Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Editing for life

I think Professor Follis was right in saying to keep your editing out of your personal life! I find myself sometimes trying to correct things that people don't really appreciate my correcting. Really, though, it extends beyond the written word. I am a perfectionist in all ways and often try to better myself and others in whatever I can.

For example, yesterday I went to Meijer with some University Housing co-workers to buy items for a surprise baby shower we are hosting today. Our items are tax exempt and I thought the way the cashier was ringing up the items was wrong because I'd seen another cashier make the same mistake and correct it. I told her what I thought, thinking I just didn't want her to do it wrong and get in trouble. She said that she had done it the same way the day before but said my way did make sense though. Still, she didn't change the way she did it.

I then thought that perhaps I was wrong. I was at a different Meijer for one, and for two, it's possible they had changed the rules or have a relaxed procedure.

So, I guess I say all that to say editing is ever-prevalent in our lives and we have to find balance. We all have opinions but so do others. I'm really facing this now as I am planning my wedding and EVERYBODY has an idea of how it should go ... but it's MY wedding and so do I! So, I'm trying to learn how to listen to suggestions as well as not be afraid to stick to my guns!

Life is editing and editing is life. I will be editing for life. Haha.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


So, in light of my recent engagement I thought about the arbitrariness of language sometimes. For example, the French word "fiance" is a part of our English vocabulary. It seems many times our lexicon borrows words and phrases from other places and we don't always realize it.

Then I began to wonder, who decides which words end up in the English language?

Well by doing a little bit of research it seems evident that the people in our society decide. On, the dictionary makers say they decide what words to include in a dictionary based on how widely the word occurs. "We never omit a word because we think it’s not ‘good English’. (If a word is used only in very informal contexts, or only by specific groups of people, or if it is offensive in some way, we make this clear in the dictionary entry.)"

What's interesting is that those real words that are not good English are not necessarily permissible in academic or journalistic writings, right? Check out some of the new words listed below. Would your editor let you use those?

One word I noted: "mentee" Hm, I didn't know that wasn't previously a word. I use it all the time!

Other words I thought were amusing:

Riffage - guitar riffs, especially in rock music

Shoulder-surfing - the practice of spying on the user of a cash-dispensing machine or other electronic device in order to obtain their personal identification number, password, etc.

Twonk - a stupid or foolish person

Oh, and last but not least:

Crunk - n. a type of hip-hop or rap music characterized by repeated shouted catchphrases and elements typical of electronic dance music, such as prominent bass.

adj. US, chiefly black slang (of a person) very excited or full of energy.

– origin 1990s: perh. an alt. past part. of crank1 or a blend of crazy and drunk.

Wow, I remember watching a movie on "crunk" dancing my freshman year of college, but I never thought this slang word would end up in the dictionary.

Apparently, if I create a word that catches on by the majority of society, that makes it a word! Is that okely dokely? (OK) Ha, and what's funny is that I just did the spell check on this blog and all those new words are, well, not words yet. Oh well, I guess a positive is that the inclusion of these words represent what democracy is all about: language by the people, for the people. Word.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shortchanged speech

I have a real problem when it comes to shortening things. When I was a reporter at the Daily Illini my stories would always go over the space allowed, and I could always make a case for it. When it comes to the text of a story or essay, even after revising and cutting unneeded words my papers still reach maximum word capacity. I just have so much to say I guess!

But, class this past week has taught me that sometimes shortening things: photo lead-ins, headlines, can actually strengthen your writing. And revising can do a world of good! (Thanks Professor Follis for allowing us to revise our research papers!)

Then I had a seemingly opposite experience with writing a speech. I auditioned to give the speech for our EXTREMELY SOON graduation a couple weeks ago. (I can't wait, by the way.) Even though I was unprepared and the speech was four pages too long, I did pretty well. People laughed and I got my cohesive message across.

Then there were call backs. Monday I gave a drastically shortened and changed-up version, thinking it would be better. Perhaps there was too much thinking involved, because long story short, I won't be giving the convocation speech.

I was quite disappointed knowing I have the ability to give a speech well. Of course my ever-thinking brain tries to figure out why I "failed." Did I edit it too much? Was I just not in character? Should I have made more eye contact?

The only thing I can take away is there is not always a right or wrong. And what applies to written words may not apply to those spoken. Really, I just don't think I was as into my speech the second time around.

Perhaps the problem was not in the cutting but in changing the message a bit. Perhaps I should've been more confident in my initial work.

Either way, I tried! Effective communication is a learning process and if I learn how to trust myself, it can only get better from here!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Early morning editing proves perilous!

It was after four in the morning on Tuesday. I had just finished a paper due at nine. I printed my paper. Hungry for sleep, I attempted to slip out of the computer lab. Wait. One of my residents jokingly asks me to edit his Wikipedia article he has to write for a business class. How long is it, I say, just knowing it’s going to be five pages too long and I won’t feel obligated to stay. Oh, about 200 to 500 words. Ugh, fine. I’ll edit it.

I have to say, editing at four in the morning, half asleep, was pretty cool. I actually went line by line. I corrected punctuation (capitalization) and grammar (tense). I suggested clarification and alternate words to use. I also dug deep down into that brain reservoir and pulled out some parallelism for him. And I even explained why I would change certain things, like a good editor should! It was us against the world, the “reporter” and me, informing society about a marine park in Kenya and using good grammar to do it!

I have to admit though, I didn’t check much for accuracy. I was a little too tired for that. Oh well, we all know we shouldn’t trust Wikipedia articles much anyway!

P.S. Don't stay up editing past four in the morning unless you want to walk into your nine 'o clock class an hour late thinking you're on time. Yeah, class would be dismissed 10 minutes after I sat down and I had not clue until I sat down.

Conclusion 1:
I can neither hear alarms nor judge time accurately if I am working on four hours of sleep. (Well, it was really five hours now wasn't it?)

Conclusion 2:
Editing has officially proven perilous to my academic health! How ironic.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Religious identity and news gathering

Should religion ever play a role in news gathering?

I often hear about financial scandals that exist in churches nowadays.

To me, the concept is quite appalling of course. But, it also sounds like a good story idea.

A baptist press even incriminated its own denomination:

Still, I'm a church-goer and my church does not have a denomination. In fact, we don't even claim the to be "non-denominational," rather, undenominational. Does my being involved and committed to my particular faith pose a conflict of interest?

How would I go about looking for corruption that exists in "Godly institutions" that are certain denominations or non-denominational? If I believe wholeheartedly I'm in the right religious place, is it immoral, unethical to look for faults in other religious places?

It seems like a sticky situation. Sure, I want to promote the good but can I turn a blind eye if I believe "the good" is being exploited?

And should editors ever ask one's religious preference, or should they ask a reporter if he or she can cover a particular story without bias?

I believe I can be unbiased when reporting, but is looking for stories like this imply bias in itself? Perhaps it's a bias more against wrongdoing and corruption ...

What's this columnist's bias?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Negativity or reality?

So, I've been on this news positivity kick.

I hear from tons of people who think the news has more negative things to say than positive. And I want to change that.

I'm a bit conflicted, though. I know it is the media's job to be the watchdog and tell the truth, but how many times do we search for the good? I know we're in horrible economic times but how often do we see stories of hope?

I have seen the stories so I know they are there.

Still, is it the media's job to inspire hope or just to tell it like it is? It might help to know if watching the news ever leads to depression.

Anyway, in times like these should we have more stories like this?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good speech

Clouded judgment?

I walked into the conference room of Esquire Magazine Friday pondering a couple questions:

Do you feel your magazine objectifies women?
Does it reinforce demeaning attitudes in men or just serve as a sexual outlet?

I didn't ask my questions though. I was distracted by the speech web director Eric Gillin gave.

A couple things stuck out:

  • Stop making excuses.

He gave this analogy of a band without a drummer. A member of the band, perhaps the leader, keeps saying, "Oh, we're going to perform as soon as we get a drummer!"

What would Gillin say to this? Teach yourself how to drum! And do it right now!

We can't keep making excuses for the things we do not know how to do. We have so many resources around us and all we have to do is tap into them.

  • We should collaborate with our peers, instead of competing with them.

I feel this disconnect with my peers quite often. Often we are insecure and jealous about someone else's accomplishments. We feel we need to be better than the person next to us and in feeling inadequate we might act like we are superior than others.

Gillin said there is an upside to this hate or jealousy:

Get that person in the newsroom that completely hates your guts to edit your work. Chances are, that will be the most honest editing you're ever going to get!

On a serious note, I know we would be so much more successful if we let our insecurities go and worked to support and build each other up. After all, we might need each other one day when looking for jobs or just needing some kind of help.

Alright, I'm done being idealistic for the day.

I'm very appreciative of the scenery change I experienced last week in New York. It was very refreshing to see the different types of media that exist. I have been given a new lens through which to see the world.

The airplane ride home captured it all. Sitting in the window seat, of course, I don't ever want to forget what I saw in the sky. It was like all I had to do was step outside and walk on top of the those fluffy, milk-white clouds.

The symbolism was thick: I can do anything, go as high as I want.

Next on my list:

Give a good speech.