Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Gulf Oil Spill

I want to take a minute out of my hectic writing and personal life, with 3 kids, two out of school and one an infant, a variety of contracts, a busy telecommuting husband, and a host of other activities and people vying for attention, to talk about the Deepwater Horizon gulf disaster.

We know that families are hurting from oil spill loss of income. We know that BP claims can help with lost wages or revenue, but with projections of up to 100,000 barrels of oil being poured into the Gulf of Mexico each day, we need to break out of our routines (especially those of us living up north, like me) and really think about what this means.

I have friends living on the gulf coast who can see the damage, smell it, have lost property or work because of it. Unemployment is already at 10 percent in this country, and while the mess creates oil jobs for the gulf cleanup, it destroys far more jobs than it creates. And who wants one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history to be an engine for job creation?

It breaks my heart. So in the middle of writing, and editing, and working for private clients, and enjoying the summer, I'm just thinking. Sometimes writing about the gulf oil spill. And hoping we can technologize our way out of what we technologized our way into. :(

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

OK, so some DS tips (and not the kind you get $3 for!)

I'm NOT divulging any DS secrets here. Just pointing out pet peeves when editing DS articles:

  • Future tense.  If you're writing an article about, say basketweaving degrees, cut the future tense!  "The student will learn..." No. "Students learn..." "Surgical students will perform an autopsy when they take this course" - NO. "Surgical students perform autopsies in this course." Cut the fat. Get rid of future tense unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Captions In Title Case. Don't Do It. Write in sentence case (this is sentence case - first word capitalized, complete sentence with period). Keep the caption to 12 words or so. Make it a full sentence. Relate it to the article title.
  • Captions that state the obvious. If your image is a picture of a girl eating an apple because your article is about the health benefits of apples, DO NOT caption with "Girl Eating An Apple." 
  • LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. If you write a location-specific article, don't forget to note the state and country, with region if needed.
  • References. If you're writing a law-related article, a reference that includes a link to the actual law really gives your article more credibility. One reference weakens an article, but 5 really crappy references from low-quality websites won't help either.
That's all for now. Back to the never-ending queue...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Improve Your Demand Studios Rewrite Rate and Scores

I have been writing for Demand Studios since April 2008. I've had my share of joys and struggles there. I recently became a copy editor for DS (yes...I am now a CE) and being on the other side of the screen provides quite the education.

I will not go into details about the quality of writing I face, working to edit 75+ articles per week, but let's leave it with this: it's been an eye opener.

I've thought about compiling a list of PLEASE DON'T DO THIS for writers at DS, such as:

  • "are required to" - just change this phrase to "must," for goodness sake. Fewer words and BONUS - you shifted from active to passive voice.
  • "in order to" - just delete it. Really. It adds nothing.
  • passive voice - many writers THINK they know what this means, but when asked for a rewrite they clearly do not understand how to convert from passive to active voice. "Dinner was served" becomes "The waiter served dinner." "Degrees are granted" becomes "The university grants degrees" - see the pattern?
  • bachelor's degree - yes, but it's Bachelor of Science in Nursing, not bachelors degree in nursing. Check AP style guidelines when writing about degrees and colleges.

I don't have time to list the most common errors I see - but these are the ones that scream out to me. Meanwhile, Willow at The Freelance Home Writer has a GREAT post about tools for writers at DS - search engines and grammar checkers that help reduce rewrites and errors.

Check it out. You might save a CE some hair.