Today’s The Weight of Words came about because I was looking up the proper usage of single and double quotes and came across a debate on the words quote versus quotation. I wish I could find the original article as the author thereof was quite adamant about not using them interchangeably. Articles I’ve found since have been a lot more lenient but no less informative.
I’m also featuring this today because I’m using it to launch Quotation Station. It’s been on my mind for some time as I read books and perused the Internet to share quotations I came across that struck me as intelligent, wise, funny, poignant, relevant to writing, or any combination thereof. My goal is to feature three posts a week, but I feel as if I’m leaving my followers hanging over the weekend. Quotation Station will be a sincere handshake as we part company from Friday to Monday to relax from the hectic week.
Per Richard Nordquist writing for ThoughtCo.:
In formal English, quotation is a noun (as in “a quotation from Shakespeare”) and quote is a verb (“She likes to quote Shakespeare”). However, in everyday speech and informal English, quote is often treated as a shortened form of quotation.
The noun quotation refers to a group of words taken from a text or speech and repeated by someone other than the original author or speaker.
- A direct quotation is a report of the exact words of an author or speaker. Direct quotations are placed inside quotation marks.
- An indirect quotation is a paraphrase of someone else’s words: it reports on what a person said without using his or her exact words. Indirect quotations are not placed inside quotation marks.
The verb quote means to repeat a group of words originally written or spoken by another person. In informal speech and writing, quote is sometimes used as a shortened form of the noun quotation.
Nordquist, Richard. “What’s the Difference Between the Words “Quotation” and “Quote”?” ThoughtCo. N.p., 03 May 2017. Web.
For examples, usage notes, and practice enjoy reading the article in its entirety here: “What’s the Difference Between the Words “Quotation” and “Quote”?”
One of the best parts of an author platform is making new connections that turn into friends. Such was the case with fellow word nerd, Mark Schultz, of Word Refiner. The Weight of Words, found in my Writing Toolbox, is all about the complexities of words. I believe this is what caught Mark’s eye and started the conversation between us. With that being said, it just made sense to feature Mark and Word Refiner on my blog. Without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce Mark Schultz and his homonym-sniffing sidekick, Grizz.
Hello and welcome! Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I have been married for over forty years to my wife (she is a keeper). We have three kids, girl-boy-girl, who are now ‘adulting’ quite well, and three beautiful granddaughters who we love and see frequently.
What has your experience been?
I am a journeyman sheet metal worker and a journeyman HVAC service technician. I work outdoors a great deal and love it most of the time. I had nearly twenty years of experience in retail before I launched into construction. I like helping people.
Did your work experience lead to the creation of Word Refiner?
No, but my love of reading led me in that direction. I have been a super reader all of my life. Reading is one of my favorite things to do. During my college years, I worked as a proofreader for a firm of consulting engineers, proofing specifications and contract documents. This was in the dark ages before the Internet, before computers, cell phones, and calculators. The new exciting thing was correction paper for a typewriter. That is the only experience in the industry. But I was alerted to the fact that I was really good at finding all types of spelling errors, including homonyms, typographical errors, missing words, misplaced words, and multiple words. I was better at it than everyone else in the department.
How did you develop your passion for words/spelling?
I read some books, then I read some more books, and more books, and … you get the idea. I have read many thousands of books in my life. In college or at work I had three books I was reading at the same time: one for home, one on the bus, and one at school or work. I read very widely as a boy and an adult. I was very bored growing up on a small, non-working farm. I had only my younger sisters and baby brother to play with. I devoured encyclopedias and spent many happy hours in a twenty pound dictionary. Relatives sent me books for birthdays and holidays. I read my parents magazines and loved Reader’s Digest. I read very widely and loved every minute of it, no matter how many times I had to go to the dictionary. I also checked many books out of the school and public library.
So, you’re an avid reader? What do you enjoy reading?
At the moment, I am in the middle of Paul Cude’s Bentwhistle the Dragon, Volume One, in between book reviews. I am reading this for fun and have found it quite enjoyable. My favorite genres are sci-fi and fantasy, but I have come to appreciate good writing in whatever genre. I have read some great cozy murders, historical fiction, and romantic stories.
When did you decide to create Word Refiner?
Many years ago, a friend was writing a book. He sent me his tenth draft. It was typewritten and double-spaced. He liked my suggestions a lot, and I proofed for him for many years after that. I started looking for other authors and found it very hard to meet them. I had the concept in mind for a long time, but could not connect with very many authors. I advertised on Craig’s List for several years with a little bit of success. I found it really hard to connect with authors on Facebook and some other social media portals. When I looked into Twitter, I realized I had struck pay dirt.
How does a client contact you?
I can be contacted on Twitter of course: @wordrefiner. I can also be reached at my website: Word Refiner, and by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does Word Refiner work? What is the process?
While it is detailed on my website, here are the basics. I offer a free evaluation of a manuscript whether fiction or nonfiction. My skill is in spelling, so I tell a client that I can provide the best value after all the editing and rewriting is done. When the client thinks the book is ready to be published, I should be the last set of fresh eyes. I ask for a section from the middle of the book, two to three thousand words. I go through it and provide the estimate based on the density of errors in the sample. My pricing is based on word count and starts at $3.00 per thousand words; as the number of errors increases, so does my price. If we agree on the project, they send me the entire book in a format compatible with MS Word 2013.
What does a client receive from you?
I use the commenting feature in Word; I do not make any changes in the book. There is a sample of what that looks like on my website: Learn More. If I find a weird formatting error, such as a line cut off in the middle and moved down, I will fix that for continuity reasons. Otherwise, I believe in a hands-off approach. I want the author to be able to see exactly what they wrote and consider my suggestions. If any particular suggestion is not liked, then no harm is done. While I am not a full editor, I do offer suggestions for readability, plot points, and technical details where warranted. Many authors have been very grateful for my suggestions. I know a little about a lot of things. I am a super reader and the Hyper-speller. I know my strengths and don’t stray too far from that sweet spot. When I send the book back, I have changed the name of the file. I keep the original file as received for safety purposes.
Do you specialize in one type of book: fiction or non-fiction? Do you work on promotional materials, programs, brochures?
I can do all of the above and more. My specialty is words. If it has words I can read, I am there. I am also cognizant of the differences that can exist in British English and Australian English. I have clients in many parts of the world.
Can you tell us some of the titles you’ve worked on?
I have worked on quite a few books. The full list is at Books We Have Refined. I would like to mention the books of one of my favorite authors, Diane Munier: Darnay Road, Deep In The Heart of Me, Finding My Thunder, and most recently, Bayah and the Ex-con. The first three were done post-publication.
Any favorite words?
My favorite group of homonyms is rite, write, right, and wright. It is the longest group of homonyms I know. I would love to find more of equal or greater length. I also heard a phrase on a BBC production: “insalubrious morass” was a bit of dialog and stuck in my ear. I relished the sound of it and feel in my mouth. It means an unhealthy, swampy area.
Word(s) you see misspelled most often?
From and Form come to mind first. Their, there, and they’re are also very common. There are so many homonyms that can be mixed up, and typos are created so easily. I know because my fingers are pretty sloppy on the keyboard.
Is Word Refiner your dream job?
Yes! Getting paid to read books is my dream job!
How do you see Word Refiner growing?
I am one person; I have not found anyone that can do what I do for the price I charge. My rates are very reasonable.
So this is a solo operation?
It is the three of us: me, myself, and I. Let’s not forget Grizz. Call it 1 ½.
Is there any truth to the rumor that Grizz has 51% controlling interest in the business?
I have defeated his proxy attempts a couple of times now. I am not sure he has given up.
I didn’t pay attention to which books were written by English authors and which by American authors. There must have been a time when my selections were top heavy with Brits because I started dropping a U into words that Microsoft Word kept underling, claiming that a U didn’t belong in said word. When it happened with the word color, well, that one seemed rather obvious.
Then came a day when Word underlined realise. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I kept re-reading the sentence for grammar and content to make sure it wasn’t a fragment, etc., etc. But wait, the underline was red, squiggly, and mocking. What in the world was wrong with this word?
I deleted it, retyped it, and again the ugly red squiggles popped up. It was time to resort to the good ole Google search bar. When the first article to pop up was titled Realise vs. Realize, I had a sneaky suspicion of the mistake I’d made. I was having my own private British Invasion.
According to Grammarist.com:
Realise and realize are different spellings of the same word, and both are used to varying degrees throughout the English-speaking world. Realize is the preferred spelling in American and Canadian English, and realise is preferred outside North America. The spelling distinction extends to all derivatives of the verb, including realised/realized, realising/realizing, and realisation/realization.
None of this may seem relevant to a writer, but on the off chance your writing includes a letter composed by someone born and raised outside of North America, think how smart you’ll look to your editor when you spell realize with an S.
She listened as he walked through the house, the closing door indicating his departure, a long silence during which she envisioned him performing the tasks in preparation for mowing the grass, and finally the sound of the tractor rumbling awake.
Long shadows grasped at the remains of the day and sleep tempted her eyes with long, slow blinks. Neither was a match for her desire to read or reclaim her love’s presence. She hadn’t lost his company in its entirety, but as long as the days continued to lengthen with the promise of daylight, her man would be hard pressed to sit still beside her reading a book.
He came late to reading, not discovering his favorite genre until well into adulthood. Other hobbies, perfectly acceptable activities, had always led him in other directions. This, combined with his mind’s pressing need spurred on by guilt, was why he rushed to complete as many chores as possible from dawn to dusk on the weekends.
And if pressed to admit, he would confess that reading during the long hours of summer was burning precious daylight that could be spent performing all those tasks that required his attention. The list was never-ending. This was why she longed for winter.
For every day past the summer solstice, every minute of daylight lost, brought her a tiny bit closer to reclaiming her love’s presence. Summer would be bedded beneath their children’s return to school and the soft crinkle of autumn’s falling leaves. Schedule and routine would return with chill air and morning frost. The blanket of nightfall would once again shroud the days and return the husband to his wife, their time once again entwined.
Winter evenings feel shorter to the senses. Our eyes see the dark and tell our minds to go to bed unless one’s eyes are trained upon a book, and then the mind willingly travels all over the world and throughout time. The couple would be together in body, yet journeying in their separate worlds. She could hardly wait for the ritual to return.
She knew better than to press him now while there was still work to be done. She would only succeed in crushing his fragile, growing love of reading. It was also not important that he ever read as voraciously as she. What was important was their silent togetherness that began on Friday evenings and lasted until he returned to work on Monday: the time they spent reading.
Dusty and smelling of grass, he tiptoed to the shower. When he reappeared, he settled on the couch. His deep breath of satisfaction turned into a stretch and a yawn. She looked up from her book to assess his closed eyes and lolling head. He was asleep, but she was the one dreaming of early snow.
Writers are an odd lot. We’d be the first to admit it. Writer’s post things like “That moment when you finish a book, look around, and realize that everyone is just carrying on with their lives as though you didn’t just experience emotional trauma at the hands of a paperback.” And because we’re writers, we’re also readers. At least we should be.
We reading/writing types are deeply and emotionally attached to the characters we read about. They become real for us in a way that often defies description. The closest I can come is to say that when I finish a well-written book, I feel as if I’m leaving behind great friends. Non-readers may scoff at us, suggesting that we simply re-read the book. That is an option, but what we want as readers is to move forward with our favorite characters, possibly gathering them all together regardless of genre, entwining them in our lives. That may seem a titch odd, but what can I say? We’re artists; perhaps this is why we write.
The interesting thing I have discovered as a reader/writer is that just like our real friends, we each have different criteria for which fictional characters we will allow in our lives. What first brought this to my attention was when I learned that my friend was reading Gone With the Wind for her classical literature book club. We discussed the book over lunch during which I admitted that I pushed myself to read it and could barely make it halfway through. I hated every minute of that piece of vintage literary fluff which actually surprised me because it came so highly recommended. After Margaret Mitchell’s endless declarations about the quaint South and dreary passages of battle scenes, the book was incredibly mediocre. Yet it wasn’t the writing that ruined it for me.
Scarlett was. I hated her. Each self-centered deed and word I had to endure at the hands of Scarlett made me want to beat her with a stick. I rooted against her at every turn and rejoiced when she didn’t get her way. Throw in spineless Ashley and sickening Melanie, and there was no way I was going to finish this book. I simply cannot stand annoying people in my real life, so why would I waste my time enduring three fictional nuisances? My friend, on the other hand, found Scarlett to be funny in her total self-absorption. Maybe my friend is more patient that I am.
Then Dale came to mind. She’s a character from Joanna Trollope’s book, Other People’s Children. Dale was every bit as self-serving and manipulative as Scarlett and more so because she possessed a psychological hold on two other characters. She was evil, she was brilliant. I hated her with a passion and seriously considered writing Mrs. Trollope to request a sequel in which Dale was killed off slowly and painfully.
So what was the difference? Well, I’d never willingly allow someone like Dale in my life, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take her head on either. Whereas pathetic, annoying Scarlett wouldn’t earn a second glance from me as I ignored her in the most obvious ways possible. However, we’re dealing with the fictional realm, and in this world, Scarlett would never be able to compete with Dale as a worthy opponent and one that would engage me as a reader. Where Margaret Mitchell failed with Scarlett, Joanna Trollope succeeded with Dale.
In addition to the writing behind amazing characters that have the ability to evoke great response from the reader, our desires and tolerances make them appealing to us whether they are the protagonist, antagonist, or peripheral character. These factors combined determine who we will welcome into our minds. The beauty of this is that your choices don’t have to be all pleasant ones. You can fall for the bad character without any harmful side effects unlike real life where allowing the wicked person into your life may destroy you. It’s quite brilliant, really, and I wonder why more people don’t read.
Two days ago I started reading a novel by an author whose previous book I enjoyed. Admittedly, I only had one book by which to judge her writing, but since I absolutely fell in love with the story, I trusted that I would like other books she wrote. The first novel I read by this particular author was set in medieval Japan, a favorite era of mine, which scored the book high marks right off the bat. I didn’t have to labor at all to find the exciting parts as the writing was excellent and the story captivated me. Again, this alone shed a positive light on the second novel even though it wasn’t about Japan.
Many years had passed between reading the two novels, but I had high hopes for the second one. The second book started slowly with very little dialog and page long paragraphs composed of rambling sentences from multiple POVs separated only by commas. It took some effort to follow whose thoughts were being expressed. But I’m no quitter. If I could read José Saramago’s The Double which has enormous paragraphs with only periods and commas even when it’s dialog, and ended up being one of the best books I ever read, then I could finish this book.
One of the first things I checked was where in the lineup of publication this particular book stood. It’s number fourteen for the author which is quite impressive. There was a reason to keep going. If publishers believed the novel worthy of printing, then I should probably press on. I mentioned this to my husband, and it generated a question we’ve debated before. Is there a certain place in an established author’s career when no matter how mediocre the book may be it will still be published based on his or her prior success and/or reputation?
I’m tempted to read this author’s first and second books. They were published several decades ago, and I wonder how the writing may have evolved over time. Is it better, worse, different? Was the author simply trying something new, something she always wanted to do but didn’t dare attempt until she was established enough to trust that her work wouldn’t be rejected? Or does this later book reflect the change in tastes among readers?
In either case, I’m going to be fair to this author and finish the book. There have been less than five books in my lifetime that I was unable to finish. Also, I’m willing to allow an author some grace as she builds up to the pinnacle of the story. I trust that fourteen books later, this author knows how to write worthy of my attention. There are slight mysteries and questions that have been posed, and I cannot set the book down without discovering what they are.
I mention all of this to lay some groundwork for the real issue I want to discuss. It has to do with query letters, synopses, and first page or chapter critiques experienced by new authors. If the book I’m reading was a first novel, without an established reputation backing it, to be judged only on a query letter, synopsis, or first chapter, regardless of how brilliant those items may be written, it would be rejected outright.
A person simply cannot focus on a tiny glimpse of someone’s writing taken out of context and judge whether or not the entire work is worthy of publication. And yet, this is exactly what it done during pitch sessions at writing conferences and in agents’ offices on a daily basis. How much brilliant writing is bypassed because an agent, editor, or publisher wasn’t aware of all the narrative forces driving the story as it unfolds to reveal its true shape?
I fear that what I’ve termed ‘fast-food thinking’ has negatively influenced the art of writing and publication of said writing. Everything in life takes place at the speed of light so that our desires receive instant gratification. Just as quickly, we move on to seek the next tantalizing thing without ever realizing that we aren’t truly satisfied. The more we seek, the more things need to be supplied to fulfill the vicious whims of demand. And if you are the person who can do it bigger, better, faster than anyone else, you’ll probably be the one to make boat loads of money. So what if quality suffers? Well, that’s the problem I’m leading up to.
Let’s step back for a moment and analyze why this fast-paced process isn’t working. Let’s start with the writing. Great writing takes time, and if people have bought into the lie that time is money, then great literature is in more danger of becoming obsolete than even I thought possible.
There has to be a better way.
Writing is a major investment of passion and time. It doesn’t follow cookie-cutter formats and spew out copycat books, it doesn’t happen to make the writer rich, and it doesn’t exist for the express purpose of becoming a movie. Writing can be summarized for book flaps and reviews, but if that was all it took to satisfy a person, the writing wouldn’t have become a book in the first place.
It’s time to trade in ‘fast-food thinking’ for ‘stop and smell the roses reasoning.’ If anything worth having is worth waiting for, then I propose allowing this lesson in patience to be applied to how books are evaluated. Furthermore, as a society, we must no longer tolerate being spoon fed our entertainment especially where books and/or writing is concerned. Readers must also slow down and appreciate the treasures they hold in their hands when they read a book.
Of course, I’m open to suggestions on how to make this process work better, not just easier. In doing so, we’ll not only rescue writing from being destroyed, we’ll stop this process from encroaching upon other forms of art.
People who know me are aware of my love of books but may not know that I enjoy picture books every bit as much as novels and works of non-fiction. For those who don’t know me, start here (My Love Affair With Books).
A couple of weeks ago, as I shelved picture books in the children’s department of the library where I used to work, I discovered Shaun Tan’s book, The Rules of Summer. The unusual artwork on the cover immediately caught my eye, and I indulged in a few stolen moments to read the book. What a treasure.
The lean text tells the story of two brothers and the unique and arbitrary rules that govern their summer. The pictures, semi-abstract creations in oil and acrylic, relay a deeper story about the nature of the boys’ relationship.
I believe the story speaks volumes about how people treat each other whether they’re children or adults, friends or family. It’s testimony to how far we will go in our relationships and exactly what we’ll tolerate and for how long. This may sound heavy for a picture book, but the beauty of the subtle message is that there is hope even when human nature ensures that this process repeats itself. When it does, we learn and grow, love and forgive.
I’ve already enjoyed reading The Rules of Summer five times and have decided that I must own a copy for my private library. The book as a whole is an incredible work of art, and I’ll never tire of sifting through the many layers of the story, both words and pictures.
It started last year around November when my novel was technically finished. There were a few minor points that needed to be re-researched (is that even a word), and I had a wonderful research librarian who I met at the Conneaut D-day Reenactment assisting me. The whole process was starting to bog me down. I began to hate it, resent it, and wanted to dig a deep hole in my back yard in which I could bury my book without any witnesses.
The holidays were coming, and since much of the preparation for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas fell to me, I really didn’t have anything left to give my writing. I didn’t want my writing to suffer, but I felt so guilty about setting it aside. After all, what kind of writer would I be if I wasn’t writing every single day? Good question.
While wrestling with this dilemma and wanting to be able to focus on all the fun that comes with the holidays, I ran into our pastor’s wife at the local grocery store. After the usual pleasantries, she asked after my novel. I told her what I’ve already mentioned above and concluded that I wish someone would give me the permission to quit for a little while. If I could just take a break, I knew I would go back to writing in January once I was refreshed.
She looked at me and said, “Heather, I give you permission to quit.”
Even now I laugh at how easy it was for someone else to grant me the grace I needed to give myself but was unable to. And guess what? I did go back to the writing and research in January as I promised myself I would. In fact, I attacked it with renewed vigor and produced better writing than I would have had I pressed myself to go on through November and December. What’s more, I enjoyed it!
So what’s the point of this blog post you may ask? It still scares me somewhat that I took off two months of much needed rest time. There are so many writing books, and I imagine books devoted to other forms of art, that will tell you to create every day without fail. Are these people right in tasking others in this way?
Yes and no. If I said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. You have to find out what works for you. Thankfully, the day I returned to writing coincided with Chapter 11 of Heather Seller’s book, Page After Page. The writing exercises in this chapter were wonderful for getting me back on my rails. You’ll understand this better when you read the book which I highly recommend you do.
The funny thing was, while Chapter 11 worked for me, I recalled that before the holidays, Chapter 10 flipped me out. This is the beauty of the book. The next time I read it, Chapter 10 may be exactly what my writing needs. All this to say, don’t be afraid to embrace the bad (insert chosen art form here) because you may uncover a gem on the way to the good (insert chosen art form here).
In doing so, your creativity will flow and your art will come naturally. There are going to be different amounts of flow, and that’s to be expected. Don’t despair over these days even if they extend into weeks, months, or years. Begin again in small ways, flex your creative muscles, and build up to your peak performance like an athlete training for the Olympics. You will achieve gold.
Today’s Writer’s Soul blog post is going to be a bit like tap dancing on a landmine. Per the suggestion in Page After Page, I’m going to explore my parent’s influence on my writing life. When I first read the exercise, I thought to myself, “There isn’t enough red wine in the entire world to make me do this, especially when both parents follow my blog.” Yet here we are.
I don’t believe either of my parents ever aspired to be writers, although I do remember mom jotting down an occasional poem during my childhood. That’s okay because neither resisted the idea of writing or being an artist of any kind.
The funny thing is I don’t really consider either of them to be readers. Well, not on the same level that I hoard and consume books anyway. Mom admits that she came to pleasure reading as an adult when she read The Wind in the Willows. This still surprises me because she was always reading to me and my brother when we were little. In fact, I credit Mom with instilling in me a love for books as I mentioned before. (My Love Affair With Books)
I only remember my Dad reading Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days and John Irving’s The World According to Garp. Otherwise, my only memories of Dad reading were the gigantic manuals and/or books he studied when testing to make rank on the police force.
To what degree did my parents influence my writing? Mom is extremely creative in areas of decorating, cooking, hosting, and crafting. Perhaps I’m drawing on these genes when I write. From Dad I learned that whatever I do should be done well and completed. I mention the completion aspect because he has always complained that Mom has thousands of dollars of unfinished crafts and too many tea sets. I think Dad doesn’t understand that creativity is ongoing.
Both of my parents are hard workers, and while Dad would probably say that he did what he wanted to in life, Mom would wistfully admit that there were things she would have liked to have done and didn’t. I know she wanted to own a bed and breakfast or tearoom. Her dreaming is what prompts me to keep writing even when things seem hopeless and the self-doubts arise. Dad’s successful career causes me to worry about making money at writing. I believe this stems from the fact that he conveyed to me and my brother the need to get jobs that supported ourselves but didn’t necessarily allow us to follow our dreams. This is the type of influence one would expect from a provider.
With these perspectives on working and following dreams in mind, I am better able to understand why I vacillate between the thoughts of “Will I make any money at this or am I just chasing a pipe dream” and “I really want to write and be published more than any other creative endeavor.” There’s a lot of pressure that comes with such thoughts, but as an adult, I’ll own them.
If Mom and Dad aren’t the driving force behind my writing, who is? The first people to come to mind are the countless writers behind the Little Golden Books Mom bought for me. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume, and L.M. Montgomery float to the surface of my memory. I could go on forever listing all of the authors and books I discovered through the years, but I’ll just say that my love of writing was birthed from my love of reading an excellent story.
What makes a great story? Great words. I admit, I’ve been caught reading with my lips moving, but if people would step closer and lean in, they would hear me reading softly to myself. When a passage is well written, it begs to be read aloud. My friend, Eleni Byrnes, would understand my obsession with words. She keeps a notebook of words she likes as she comes across them. It’s why she writes so well.
So, I’ll start with Eleni in my writing family tree and make her a sister. I’ll add Billie Letts and Wally Lamb as grandparents because they are excellent story tellers, and I’m all about the story. Isabel Allende will be my exotic aunt, and David Mitchell and David Liss my quirky cousins. Tim Gautreaux and Charles Frazier are favorite uncles.
Again, there are too many brilliant authors who have influenced my writing, so I’ll direct you to my Authors I Admire board on Pinterest and Goodreads to see who they are. Together, they make up my writing family tree and neighborhood.
I encourage everyone to explore who influences their writing or chosen art form. You’ll discover an extended family you never even knew you had.