Thursday, July 31, 2008


One of the copy editing projects I worked on during my recent 3-day agency stint was for a website that went live yesterday. The website, Columbus Green Spot, is the latest component of Mayor Michael Coleman's "Get Green Columbus" initiative.

If you live or work in Columbus and are interested in "going green", check out the site. But please note: not all of my suggested edits were made, so don't come yelling to me if you spot a typo!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pet peeves

In The Copyeditor's Handbook, author Amy Einsohn writes about how editors essentially need to get over their pet peeves and realize that just because a particular word or phrase bugs them doesn't mean it should be stricken from the page.

That's a hard pill to swallow, but I suppose she's right. So from now on, I will not immediately put pen to paper when I see the word "impact" used as a verb. I will pause before suggesting alternatives for overused buzzwords like "out-of-the-box" or "synergy". I will explore my need to question how something can be "more unique".

But I draw the line (literally and figuratively) at "irregardless".

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A nice surprise

In the mail today, I received a copy of a mailer for which I wrote the copy.

It's a cute little mailer. 5x7 with a graphic of some kids running a lemonade stand, accompanied by a single-serve packet of lemonade mix. The copy is about recapturing the enthusiasm and energy you applied to your childhood lemonade stand and applying it to your current business efforts. Not growing stale. Stirring things up.

I don't usually see the end product of my efforts--I sometimes get a PDF copy via email or I hang on to the final draft for my portfolio--so it was nice to see the real deal!

Now the dilemma . . . do I keep it intact for my portfolio, or do I drink the lemonade?

Monday, July 28, 2008

A new personal low

Visiting a relative at her hotel this Saturday (she was in town for our family reunion), I noticed an events calendar taped to the inside of the door to her room. There were several typos on the calendar, and the urge to edit was overwhelming.

Grabbing a pen off the desk, I went to work. Punctuation was corrected. Extra spaces were closed up. It was quite satisfying.

Will my work be noticed by the next guest who inhabits Room 210? I doubt it. But acknowledged or not, I and my trusty pen dealt at least a glancing blow to poor grammar.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

To Snuff, or not to Snuff

I'm reading Chuck Palahniuk's new book, Snuff. I keep reading his books because I loved Fight Club, but honestly I don't really like his writing style. It's a chore to read his work, regardless of how good the story may be.

is due back to the library tomorrow (due to a bunch of titles I reserved coming in at the same time, I'm experiencing a bit of backlog), and I am debating whether to keep it and just accrue the late fees (it's a new title, so I can't renew it), or return it.

I really hate starting a book and not finishing it. I have slogged through books that I cannot stand (Smilla's Sense of Snow and Between the Bridge and the River) just to avoid the feeling of failure I would get from not finishing them.

But I don't hate Snuff. It's no Fight Club, and as I said Palahniuk's writing style is difficult to follow, but I don't hate it. So I think that I'll continue reading it, late fees be damned.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


You can tell a lot about people by looking at their methods of organization. For example:
  1. A place for everything, and everything in its place: Looking for a pen? You'll find one in the container labeled "pens". Want to know where he or she was on Tuesday, January 15th? Just check their organizer. Invite this type of organizer to help you move--your boxes will be meticulously packed and labeled.
  2. Controlled chaos: That invoice from last Tuesday is in the 3rd pile from the left. Play Jenga or Tetris with this type of organizer--just make sure you're on their team!
  3. A little from Column A, a little from Column B: Combining the best of both of the above methods, this type is organized, but not obsessively so. Trust them to schedule your next after-work social.
  4. Uncontrolled chaos: Where'd I leave my keys? My phone? My kids? A former boss fell into this category--she'd edit something I wrote, use the paper to blot her lipstick, and then give it back to me.
I would say I'm a #3 with strong #1 tendencies. What about you--do you fall into one of the categories above, or do you have another method?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sleepin' in

Yesterday was the last--and busiest--day of the agency project. It was great to be consistently busy, but I must say I am enjoying a leisurely morning today--I hit the snooze bar twice, read all the blogs I've missed reading since last Thursday, responded to some emails . . .

But now I need to get moving. Our shower remodel is finally complete, and there is a layer of construction dust over every imaginable surface. It must be removed before it joins forces with the normal dust in our house to create some sort of Uber-dustbunny. Or start a dustbunny gang war.

And then I need to get to work re-writing web copy for another agency. After all, dustbunny extermination doesn't pay the bills!

Friday, July 18, 2008

A creative environment

Walking around the agency office today, I was struck by the difference between that office space and the office I used to work in. Granted, they are completely different industries--creative vs healthcare--so I shouldn't be that surprised at the different vibe, but it's just a completely different feeling.

After 6 1/2 years in a cubefarm, I was really turned off by the idea of ever setting foot in an office again. Now I realize it wasn't the concept of working in an office that I was railing against, it was that particular culture and environment. Even though the office space was decorated in a hip, modern way, it still somehow came off as sterile and void of personality. And even though I had creative elements in my personal workspace, they were overshadowed by the cold, soul-sucking nature of the bureaucracy in which I worked.

Not so with the agency. In yesterday's post I mentioned some of the fun stuff, like the signage on the bathroom doors (the inside of the door I quoted, incidentally, said "please use soap"), the decor and the free lunches. Today, I noticed that nearly every surface served as a canvas for creativity: corkboard walls, shelves of inspiration in the form of magazines and books, the individuality expressed through decorations of personal space.

I realized the impact that one's surroundings can have on creativity, motivation and overall job satisfaction. And I did a little dance of happiness that I was a refugee from the cubefarm.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Well, yesterday's post caught the attention of Barbara at Helium, and she's working to find the answers to my quandaries.

Thanks, Barbara, for the excellent customer service!

In other news, I started my copy editing project today. I had to work on an iMac, which I haven't done in FOREVER. Happily, that was my biggest challenge. I started off my day in a production meeting, which was mercifully short. Then I read The Copyeditor's Handbook until somebody brought me something to proof. The work was fairly steady, but not overwhelming. The office is cool, with lots of fun details (one of the bathroom doors says something like "employees must wash hands of predictable ideas"), and--SCORE!--they offer their associates free lunch. Today's was a yummy salad with cilantro dressing, and several varieties of organic chips. Beats the crummy sandwiches I usually make for myself!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A lead balloon

Helium continues to confound me.

There's a "My Helium" page where you can keep track of the articles you've written. I decided to look at it yesterday, despite the fact that I've only written one article and the deadline passed several weeks ago. Imagine my surprise when I saw that my article had gone from "closed" status to "active" and that its ranking had changed.

I can't figure it out, and there's nothing on the site to help me. Has the publisher not yet picked a "winning" article? Did something happen with the original winning article that caused it to fall from grace? Do articles continue to stay in circulation, being rated against other articles despite the fact that a winner has been chosen?

If there is anyone out there who can explain to me the enigma that is the Helium rating system, I would be ever so grateful.

In the meantime, if anybody wants to see what an article that ranked 12th out of 20 (at least that was the ranking as of this posting) looks like, check it out here. I think there is a comment section, and I believe you can also read the other 19 articles.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My kingdom for a laptop

We're having our bathroom remodeled, and demolition began today. The ruckus is so loud that I cannot think straight. Add to the noise the overpowering scent of mildew (the main reason we decided to remodel--water damage behind the shower walls), which is making me feel like I'm drunk. And because I don't have a laptop, I have few options other than working from home.

Fortunately, I start my 3-day onsite project on Thursday, so that will get me out of the house. Until then, though, it's going to be a fun couple of days.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Copyediting on the road

To gear up for my upcoming gig, I mentally edited the road signs I saw on my way home from Tennessee. I saw these two within 100 feet of each other:
  • Rollin Smokes (my mental red pen changed it to "Rollin' Smokes")
  • Add on CD's (changed to "Add-on CDs")

Thursday, July 10, 2008

All's well that ends well

I got a call from the creative staffing firm that I landed the project with the agency. Guess I did something right at the interview!

And on that happy note, this will be my last post for a few days--vacation time!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Written Expressions: the brand

When I decided to start my freelancing business, the one thing that was the most challenging but also the most fun for me was deciding on a name and a logo. I wanted to convey competence, timelessness, and the power of words. I did not want to come across as cutesy or cartoony, and I didn't want something vague that didn't at least hint at what I do for a living.

And of course I had to consider trademark, copyright, and all the other legal odds and ends.

Written Expressions, LLC was at the top of a very short list of names I entertained. Honestly, I can only remember one other one from the list--Word Guru (that one got scratched not only because it was both cutesy AND cartoony, but also because another freelancer is already using it).

The graphic of the ink well, quill pen and parchment appealed to me because it's a classic image. It speaks to the history of the written word. I suppose I could have found a graphic of a cuneiform-covered clay tablet that would have done the same thing, but that's a little TOO historic for my tastes.

I also considered color and font style--in advertising, the color brown implies timelessness and utility. Castellar is an all caps font that gives the appearance of being engraved, and Edwardian Script ITC is one of the easier-to-read script fonts.

Now you know the method behind my madness. If you were me, would you have done anything differently?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


The creative staffing firm with whom I am working sent me off on an interview today. The company, a local agency, is looking for someone to fill in for 3 days while their copy editor is on vacation. I am one of several freelancers they were meeting with.

In preparation for the interview, I did some internet research on the company (they have a long history, do great work, and have a really neat corporate culture) and on one of the people I was scheduled to meet with (we are both of Hungarian descent, with very similar family names). I had hoped to use my info to build rapport, but they seemed a little surprised and maybe even disconcerted by my investigation.

The staffing firm told me to bring my portfolio "just in case", but said they thought the interview would be more of a Q&A session. It ended up being about 10 minutes of discussion, and then I spent the next hour in a room by myself proofreading two pieces. On one, I found very little that could be changed without extensive editing (it was filled with medical terminology), but there were many little errors on the 2nd one. I just hope I caught everything I was supposed to catch.

Meanwhile, the copy editor was looking over my portfolio. I wish I'd been there to explain some of the pieces in it.

After I'd finished going over the copy I went out to the front desk, where I found my portfolio sitting with the receptionist. She paged the copy editor, who took the pieces I'd edited, thanked me for coming in, and said they'd be in touch with the staffing firm.

So in a nutshell, I have no idea how I did. There was little feedback, positive or negative. I guess I just have to wait and see, and hope for the best!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Look, or just leap?

In a recent post, The Urban Muse listed 10 things to do before quitting your day job to become a freelancer.

I wish I'd seen this list a year, one month and 2 weeks ago. I would love to say that I did all of these things before deciding to leave my cubefarm job, but I didn't. In fact, I didn't do a single one . . . at least not before I quit.

I'm fortunate that I didn't have to worry about numbers 1 (writing for long periods of time without someone lookin
g over your shoulder) or 6 (health insurance), and I knocked off numbers 2, 8, 9 and 10 within two weeks of quitting. I probably should have put a little more thought into the rest.

That's not to say things didn't turn out okay, but I imagine the road would have been a little less bumpy. Then again, maybe a less bumpy road would have taken me to a different place, and I'm pretty happy where I am.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

World-class procrastination

I didn't have any actual freelancing work to do yesterday, so my goal was to clean up around the house.

Instead, I rearranged my refrigerator magnets.

As much as I excel at procrastination, I know I'm not the only Olympic-caliber procrastinator out there, so make me feel better--tell me your story!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Right Brain vs. Left Brain

Anybody who's ever taken an introductory psychology class has heard the theory of how the left and right hemispheres of the brain control different functions related to thinking and behavior.

The left brain is thought to be analytical, logical, precise. The right brain, not so much. Words associated with right-brained thinking include "imaginitive", "intuitive", "creative". The left hemisphere of the brain controls functions on the right side of the body, and the right controls the left.

Anybody who has ever met me would say that I am pretty darn right-brained:
  • I'm left-handed.
  • I'm really bad at math.
  • I enjoy artistic pursuits.
  • I'm very emotional.
But that's not to say the left hemisphere of my brain is withering away from disuse. When using a knife, I do so with my right hand instead of my left, and I can't use left-handed scissors to save my life. My thought on this phenomenon is that cutting is a left-brained function because it is precise in nature, and because I'm using my left brain, I use my right hand.

Apparently talent with words is also a left-brained trait, but this one gives me pause. Yes, there's a certain amount of logic and precision involved in the writing process, but it is also creative, emotional, etc. So it would seem that writers draw on both hemispheres of their brain in order to practice their craft.