Monday, September 20, 2010

Today's Writing Tip Is Those Damn Homonyms

I live in a small residential community that is part of a large metropolis. My neighborhood will be undergoing extensive construction to build a light rail system. I had questions about this so I wrote to my local town councilman. Because I use a voice dictation program, when I dictated my letter, instead of saying Councillor Chiarelli, it said Counselor Chiarelli. I noticed this while I was dictating, but I forgot about it by the end of the letter, and sent it with the wrong title.

What are some of the most embarrassing typos that you've made? My voice program will make some real doozies that don't even resemble typos because they are related to voice, rather than keyboard errors, so I really have to watch homonyms (e.g., when I said, "dictation" above, my Dragon NaturallySpeaking program typed the words "patient program.") I could use a laugh today. Tell me and my readers about your funniest typos. Post them here on my blog.

Sigrid Macdonald is a book coach, a manuscript evaluator, and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor, now available on (Paperback) and (Kindle).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Today's Writing Tip Is on Obscure References

Last week, I finished reading Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich. It was a wonderful critique of the down side of too much positive thinking, and how this can be used to blame people for making themselves ill, and even contribute to economic decline, if leaders in power don't want to hear any "bad news."

I wrote Ehrenreich a letter and entitled it "The Bright Side of the Road." I wanted to grab her attention by using a song title by Van Morrison. Right after I pressed send -- naturally! -- it occurred to me that maybe she wasn't a fan of Van's. If so, she could've missed my reference and thought I was misquoting the title of her book.

Now I will be more careful with obscure references. What may seem obvious to me may be a mystery to someone else. The goal of writing is not to be clever, but to be clear in communicating.

This week I'm giving away three free e-copies of Be Your Own Editor to the first people who can each list five well-known dystopian books (not movies). If the first poster mentions The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, the second poster cannot repeat that title. Post your answers on my blog at and gear up for the next quiz where the winner will win a free paperback copy of the book!

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor, a manuscript evaluator, and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor. Find it on Amazon in paperback for $12.92 ( or on Kindle for $3.79 (

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