Friday, January 30, 2009

Online Playgrounds for Copy Editing

image I don’t want y’all to worry too much. I still believe what I’ve said previously about punctuation: It serves clarity, voice and story, not rules!

I’m still me. :-)

Several of you (in emails) have mentioned an interest in playing with the quizzes, or doing a quick, interactive review. The first list is a bunch of basics, but useful review.

I find the second list more fun and helpful, but please see the disclaimer.

Here are a few which don’t indicate the stylebook they use (MLA? High-School?):

This second list is based on the Associated Press Stylebook. I couldn’t find any based on the Chicago Manual of Style, which is often used more in fiction.

In my own fiction, I tend to use the Chicago Manual of Style, except for the comma. Several e-publishers tend to not use the serial comma and leave a comma out when possible, which is more in alignment with the Associated Press Stylebook. Almost all publishers have different style variations and quirks.

The main difference for fiction writers is quotations. Associated Press would have you put a colon before a quote with more than one sentence. This does not work in fiction, obviously.

The other difference is numbers. Associated Press spells out numbers 1-9, while Chicago spells out numbers 1-100. They both have their special cases, too.

I’m sure there are many other important differences to us, but as long as you keep those things in mind, playing the following exercises should be “safe,” LOL. Personally, I find knowing two different styles helps me know each one better, because knowing how something is different from something else is more than knowing how one thing is.

(Creates more pathways in the brain, you know. That’s a teaching thing.)

Here are some cool places I’ve found:

  • NewsU: The “Cleaning Your Copy” course is a fun way to review. It has a pretty format, too. You have to register (for free).
  • Newsroom101: This has 2,000 exercises based on the Associated Press Style. They’re funny, because every time you get one right, a little window congratulates you with a different message. It might ask for your username or email address. Either way, you don’t have to register, and they don’t send you email.
  • Ten Tips with Exercises: Associated Press Style, again!
Enjoy! So do you like to play? Do you follow one style precisely? Do you take the middle road? Use what you learned in school? What is your approach?

17 bonus scribbles:

Edie 1/30/2009 07:22:00 PM  

I'll play around with these when I have more time. I played with the one the other day, and I felt okay about my comma usuage.

I found the hangman game on the free dictionary. I put it on my iGoogle page, and I'm playing hangman when I should be writing.

StarvingWriteNow 1/30/2009 08:20:00 PM  

I'm a Strunk & White girl. Nice, thin little book with the essentials spelled out in a no-BS format.

Robin 1/30/2009 10:50:00 PM  

Thanks for the links, Spy! They look fun! And I thought this was going to be a boring weekend....

Erica Orloff 1/31/2009 09:20:00 AM  

Chicago all the way. Ingrained.


Eric Mayer,  1/31/2009 10:52:00 AM  

When writing fiction I am dreadful at punctuation. I put commas where they "sound" right to me and totally avoid semi-colons. Well, I see too many of those in my legal encyclopedia articles!

Charles Gramlich 1/31/2009 01:17:00 PM  

I pretty much gave up on writing exercises years ago. Too many deadlines to allow that kind of play.

spyscribbler 1/31/2009 08:08:00 PM  

Hangman is a blast, Edie! I want to find it, now.

"Felt okay?" I remember you scored perfectly! :-) Don't be modest, now!

spyscribbler 1/31/2009 08:09:00 PM  

Thin, no-BS, and just the essentials is PERFECT, WriteNow! My kind of book. Except when I'm hoping to learn the trade. :-)

spyscribbler 1/31/2009 08:10:00 PM  

Robin, name one weekend, ONE weekend in your entire life that has boring. (If you do, you'll need to produce evidence. I won't believe it!)

spyscribbler 1/31/2009 08:11:00 PM  

Eric, I have the opposite problem. I LOVE semi-colons! And, ohmigosh, colons are practically orgasmic! They say to just make it into two sentences. P-tuey!

spyscribbler 1/31/2009 08:12:00 PM  

LOL, Charles! I get sick of that deadline whip always following me around.

Zoe Winters 1/31/2009 09:17:00 PM  

Holy crap! I could so not be a paid editor. I can't be hemmed in by all these punctuation laws, especially when they all contradict. I just have to do my own thing.

But I agree with the "Strunk and White" thing. That and "Eats, shoots, and leaves." Should be the only required punctuation books.

spyscribbler 2/01/2009 04:44:00 PM  

Zoe, I LOVE Eats, Shoots, and Leaves! I read it for fun, several times a year!

I like contradicting rules. Then, if I mess up, I have an excuse. :-)

Persistent Pen 2/02/2009 10:50:00 AM  

I tend to be a little thin on punctuation. I hate too many semicolons, I love the dash for cadence and rhythm. But since my favorite writer is Cormac McCarthy, I tend to emulate him a lot ( except I prefer the use of quotation marks, I find that one McCarthyism to be frustrating).
Strunk $ White are where it's at as StarvingWriteNow pointed out. But I don't take punctuation as seriously as all that. I think if someone overuses one type of sentence, the creativity is lost, in that, punctuation and the knowledge of it is vital.

Nice sites btw.

As Eric was saying ( I think anyways) was using the comma (or any punctuation) too much is probably a bad idea. Just use some artful variation and try several approaches to visually enhance the page. Following the law too much is against style. Isn't it? I mean, we don't write to sound like a textbook. That is boring and the average reader wouldn't want to read our writing much.

If it sounds good to you and you also read a heck of a lot, I guarantee it will sound good to other people. (record yourself, reading yourself and read according to your punctuation. That's a sure way to know if it is right or the way you intend it to be read)

Melanie Avila 2/02/2009 11:49:00 AM  

Those links look fun - I'll have to check them out!

spyscribbler 2/02/2009 01:48:00 PM  

Persistent Pen, I couldn't agree more. I think there's a place for copy editing, because it does make me consider whether or not I am breaking a rule for a purpose or by accident, but I'm all for an author's voice coming first.

Totally agree about the comma, too!