March 2020 – anyone for ghoti and tchoghs?

In my July blog, I did a potted history of English, describing some of the reasons why English can be troublesome. The influence of other languages has had a major impact on the modern language we know today, affecting things such as plurals and the breadth of its vocabulary.

Another change as English developed was that it stopped being phonetic. This is, in part, due to changes in pronunciation without a change in spelling: printing presses and the like cemented English spelling as it was in the 14th/15th centuries and there was the Great Vowel Shift.

A phonetic language is one in which the letters are always pronounced the same way. Finnish and Turkish are two examples of languages considered to be truly phonetic. The advantage with such languages is that when one comes across a word for the first time it can be straightforward to determine its pronunciation, thus learning the language is so much simpler.

But English isn’t phonetic. This means that the same letters can make different sounds depending where they are in the word. Native speakers don’t tend to notice this (*), it’s second nature, but it causes trouble for non-native speakers. To demonstrate this, consider the following:

ghoti and tchoghs

You may have figured out by the photo that this is fish and chips, but how can ghoti and tchoghs be pronounced the same way?

Well, let’s break it down.

Let’s start with ‘ghoti‘ – you’ve probably read it as ‘go-tee’, the ‘gh’ at the start perhaps being the same as in ‘ghost’. But…

  • GH – makes an ‘f’ sound, like in ‘rough’
  • O – makes an ‘i’ sound, like in ‘women’
  • TI – makes a ‘sh’ sound, like in ‘ration’.

And so, overall, ‘ghoti‘ (**) makes the same sounds as in ‘fish’. The key thing is that the letters make different sounds depending where they are in the word.

And tchoghs?

  • TCH – makes a ‘ch’ sound, like in ‘itch’
  • O – as above
  • GH – makes a ‘p’ sound like in ‘hiccough’ (this is often spelt as hiccup, these days).

So, it is all a bit of a mess. We soldier on though (***), with words such as Worcester, Leicester and lieutenant which are pronounced not as their spelling would suggest (wooster, lesster, left-tenant). Centuries of evolution of a language can be hard to overcome and whilst there are those who want to change spellings, many find the thought of doing so impractical. Indeed at the (then) SfEP conference last year, when such an idea was discussed, it seemed abhorrent.

It would seem most people will happily carry on, tolerating the inconsistencies of English. In many ways, the language reflects our history and so perhaps by removing those inconsistencies, we would be removing the history as well. In any event, it helps create work for us proofreaders… which keeps me well stocked with tchoghs.

(*) Have you ever noticed the letter ‘C’ is pronounced three ways in ‘Pacific Ocean’?

(**) ‘Ghoti‘ was used in a Batman (****) episode, combining it with the French for eggs: Ghoti Oeufs Caviar Company.

(***) Here the ‘gh’ isn’t an ‘f’, unlike in rough. I have a headache…

(****) Adam West has always been my favourite Batman, possibly because of this.

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

February 2020 – so, you think you don’t need a proofreader?

I recently gave a presentation to Southend Peers about my proofreading services, particularly around style sheets. My preparation for this made me consider again why organisations would want to make use of a proofreader.

Some industries, such as publishing, make use of a proofreader without thinking about it and, in previous blogs (February, March and Why is my blog proofread?), I have extolled the virtues of a proofreader to businesses. Indeed, I have a marketing campaign launching in Business Time in Essex along those lines this very month.

In today’s world there does seem to be an over-reliance on technology. Whilst technology is great, it can only do so much. At Christmas, I was given a book which I enjoyed and loathed in equal measure. This was because the author had self-published but had not engaged the use of a proofreader (at least I hope they hadn’t). There were typos throughout, inconsistencies in style and formatting issues. The most frustrating part was that the author was a professional writer and journalist.

The benefit of this was that it made good fodder for my presentation since a lot of the issues were around style – eg the book used both spellings of certain words, such as ‘recognize’ and ‘recognise’, even on the same page. It made me realise that while organisations may be very good at ensuring their written material is error-free, it may remain inconsistently presented, badly formatted or not in a format suitable for its audience. It is this area where a proofreader can really help an organisation.

A business, indeed anyone, only has one chance to make a first impression. So, let’s make that a good first impression.

If you want me to help, please get in touch.

Think you don’t need a proofreader? Why not send me a sample of some recent text, say 500 to 1000 words, for me to review?

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

December 2019

It is probably safe to say the C-word now, isn’t it?

I’ll try my best not to though, since it is Advent until the 25th December.

Yuletide seems to be a time of reflection. The new year is upon us and it is natural to look back over the year. Have we made use of the time effectively? Did we achieve our goals? What was good about the year? What was bad? What have we learnt?

As part of this, I’ve been reading my blogs from this year.

I started the year hoping to publish a monthly blog – which I have done (*) – as part of an increase in marketing. I certainly have managed that and learnt a few lessons.

Firstly, marketing is a constant thing. You can’t do it once and then leave it; you need to do it regularly to maintain a presence. And then there’s following up leads, dealing with queries etc. One needs to set aside time to do it.

Secondly, there is marketing and effective marketing. Some early advertising was probably to the wrong audience; and now I wonder whether advertising is actually the thing.

Thirdly, I have learnt people buy from people – and so I focus on networking and making connections rather than advertising generally. Part of this involved conference in September – which was a good experience and did create leads and work, so has paid for itself already.

Another lesson is that it is easy for your time to be filled up, with work, volunteering and so on. It all creeps up and steals time from family and yourself.

Whilst it is great to have the flexibility it is easy to let it take over. I have had periods where I have overloaded myself. So, an important reminder is that it is okay to say “no”. Salaried workers have time off – so can freelancers.

The last lesson – don’t check emails constantly. If it is urgent, they’ll phone.

Enough reflection – what about the future?

I’ll continue to plug away raising the profile of my business, develop and consolidate connections, but most importantly try to learn from 2019 and remember what I’ve mentioned above!

Of course, it is all easier said than done!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

(*) ignoring the lack of August’s… everyone deserves a holiday, no?

April 2020 – it’s all gone viral

I had a number of things planned for my April blog. As spring started proper and various places/activities started up for the year, I was to talk about some of my interests outside of work.

However, at the end of March, I spent a lot of my time crossing things out of my diary as that C-thing took hold. It all got a bit depressing. In addition, it seems I picked the wrong Lent to give up alcohol.

Luckily, I have some work that transferred from face-to-face to online and so have work to see me through the most likely lockdown period, however, the whole family has ended up at home and routines are shot to pieces. On top of everything else, I have become a part-time teacher. It has made for some interesting work periods…

However, I thought I would reflect weekly on the positives.

So, this week:

1. I’ve managed to get out on my bike once or twice.

2. The 10-year-old has learnt how to use the coffee maker.

3. We’ve had many family dinners, which wasn’t always possible when things were “normal”.

4. My bank balance is not going down.

5. The children are both very understanding of the situation and have been great in entertaining themselves when both parents have had to work.

And so we continue…

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

January 2020

Today is Blue Monday, typically the third Monday of January. In the northern hemisphere, it is considered the most depressing day of the year due to a combination of the weather, long nights (*), the post-Christmas come-down and the long time period until pay day (**).

Certainly, I met with some friends last week and we were all a bit lacklustre, drained by the festivities and getting back into our routines. It seemed odd to be feeling that way when we had just had the well earned break we had been looking forward to before Christmas, to having not much to do and relaxing, and having the opportunity to reflect.

Potentially, our desires to use the new year as a chance to renew or redefine ourselves just adds to the problem. It can be written off as January blues but could be symptomatic of something bigger. There’s advice on how to beat it out there (I love no. 7), but perhaps let’s just keep it in mind to look after ourselves and keep an eye out for others.

This year (really, last year) I took a bit longer off than usual and so getting back into the routine was harder, but I also planned to not have as much on in January to try and catch up on some admin and other bits. I’ve managed to submit to the SfEP for an upgrade of membership, planned a presentation for February on proofreading, got my accounts in order (including the good old tax return), made decisions over the focus of my business, read up on IR35 and managed some “me time” and planned for it in my schedule (spontaneous is not my middle name…). One particular thing I’ve planned for is one working day offline – no emails, no social media, no nothing.

Happy New Year, folks.

—————-

(*) although, the nights are now getting shorter, since the winter solstice was 22nd December, it certainly seems darker than when they were getting longer.

(**) so many people are paid at the end of month except in December, when it is mid-month, resulting in a 6-week or so period until January’s pay day. Why not just always pay in the middle of the month?

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof

 

November 2019 – style sheets

Autumn is certainly taking root and, having gone back to GMT at the end of October(*), the nights are really drawing in. It always seems a surprise despite it happening every year.

November usually starts with a bit of a buzz with my charity firework display but alas, this year, the weather got the better of us and we had to cancel. A bit of a downer for all involved at Southend Round Table but I’m sure we’ll be back and bigger in 2020.

Anyway… Style sheets: what are those you say?

Well, anyone publishing written material, particularly if more than one person is writing it, should seriously consider putting together a style sheet. This outlines how your organisation wants to treat those grey areas of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

For example, do you organise or organize? Do you prefer Thomas’ books rather than Thomas’s books? How do you like your headings? Do you prefer ten or 10? 1000, 1,000 or 1 000? Do you need to use US or UK English? When do you hyphenate? How do you present your dates? Oxford comma, anyone?

All these things require a moment’s thought.

If a multitude of people are creating your content then you can end up with inconsistencies across your website. This is how a style sheet helps: it sets out how you want to present certain things and prevents your writers having to make the decision again and again. Give them a style sheet and they know how they should do it.

Not only does it set out how you wish to deal with variable spellings it also sets out your voice, eg passive, for your writing. Some like to write in the first person (I or we) others not. You may even have industry-specific spellings to point out. For example, in psychological circles phantasy is perfectly acceptable – because it is something different to fantasy.

As a proofreader, a style sheet is essential. It helps me to know what you wanted for your written material so I can check against it. However, not everyone is confident in producing one and so I can help. This could be a one-off project, looking at your audience(s) and giving recommendations on style, or as a fluid or living document – evolving as we work together on particular projects such as blogs or reports or other regular documents.

So, if you want help to ensure that your website doesn’t organize when your reports organise, why not get in touch?

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert, WordperfectVA.

(*) thus making the last Sunday of October the longest day of the year at 25 hours.