Tag Archives: punctuation

It Takes A Tribe

What’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys?

Speaking before a tribe of writers!

See you in Colorado Springs May 2-5…


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Teed off

If you don’t know what’s wrong with this picture (or rather, T-shirt) and you intend to write

—a literary masterpiece or a letter to Grandma—you need an editor.

Call me.dumb

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Living Your Dash

As I try to wrap my head around the loss of my friend and mentor, former publisher Carolyn Hayes Uber, and attempt to describe her influence, her persona, her life, I am struck by a remark I heard just today that helps put everything in perspective. And the fact that this remark mentions a common editing term (the dash), is serendipitous. Carolyn would be tickled.

abyssIn the documentary Into the Abyss, director Werner Herzog interviews Fred Allen, who explains his role in executions as the former captain of the Death House team at the Polunsky prison unit in Livingston, Texas. Allen is clearly conflicted (eventually resigning his post), as he sees the lives of inmates reduced to numbers: 1954 – 2011, for example. He realizes and explains, quite eloquently, that our lives are not reflected in a birthdate or date of passing, but the dash in between. (Granted, it’s really a hyphen, but I’m not here to edit today.) Mr. Allen then asks, How are you going to live your dash?

Which brings me back to Carolyn, who lived her dash with courage and strength and humor and love. So for Carolyn and my father and my “adopted” mother Patricia and other dear friends who are no longer here, I will live my dash, really live it… bravely, respectfully, happily. I hope you will, too.



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COWG If you’re in Central Oregon mid-August … love to see you!




For more details about the workshop, or COWG, visit their website:


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It’s a Dangerous Job …

Now you know when I say I’m getting a new piece … or working on a magazine , I mean of the Smith and Wesson kind. A big thanks to the clever writing at the ONION.

4 Copy Editors Killed In Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence

(New York) Law enforcement officials confirmed Friday that four more copy editors were killed this week amid ongoing violence between two rival gangs divided by their loyalties to the The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual Of Style.

“At this time we have reason to believe the killings were gang-related and carried out by adherents of both the AP and Chicago styles, part of a vicious, bloody feud to establish control over the grammar and usage guidelines governing American English,” said FBI spokesman Paul Holstein, showing reporters graffiti tags in which the word “anti-social” had been corrected to read “antisocial.” “The deadly territory dispute between these two organizations, as well as the notorious MLA Handbook gang, has claimed the lives of more than 63 publishing professionals this year alone.”

Officials also stated that an innocent 35-year-old passerby who found himself caught up in a long-winded dispute over use of the serial, or Oxford, comma had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

For the original ONION story:


(Photo courtesy of Arvind Grover

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Holy Tweet!

Once again, my world is turned upside down (or for those of you sticklers who insist we cannot end sentences with prepositions … once again, upside down is my world).

At first, I only wrote stories on yellow-lined legal pads of paper and only read books the old-fashioned way – in print, in hardcover. I listened to CDs on a walkman. I had an answering machine. I had a vcr.

But I was determined not to be left behind, so I jumped on the bandwagon – moving slowly from desktop to laptop, from pc to MAC. I went from voicemail to email to text; from flip phone to iPhone. I got an iPod, a DVD player, a scanner!

I joined Facebook, set up a website, started a blog!

I was on a twenty-first century roll. And then I thought – this is enough. I could do my editing, share my thoughts, make friends, be happy. I didn’t need Twitter.  That’s for those young punks.pope

And then I read that the Pope sent out a tweet (in seven languages, no less) on his iPad (@Pontifex – in case you’re interested). He has a million followers already.

I’ll never catch up.


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I’m not full of …


I often work myself into contortions trying to stress the importance of proper punctuation … but sometimes all it takes is an example so succinct that the point is driven home without so much as a deep knee bend.

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I’m a COWGirl…

If you’ll be in the Bend/Redmond, Oregon neighborhood next month,  I’m giving a workshop on writing for the Central Oregon Writers’ Guild and invite you to attend! To learn more about the workshop or COWG, click here:

Avoiding the Slush Pile: Editing Tips to Make Your Manuscript More Marketable

Central Oregon Writers Guild
Saturday Workshop
Avoiding the Slush Pile: Editing Tips to
Make Your Manuscript More Marketable.
A Hand-on Techniques workshop
With Red Pen Girl Editor, Jami Carpenter
When: Saturday, April 21, 9:30-12:30
Location: COCC Redmond Campus, 2030 SE College Loop,
                 Building 3, Room 306
Cost: $10 for Guild members, $15 for nonmembers.
          Tickets at the door.
Even the most accomplished authors struggle with some aspect of their writing, whether it’s following the rules of grammar, punctuation, and formatting or creating the most captivating opening to catch the attention of publishers. “Redpengirl” Jami Carpenter will reveal the most common, ghastly, and humorous errors she’s encountered as a professional editor and ghostwriter, as well as provide suggestions and solutions to help writers keep their manuscripts from ending up in the “round file.”

The three-hour workshop will include hands-on activities designed to incorporate the tips and techniques introduced. Participants are encouraged to bring five copies of their own “first two pages” for review and recommendations, and of course, their own red pens!

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What a character!

One of the most difficult tasks in writing is developing believable characters that readers will identify with … relate to … love or hate … but never ignore. Whether on screen or in print, the trick is to invoke a viewer/reader’s response: “I know a guy like that!”

A key component to creating believability is actually using characteristics from real people, or creating composites by blending personality traits of friends, family, even acquaintances. Nothing says a writer needs to replicate an individual in his or her entirety (unless, of course, the work is a biography or memoir). Little kernels of truth can go a long way.

Cartoon characters, too, are often modeled after — and demonstrate — the quirks and idiosyncrasies (or idiocies) of humans — common folks as well as celebrities. But now the question is, as evidenced by the images my brother sent me, which came first: the “lady” or the “panda”?

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An Article about Alliterations

I’ll admit it – I’m an alliteration addict. I relish the use of repetitive sounds in a string of words like a snake slithers sideways.

I spend way too much time thinking of ways to sign off on an email or create a Facebook post with cheesy phrases like, “Your Favorite Funny Friend,” or “Terribly Tired of Thinking,” or “Wicked Weather Wipes out Wisconsin.” You get the point.

Wait a minute. What is the point of an alliteration? To irritate the hell out of the reader? Not really. To impress others with our cleverness? Doubtful.

Headlines are famous for them; having only a limited number of words and space, an alliteration is effective in getting our attention: Duchess Dons Daring Dress, Haunting Halloween Hideaways, Police Provide Prince Protection.

Alliterations can be fun, too, commonly known as tongue-twisters: she sells seashells by the seashore; Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

The real question is, should writers avoid the caustic or cutesy communications? Not necessarily. In moderation or for a specific purpose, the technique can be a great way to infuse humor or drama in a manuscript. But beware, too much of a good thing can be well … annoying, aggravating, and absolutely awful.


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