Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Gone Girl gets UK English subtitles

I went to the cinema the other evening to watch Gone Girl. It was a good film of the book which has sold in huge numbers. Of course, being an avid reader, I enjoyed the book more than the film (you can get much more in a book than you can in a film).

Without meaning to, we attended a subtitled version of the film. This helped avoid the possibility of any kind of “mumble-gate” which was helpful. But, more than that, I was delighted to see that the subtitles were in UK English – hooray! So we had rumour (not rumor), apologise (not apologize), clamour (not clamor), defence (not defense), and even quoted words with the following punctuation outside the quote like this “example”, which is the way I like it (not "example,").

But it wasn’t one hundred percent successful. We had a mysterious word: “ahold” – it seems our American friends like to get “ahold” of something. It should be: “they can’t get hold of something”, but if they insist on a spurious “a”, it should surely be “they can’t get a hold of something”. There is no such word as "ahold".

But, never mind, it was pleasing enough to see UK English subtitles in the UK, despite this being a US book and a US film. And I’m sure in the US they get US English subtitles - quite right. It’s thoughtful, and I praise them for it.

For an ever-growing list of differences between UK and US English, see our webpage on WriteItClearly.com: UK-US English differences

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Why Writers Need a Fresh Pair of Eyes

It is difficult and sometimes impossible to pick up our own errors in the documents we write. Even with the best will in the world and the most assiduous efforts we all miss our own mistakes that another person will spot immediately. There is a very good reason for this, as outlined on an interesting article I recently came across. Apparently, the human mind is set up to mentally replace errors with the correct version – which really isn't much help! Interestingly, one technique is for people to check their own work by reading it backwards, sentence by sentence. However, as the writer of the article says: “It is always better to bring in another set of eyes.” Why is this? Another set of eyes represents another person, another mind – and, most importantly, an objective stance.

The main problems, however, arise in the new wave of e-books and self-published books.  E-Books can emerge in a jumble due to the conversion from the original by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software which is not equipped to pick up all the characters. It takes at least one human, or at least many readings, to ensure that the result is 100 per cent error free, comprehensible and able to be enjoyed by the reader.

As for self-published books, these are very often checked only by the author before publication – say no more! Most self-publishers do not pass their documents to an editor or proof-reader for checking, and so typos are missed. That would be bad enough in itself − but add in an author’s difficulty with spelling and grammar and the result is very disappointing for readers who expect the usual high standards found in conventionally published books.

The bottom line is that it is ALWAYS a good idea to use a fresh pair of eyes for all work that is intended for publication!

Monday, 3 March 2014

He said, she said, they said ...

 I recently edited a translation of a Chinese short story, which needed some polishing up although it was fairly well written – or translated.

The most significant improvement I could make – apart from ensuring that all dialogue was duly given its own line – was to find lots of appropriate synonyms for the verb "to say". English, with its rich lexicon of synonyms from Anglo Saxon and Latin, has plenty to offer to replace “say” and “said”.

Intrigued, I decided to find a list on www.thesaurus.com .  Replacements for “say”, according to the context, could include: “add”, “declare”, “suggest”, “imply”, “relate”, “remark”, “opine” or “rap”.

So there you are, budding English writers – vary your vocabulary and use your thesaurus well. But with such a huge list to take your pick from, it might be difficult to find the appropriate words for what you want to say – or shall we say “express”?

That is precisely what we love to do at www.writeitclearly.com find the right words for the right context and use them wisely!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Believe the Facts and not the Factoids!

Don’t believe all the content of grammar books! I’ve just been reminded that not all you read, even in an apparently factual book, is necessarily true. In fact, not all the facts contained in grammar books are actually facts, because they are not, in fact, true. Some facts are actually factoids.

A factoid, according to the Guardian, is not a small fact but is rather a mistaken assumption. For example, I learn that Napoleon, who was supposed to be a small man who sought power to compensate for his lack of height, was not small at all by the standards of the day. In those days, the average Frenchman stood at 5’ 2”, whereas Napoleon was 5’ 6” in height. It is said that the Emperor looked short when flanked by his imperial guards.

That – my mistaken assumption that Napoleon was a very short man – is what is known as a factoid.  Grammar and language books are said to contain quite a few  including the misapprehension that George Bernard Shaw once wrote: “This is something up with which I shall not put,” and once spelt “fish” as “ghoti” – hmm.

It is all too easy to believe things that simply aren't true, but nevertheless we may continue to believe them. The cure is to check your information and make sure your beliefs are factually based.