore-Klopf pointed out in a previous interview. The best editors improve a writer’s prose without changing the writer’s voice and without injecting ourselves into it.

    Also, it’s important to know what you DON’T know – i.e. don’t assume you remember the spelling or grammar rule and don’t hesitate to look it up. (Personally, I can never remember if “misspell” has one S or two. Ironic, no?)

    I’ll tell you this: rigidity is NOT a positive quality for an editor. There actually isn’t one right way to write well, and good editors recognize this. There are rules, and then there are artful, effective ways to bend the rules. An apt analogy for this is music: look at any great guitar player to see brilliant examples of rule-bending in action (and remember that they spent years learning the rules first).

    Add to all that the aforementioned love of language and desire to make every piece of text sound its best. You have to CARE.

  3. What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
    I should point out that I’m not an expert on fiction. My specialty is non-fiction, whether in print or online: articles (mainly), blog posts, marketing copy, any non-fiction prose or document.

    One common issue is that many writers mistake formal writing for good writing. Formality has its place, but in many forms of contemporary writing it comes off sounding stiff and dry, like a high school essay.

    Another is that a lot of writers fall back on clichés – or empty generalizations, which are just as objectionable. I consider that lazy writing.

  4. What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
    For both writers and editors I would say learn everything you can related to the craft. Read a lot – and absorb what you’re reading. Note the variety of styles, what works, what doesn’t. Build your vocabulary. Get familiar with the rules of usage and grammar. Writing and editing both involve certain mental muscles that need to be exercised.

    I would add this: please don’t work for free. This is a personal peeve of mine. No one expects a plumber to fix their leaky sink for free. It’s a myth that working for free leads to paid work. It typically doesn’t. It leads to the expectation that you will continue to work for free. It devalues your time and skill and education – and every other writer’s and editor’s, too. It tells the world this is easy and anyone can do it, which is not the case. That’s not to say you can’t do a favour for a friend or contribute a guest blog post (both of which I’ve happily done) as a labour of love, but if someone is hiring you, that’s a job. If you don’t get paid, that’s called volunteering.
  5. Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
    I use a variety of resources depending on the task, and whether it’s Canadian or American. Reference books of all kinds are crucial – dictionaries, style guides, a thesaurus. Many publications and media outlets, including my own, have internal style guides, as well. Then, of course, there’s Google – the editor’s BFF. I’m constantly on the Internet to verify, say, the spelling of someone’s name or some other fact (substantiated by multiple sources, of course).

    I also like to read some of the “classics” on language and writing: Strunk and White, William Safire, Stephen King’s On Writing. One of the best books I’ve found on this subject is Constance Hale’s Sin and Syntax. She really breaks it all down in an accessible and engaging way, and her aim is not to wag her finger at your errors but, rather, to demonstrate real ways to polish your prose.

    My favourite websites are Paul Brians’ Common Errors in English Usage and Twitter, where I chat endlessly with other word nerds about things like semicolons.

  6. Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
    The fact we all now have the tools to self-publish seems to suggest that editors are no longer relevant. But it’s my opinion that the more content is put out there, the MORE we’re needed.

    Also, I hope this didn’t come off all pompous-y.

Sherry, thanks for doing this. I love your insights, and you can be all pompous-y here (even though you weren’t). 😉


Editor Interview #2: A. Victoria Mixon

A. Victoria Mixon

A. Victoria Mixon, is a professional writer and independent editor with over thirty years’ experience in both fiction and nonfiction.

She is the coauthor of Children and the Internet: A Zen Guide for Parents and Educators and author of The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual. She can be reached through her blog, her Editing Services, and Twitter.

  1. What is it about editing that drew you to it?
    I got into editing as a teenager—I was the editor of my school newspaper for three years in the 1970s, and being from a highly-literate family I took the dictum of editing quite seriously. Now I’ve got the Red Pencil in my blood.

    I love this work. I just do. I’ve been revising and reworking my own manuscripts for thirty years, and being able to apply those skills that cost me such blood to learn to the manuscripts of other writers—being able to see them snap into focus so easily, without all those months and years of agony—is just a godsend. I could do this forever. I love the writers. I love the hope and innocence and creativity and charm of them. My clients are wonderful people to know.

  2. What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?
    Profound love of the craft. Undying respect for the infinity of the written word, and indefensible hope in its potential. You know you’re never going to be as good as you can possibly be. Communicating telepathically through the written word is an impossible task. But you can try.

    You need to understand the complexity of what you’re tackling. Editing involves not only copy editing—correcting for grammar and punctuation—but also developmental editing—proper structure—and, finally, that most delicate and difficult of all crafts to teach, line editing for beautiful prose. It took me six months to teach myself proper developmental editing, and copy editing can be learned in a week out of the right books, with the right attitude. But line editing is closer to an art. It takes years and years of dedicated study and practice.

    Also, you need a really good sense of humor grounded in deep compassion. Nobody’s born knowing how to either write or edit, and they are different skills and must be learned both separately and in conjunction. But a great sense of humor and great kindness for the human animal are essential prerequisites to any type of fulfilling life—I just happen to find writing and editing to be the most fulfilling of all lifestyles.

  3. What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
    Underestimation of just how much time and labor goes into writing a book. The world is awash in new aspiring writers these days—truly, almost floating away on it—and they are all relentlessly encouraged by the marketing aspect of the publishing industry to believe they, too, can win the Great Fiction Lottery of Fame and Fortune. It’s completely stupid. But it’s what we have.

    So these innocents come to me in all good faith with manuscripts on which they have poured their blood, sweat, and tears for, really, not nearly long enough, sincerely hoping they are ready for the bigtime. I’m as compassionate as I can be about breaking the news, but they are discouraged and sometimes quite crushed to learn just how much goes into writing a good book. The marketers didn’t say it was going to be this hard!

    All I can do is keep teaching them, kindly and patiently, step-by-step, what they need to learn in order to succeed at this craft. Yes, it takes a very long time. Yes, as Flannery O’Connor said, “It will make your hair turn grey and your teeth fall out.” Jean Rhys was a recluse in her sixties when her jewel-like early novels were rediscovered, leading to her gorgeous final novel, Wide Sargasso Sea.
    You have to take the time.
  4. What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
    Aspiring editors? Editing is a very specific skill set, related to writing but not limited to it. It involves enormous amounts of study of the craft of fiction—in-depth analysis of dozens of the greats, developmental and line issues as well as the history of copy issues in the language in which you work—as well as some grounding in psychology and therapeutic techniques. Critiquers are not editors. Even wonderful writers are not necessarily editors. If you want to edit, learn what a really good editor does so you can model yourself on them. Apprentice yourself to someone you trust until they say you’re ready. Sham editors, like unqualified self-publishers, give the entire industry a bad name. Don’t be one of them.

    Beginning writers? Focus on the craft. Block out the marketing hype about getting yourself published. It’s not going to happen like a gamble, the way they say it will, and your failure to make that occur will heap burdens upon your shoulders that will eventually poison your love of writing in general. Tune them out.

    Focus on the task of getting your world down in clean, clear words. Do it because you love it. Make friends with other writers whose work you love. This is your life.

  5. Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
    Well, of course, I have my new book, The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual. That’s the basics of what aspiring writers need to know about becoming writers. I’m working on the sequel, which goes much more in-depth, and workbooks to go with them.  I have an online magazine full of the material for the sequel. I also maintain my blog so aspiring writers who can’t afford either an editor or any of the rest of it can still get good guidance, and I maintain my advice column so you can ask questions and get freebie answers.Personally, I’ve been reading Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners for twenty years, and I still find solace in it. Everyone cites John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist, which is a long-standing classic. But my biggest resource is the great writers. Don’t waste your time reading too much modern stuff that’s been shoved through the publication mill as fast as humanly possible. Study the classics: Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Graham Greene, Camus, Isak Denison, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, James Thurber, Paul Bowles, Jane Bowles, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Chandler, John Gardner. I just finished reading Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds. I read tons of vintage mystery, analyzing plot structure and scene. Find clean, clear, high-tension craft and read it. Learn why it works.

  6. Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
    This is the best time in my entire life to be an independent editor. I am honored to be a part of the history of publishing at this juncture. If I’d tried to do this twenty years ago, I’d have had to move to New York City and spend my day in an office. I don’t want to live in New York City. And I’ve done my time in offices. Now I get to sit by my kitchen fire applying my decades of skills to beautiful, riveting, exciting manuscripts—becoming friends with wonderful writers from all walks of life and all levels of experience. This is my dream job. And I get to work it.How lucky am I?

Thank you, Victoria, for taking the time to do our second editor interview. I know I learned a thing or two, and I’m sure our readers did too. Tell me I’m right in the comments folks.


Copyediting Tutorial #3

How to use this page:

In the blockquote section below is a rough draft I hacked into shape. Corrections are in red. Suggested replacements are in blue.

Step 1: Study the edits and try to guess why I suggested the corrections. Doing so will prime your mind to think like an editor.

Step 2: Scroll down to the Notes section and read my rationale for the changes. Doing so will confirm how well you guessed in step 1.

Step 3: Share some of your passion (or downright hatred) for editing in the comments.

This tutorial is a full course meal designed for digesting in one sitting. We’ll create bite-sized blog posts containing one copyediting concept per post.That way, if studying copyediting in small chunks is more your style, these full tutorials won’t overwhelm you.

Enjoy copyediting tutorial #3.

There are a lot(Lots) of people giving out(offer) really bad(horrible) advice on how to use Twitter(Twitter advice). You can follow their suggestions and get(land) 30,000 followers that have also read(busily reading their) Twitter for Clueless Twits (book), but what you won’t get is an audience that cares about what you say and (a caring audience that listens to your every word, and you’ll miss) real networking opportunities (too).

Here are five things not to do on Twitter if you want it to be a valuable tool for building your network and reputation. (Twitter is a valuable network and reputation-building tool, but only if you avoid five common mistakes:)

1. Mass follow people, and unfollow the ones(those) that don’t follow back. This is a way to build up (Doing these builds) an impressive list of followers, but how many of them are interested in what you have to say, and how many of them are just following(only follow) back to build up(increase) their own numbers?

Follow people that you have a genuine interest in(you genuinely find interesting,) and focus your attention on being the kind of(a) remarkable person who shares things of value that others want to follow(valuable, follow-worthy content). A few hundred engaged followers is(are) worth a lot more than 50,000 who tune you out.

2. Use search to give others the hard sell. Twitter search is a very useful(powerful) tool for finding those that might benefit from your services or products, but you must proceed with caution. I’d go so far as to say that you never want to try to directly sell to any one individual on Twitter without them having(unless they’ve) given crystal clear signs that they are open to your message.

Think about it this way,(.) imagine you’re(You’re) at a cocktail party having a conversation(conversing) with a group about wanting to sell your house and wanting to know the first steps(what first steps you should take to sell your house). From across the room a real estate agent jumps into your conversation. Would you rather she:

Answer your question in a factual way and hand you(offer) her card with an invitation to get into touch if you have further questions(and invite you to discuss additional questions later)?

Or,

Telling(Tell) you that she can solve all your problems, but you need to sign with her right now(then) as she whips out her appointment book and insists on booking a visit to your home right away (and won’t take, “Let me think about it,” or, “Let me talk to my spouse,” as a signal to back off)?

If you use search to find people with problems you could solve, do just that and let them look up(browse) your information on your profile(profile information) if they want to learn more.

3. If using search for the hard sell is bad, sending (random) @ sales messages at random is suicide. There is no quicker way to get blocked than by sending @ messages to people out of the blue to try and sell them something. (Nothing excites people into blocking you quicker than sending out-of-the-blue @ sales messages.) Get blocked enough times and Twitter will shut down (suspend) your account. You’ve nothing to gain by doing it(so) (since by-and-large nobody will click on your links, let alone buy) and everything to lose.

4. Argue with strangers over pointless stuff. A bit of lively debate is a ton of fun and it’s almost an ethical duty to call out those who are attacking(attack) you and your friends.

For example, I once tweeted a link to a no spend week challenge I was running. A local coffee shop owner took offense at that and sent me an angry message that what I was doing was going to (stating I would) ruin small business. It could have been an interesting discussion had she or he(the owner) not immediately gone into attack mode and taken something that was clearly not personal( a nonpersonal tweet) as an affront.

The thing is, I’d been meaning to check out that shop (the) next time I was in(visited) that area of town , because I’d seen them on Twitter. But after being scolded in public(the owner scolded me in public) for such a stupid non-reason, you can bet I’ve never set foot in there.

5. Forget that(the saying,) yYou get what you give. You don’t have to follow everyone back who follows you on Twitter. You don’t have to respond to every @ message, or reciprocate every retweet or follow recommendation. But you do have to provide value to make an impact(impact people) on Twitter. That could mean that you’re(Be) entertaining, helpful, or informative, so long as you provide something that others want(value to others). In short, there has to be a reason for people (people need a reason) to follow you.

The value doesn’t necessarily have to consist of making(stem from sending) great tweets. Some popular Twitter accounts are simply automated links to new blog posts, but the thing is they are posts that people are eager to see (them), and not some boring blog that’s just a tepid rehash(with tepid rehashes) of what everyone else is saying(says).

Find what style of tweets works for you.

Some people can tweet about what they had for breakfast and make other people care. You don’t have to appeal to everybody to make Twitter work for you, but you do have to(must) deliver something that’s of value(value) to your target audience.

What are some ways that people have(ways have people) turned you off on Twitter? What would your one piece of advice be to those just starting out (Twitter rookies)?

NOTES:

  1. There are a lot(Lots) of people giving out(offer) really bad(horrible)advice on how to use Twitter(Twitter advice). – Don’t start sentences with flabby phrases like there is, there are, there were. Start with whatever these phrases refer to. Normally, I’d like to see a more precise phrase than lots, but I was satisfied enough with cutting three flabby words. Giving out is a flabby phrase, so I replaced it with offer. Intensified Adjective Alert: bad is an adjective. Really intensifies this adjective. When you see this construction, look for a stronger adjective to replace both. In this case I used horrible. Advice on how to use Twitter is a flabby phrase. We assume Twitter advice will show us how to use twitter so on how to use is unnecessary. We’re left with advice and Twitter which I switched into Twitter advice. Be mindful of this opportunity which I call Combining Nouns Opportunity (because I’m terrible at remembering the official names of techniques I intuitively use). We shaved nine words from this sentence.
  2. You can follow their suggestions and get(land) 30,000 followers that have also read(busily reading their) Twitter for Clueless Twits (book), but what you won’t get is an audience that cares about what you say and (a caring audience that listens to your every word, and you’ll miss) real networking opportunities (too).Get is a flabby verb. I replaced it with land, a stronger and more hip verb. The term that have also read is flabby and we have to wait for the last word to find out what the 30,000 followers are doing, so I immediately say these followers are busily reading. I erased what since the previous sentence starts with you, and I wanted the sentence after the conjunction but to start with you too. An audience that cares is another flabby expression. Whenever you see a noun followed by that and a verb, try to turn the verb into an adjective describing the noun. In this case, I changed it to a caring audience. I used a comma and added the phrase and you miss because the authors sentence reads as if the audience won’t care about what you have to say, and they won’t care about real networking opportunities either. The author clearly didn’t mean to do this so I fixed the ambiguity.
  3. Here are five things not to do on Twitter if you want it to be a valuable tool for building your network and reputation. (Twitter is a valuable network and reputation-building tool, but only if you avoid five common mistakes:) – I removed the flabby phrase here are, and replaced the ambiguous things with mistakes. I simplified how the author defined Twitter as a valuable tool. I shaved a total of 7 words from the sentence.
  4. Mass follow people, and unfollow the ones(those) that don’t follow back. This is a way to build up (Doing these builds) an impressive list of followers, but how many of them are interested in what you have to say, and how many of them are just following(only follow) back to build up(increase) their own numbers? – I changed the ones to those to shave a word. I changed this is a way to build up to doing so builds to shave three more words. Build up is also a flabby expression. Drop the up. I deleted of them because it’s redundant; how many is all you need to refer back to followers. I used the phrase only follow to shave another word. Build up is a flabby expression. Drop the up, and in this case, I chose a verb I thought was more powerful.
  5. Follow people that you have a genuine interest in(you genuinely find interesting,) and focus your attention on being the kind of(a) remarkable person who shares things of value that others want to follow(valuable, follow-worthy content). – I reworked the phrase that you have a genuine interest in because it’s clunky due to interest being used as a noun instead of an adjective. Nominalization like this brings along dead weight. I shaved three words with the fix. The phrase the kind of is flabby and unnecessary. The phrase things of value that others want to follow is flabby. Things is ambiguous, so I changed it to content and gave it two strong adjectives. I shaved two more words by doing so.
  6. Use search to give others the hard sell. Twitter search is a very useful(powerful) tool for finding those that might benefit from your services or products, but you must proceed with caution. – The term very useful is anything but. Avoid very whenever possible. This is another Intensified Adjective Alert. I used powerful as a more powerful replacement for useful.
  7. I’d go so far as to say that you never want to try to directly sell to any one individual on Twitter without them having(unless they’ve) given crystal clear signs that they are open to your message. – I removed two instances of the word that, because we rarely need it, and removing it doesn’t destroy the meaning of the sentence or confuse the reader. Be careful to read your sentences after you remove the word that, though. On rare occasions, the sentence meaning does become unclear. I removed the unnecessary, flabby expression try to. If I left it in, we’d have want to, try to, sell to in once sentence. I changed the expression without them having given because it’s clunky, and saying having given is tough on the tongue.
  8. Think about it this way,(.) imagine you’re(You’re) at a cocktail party having a conversation(conversing) with a group about wanting to sell your house and wanting to know the first steps(what first steps you should take to sell your house). – The author strung two sentences together with a comma. This is a comma splice, so I used a period and split the sentences. I removed the phrase imagine you’re because I had faith in the audience imagining the scenario without the author telling them to do so. The phrase having a conversation is a Nominalization Alert, because conversation is a weaker version of conversing, and this nominalization brought with it the two unnecessary words having and a. I removed the two instances of the phrase wanting to, because it’s assumed if a person talks about steps to sell a home, they want to sell.
  9. Answer your question in a factual way and hand you(offer) her card with an invitation to get into touch if you have further questions(and invite you to discuss additional questions later)? – I replaced hand you with offer to save a word. The word invitation is a Nominalization Alert. I replaced it with it’s stronger verb form invite. I replaced the flabby expression to get into touch with to discuss to shave two words.
  10. Telling(Tell) you that she can solve all your problems, but you need to sign with her right now(then) as she whips out her appointment book and insists on booking a visit to your home right away (and won’t take, “Let me think about it,” or, “Let me talk to my spouse,” as a signal to back off)? – The word telling is faulty, because we introduced a scenario prior that began,  Would you rather she. If we use telling, the ing form of tell, the sentence would read, Would you rather she telling you. I removed that because it’s flabby. I changed now to then, because I thought it was a more accurate representation of whenever this scenario would occur.
  11. If you use search to find people with problems you could solve, do just that and let them look up(browse) your information on your profile(profile information) if they want to learn more. – I removed just because I thought it was unnecessary. I changed the flabby expression look up to browse to shave a word. Combining Nouns Opportunity: I changed information on your profile to profile information. Look for instances when you can combine nouns in this fashion and cut the flab.
  12. If using search for the hard sell is bad, sending (random) @ sales messages at random is suicide. – The phrase at random is flabby. I attached this to the noun it refers to.
  13. There is no quicker way to get blocked than by sending @ messages to people out of the blue to try and sell them something. (Nothing excites people into blocking you quicker than sending out-of-the-blue @ sales messages.) –This sentence required a total rework. Don’t start sentences with there is, there are, there were. I shaved nine words from this sentence.
  14. Get blocked enough times and Twitter will shut down (suspend) your account. – I erased times because it’s redundant after blocked enough. Shut down is a flabby phrase. I replaced it with suspend.
  15. You’ve nothing to gain by doing it(so) (since by-and-large nobody will click on your links, let alone buy) and everything to lose. – I made a stylistic change by replacing it with so. It flows better off the tongue for me. I removed the phrase by and large because it’s unnecessary and flabby.
  16. A bit of lively debate is a ton of fun and it’s almost an ethical duty to call out those who are attacking(attack) you and your friends. – I changed are attaching to attack because it’s one less word and it sounds stronger.
  17. For example, I once tweeted a link to a no spend week challenge I was running. – I deleted for example. I didn’t think it was necessary.
  18. A local coffee shop owner took offense at that and sent me an angry message that what I was doing was going to (stating I would) ruin small business. – The phrase at that is unnecessary. I trimmed down the phrase that what I was doing was going to and shaved five words.
  19. It could have been an interesting discussion had she or he(the owner) not immediately gone into attack mode and taken something that was clearly not personal(a nonpersonal tweet) as an affront. – The author mentioned the owner previously, so to remain consistant (and shave a word) I changed she or he to owner. I changed the ambiguous something to tweet and gave it a nice adjective, thus shaving three words.
  20. The thing is, I’d been meaning to check out that shop (the) next time I was in(visited) that area of town , because I’d seen them on Twitter.I deleted the flabby phrase The thing is. I added the so the sentence flowed more smoothly. I changed the flabby phrase was in to visited to shave a word. The phrase of town is unnecessary.
  21. But after being scolded in public(the owner scolded me in public) for such a stupid non-reason, you can bet I’ve never set foot in there.Passive Voice Alert: I changed the sentence to start with who was scolding.
  22. Forget that(the saying,) “yYou get what you give. – You get what you give is a famous saying so I added the saying. The way the author wrote this, it read as if he wanted the reader to forget the quote.
  23. You don’t have to follow everyone back who follows you on Twitter. – The word back is unnecessary. This article is about Twitter, so the author didn’t have to mention on Twitter.
  24. But you do have to provide value to make an impact(impact people) on TwitterMake an impact is a Nominalization Alert. Using impact as a noun is weaker than using it as a verb, so I changed it (Yeah, I blew it by not using “effect” instead. Sue me). Again, I deleted the phrase on Twitter, because we know which social platform this article highlights.
  25. That could mean that you’re(Be) entertaining, helpful, or informative, so long as you provide something that others want(value to others). – The phrase That could mean that you’re is flabby. I changed it and shaved four words. The phrase something that others want is ambiguous because of the word something.
  26. In short, there has to be a reason for people (people need a reason) to follow you. – Don’t start sentences with there is, there are, there has to be. These constructions are flabby. I changed it and shaved four words.
  27. The value doesn’t necessarily have to consist of making(stem from sending) great tweets. – The phrase have to consist of is flabby. I changed it to stem from and shaved two words. Since we don’t make tweets, I changed making it to sending.
  28. Some popular Twitter accounts are simply automated links to new blog posts, but the thing is they are posts that people are eager to see (them), and not some boring blog that’s just a tepid rehash(with tepid rehashes) of what everyone else is saying(says). – I removed the word simply because I didn’t feel it was necessary. The whole phrase the thing is they are post that is unnecessary and a large clunk of flab. I removed it and shaved seven words. Since I changed the sentence, I had to add the word them for the sentence to make sense. I removed the word and after the second comma because it weakens the power of the sentence. I used the phrase with tepid rehashes because it flowed better. I used says instead of is saying because it sounds stronger.
  29. You don’t have to appeal to everybody to make Twitter work for you, but you do have to (must) deliver something that’s of value(value) to your target audience. – The phrase do have to is flabby. I replaced it with must and shaved two words. The phrase something that’s of value is vague and flabby. I changed it to value and shaved three words.
  30. What are some ways that people have(ways have people) turned you off on Twitter? – The phrase are some ways that people have is flabby. I reworked it and shaved three words.
  31. What would your one piece of advice be to those just starting out (Twitter rookies)? – The phrase those just starting out is flabby. I replaced it and shaved two words.

Copyediting Tutorial #3 is finished, and so is my brain from creating it. Did you know this took me about eight hours to complete? Well, it did, so I hope you spend one minute in the comments telling me how much smarter you are after reading this labor of love. I’m off to drink a beer.