05 April 2007

The business of writing

One thing I hate is how much time the business side of things takes up -- the looking up of guidelines, the preparing of a story, keeping track of it, all that sort of stuff. I suppose, if I'm honest, it's the preparation that's time consuming, and it's because I've always got to have a final read over it before I send it out to the wide unsuspecting world. And inevitably I find it needs tweaking. There's an awkward sentence here, a word that could be improved there, a weak verb coupled with an adverb there. Today, I've had the extra fun of getting something ready for the US market, which means thinking about all the spelling and punctuation.

I still remember an editor friend of mine who got an abusive letter from someone in the States because there were so many spelling mistakes on her website. Only they weren't spelling mistakes -- they were words that are spelt differently.

Now, for me, it should've been as easy as changing the PCs dictionary from Aus-English to US, which I did, but it still flagged the Americanisms as wrong. So I had to do a read through, and noticed that while I had changed "travellers" to "travelers" most of the time, I had missed one -- perhaps one I'd added after a global search and replace? Then I came across "armour" and "organise" -- all of which I thought I'd fixed. But I wonder about the words I might have missed, the ones I never suspect, like "ax" for "axe", the ones that just look completely wrong. Sometimes I got out my old trusty Webster's dictionary, a behemoth of a book if ever there was one. Then I started trawling, which hopefully picks up any I'm suspicious of, but not those I'm not, of course. Anyway, the sub's done, and I've posted another off to a competition, so I feel I've been successful, even if I haven't done any writing yet. Hopefully, tonight...

4 comments:

Sherryl said...

Trying to change to US spelling is fraught with problems. If you do miss one or three, they look like errors. I've gone the other way now - I only change Mum to Mom. If they know it's coming from Australia, a decent editor will understand that your story is not full of errors, won't they?
Although, from what you said, some are just plain mean about it!

Tracey said...

I don't think that was an editor who sent the abusive letter -- just someone trying to be "helpful". But, yes, I would expect an editor would know there is a difference in spelling. Still, I try to Americanise spelling but not words, so I'd use fairy floss and footpath rather than candy cane or sidewalk. Maybe you're right -- maybe it's safer just to leave it in Oz.

ellen said...

Hi guys - this is something we come up against at work every day. When dealing with US media we change to US spelling. The tricky thing is that we've got a spectrum of clients, some of which want organise etc spelt with a z, but everything else English. Others want us to use "Australian spelling" except for the occasional word, such as "analog". I now how have all these combinations in my head, but it's a nightmare trying to teach it to newbies!

(Welcome to blogger, Tracey!)

Tracey said...

Hey, thanks, Ellen.

Australian spelling with the odd American word must be strange. I can imagine why it's hard to teach newbies -- but then I suppose each client would just have their own style sheet. Easier for you if everyone could be consistent, but oh well...