Pilot foundation course

We are halfway through our pilot foundation course, finally putting into practice our ideas and theories. And, it is such fun! We have seven intrepid guinea pigs who are testing the course, and the feedback has been wonderful.

We have already had three of the four workshops. Week 1 was all about prewriting tool and included exercises to help over writer’s block. Our guinea pigs tried out free writing, brainstorming and clustering (what we call mind mapping). Then, Week 2 was the PAP module – purpose, audience and planning. We looked at how to clarify your purpose, identify your purpose and plan your document. We experimented with two structures for planning documents: an outline (beginning, middle, end) and an argument (both sides of an issue).

This week, we got down to the nuts and bolts of writing: sentences and paragraphs, the building blocks of writing. We looked at the three most common sentence errors (sentence fragment, comma splice and run-on sentences), how to structure a paragraph using an outline, and the importance of transitional words and sentences to link sentences and paragraphs.

Our intention of this course was to have fun – learning as play. And, judging from the reaction of our participants, we seem to be succeeding. However, the litmas test will be next Tuesday, when we run our last module (Get Writing 2) and tackle common grammar and spelling words!

Why use a copy-editor?

People often ask me … what exactly do you do? Why would I use your editing services? I know how to write and there’s always Microsoft’s spellcheck.

My reply is simple: editing is not just about correct spelling and acceptable grammar. It’s about consistency and finding the ‘voice’ that is appropriate for your readers. It’s about communicating the right message in an effective way to your audience.

Publishing houses are not the only organisations that need editorial services. Companies, small and large, government departments, universities, non-governmental organisations as well as aspiring authors can benefit from the services of an editor.

Here are three good reasons why you should use an editor:

1. Value. Mistakes and inconsistency can be costly. An editor helps you get it right first time, on time and within budget.

2. Clear communications. Unclear communications can confuse your audience. An editor makes sure your communications are clear, concise and correct.

3. Image. Misspellings and clumsy grammar are not good for your image. Computer programs can’t replace a good editor who will help you find the right tone and style.

(Adapted from marketing material I developed for the Professional Editors’ Group)

The Four Ps of Presenting

On the subject of public speaking, Franklin D. Roosevelt said “Be sincere, be brief, be seated”. I say use the Four Ps:

1. Be Positive
Our thoughts dictate our behaviour. So use positive self-talk (“I am going to give a powerful presentation”) and visualisation (imaging applauding audiences) to prepare yourself mentally.

2. Prepare
Preparation is key! Spend time identifying the purpose of your presentation, as well as your audience. Will they be receptive to your topic? Who are they? (eg: experience, knowledge, age, background).

3. Plan
What is the topic of your presentation? What are the key ideas? (Between 3 and 7 key ideas, depending on the length of your presentation.)  What are the supporting points for each key idea? How will you link the points/ideas (transitions)? Is your opening (introduction) clear and closing (conclusion) strong?

4. Practise
This doesn’t mean learning your speech off by heart – use key phrases and your slides to guide you. Practice the pace and tone of your voice, and where to pause and where to emphasis a point. Time your presentation so you don’t go over your allotted slot.

A final thought
To add power to your word, use the rule of three (eg: one main idea and three supporting points).Some of the most memorable historic phrases use this rule:

“Liberté, égalité, fraternité”
“Of the people, by the people and for the people.”
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Un vieux refrain

I wrote this ‘ditty’ for my French class at l’Alliance Française. We had to create a piece of writing that included these words: cocufier; tenir à coeur; bouc émissaire. The last verse is a little weak I think but it was great fun as an exercise!

Un vieux refrain

Il était une fois un mari
Qui vivait en bonne harmonie
Avec une femme qui l’adorait
(Au moins il le croyait…)
Pour rien il ne changerait de vie

Jusqu’au jour où arriva la lettre
“D’un bon ami” selon l’étiquette
Ta femme te cocufie
Va vite et vérifie
C’est le boucher qu’elle fleurette

Oh! quel malheur ma mie, ma fleur,
Celle qui me tient tant à cœur!
Pourquoi cette trahison
Qui me pique comme un hérisson
Cette fois, d’amour manqué, je meurs

Plus tard quand rentre son épouse
Il la questionne de ferveur jalouse.
Mais non, je suis le bouc émissaire,
Je jurerais devant le commissaire
Que c’est ma sœur jumelle la trompeuse!

Linguistic false friends

Cognates: words that sound similar in different languages often turn out to be ‘false friends’. I found quite a number of examples in a book I was editing. Overall the book was fairly well structured and written. Yet, you could tell which chapters were written by non-English mother tongue speakers,  not so much by the style but by those ‘false friends’.

Here are some of them:

“Countries disposing of natural resources”, which I changed to “Countries with natural resources at their disposal”. The French disposant de was translated as disposing of‘instead of at their disposal or (depending on the content) with.

“… byzantine arcanes of financial markets”. Arcanes is a adjective in English, not a noun so I changed it to byzantine mysteries.

“pretending that the US financial system was the standard for the world”. Changed pretending to claiming (incorrect translation of prétendre).

However, it is true that English is a very versatile language!

My favourite (to date) of a “new” English idiom is this:
“… begs the pregnant question.”  A wonderful mix of pregnant pause and begs the question.

Musings on blogging

Will I look back on this, my first post, in a few months time and wonder why it took me so long to get around to writing it? Most probably.

It is often the thought of tackling the task that seems so daunting (or should that be terrifying, to continue the alliteration). But once you make a start on the task, it doesn’t seem so difficult after all.

I have finally joined the global community of bloggers. According to Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words (love that website and his weekly e-newsletter), blogger, as an expression, has only been around for about a decade.

So, I am not too far behind the times.

I intend avoiding galimatias (gibberish, meaningless talk, or nonsense). This blog is going to be a gallimaufry (a hodge-podge, ridiculous medley according to Christopher Foyle’s Foyle’s Philavery: A Treasury of Unusual Words) of anything to do with words, language and, of course, business writing and training.

I am already looking forward to writing my next post.