Time to Tilt

I remember an exercise in self-inquiry I participated in once that asked “What is the title of your dream job?” My response: world benefactor. The job description is still a work in progress. As a natural-born writer trained in the law, I turned to freelance editing while my children were young, so I could work around their schedules and be able as I could to act as a community “safety net.” I feel fortunate to be able to do what I love – helping other writers get their message out there as clearly as possible – while also being the go-to person when a sick child (or spouse) needs care at home, or the school needs a field-trip chaperone, or a friend’s car breaks down and she needs a ride. I also believe that my family’s carbon footprint is a lot less than it would be had I commuted to work instead of working from home for over a decade, and I can feel good about that. That said, I must admit there have been times in my working life when I have felt like the Pinball Wizard’s silver ball, being bounced around the machine by the flipper-fingers of forces beyond my control. Running one’s own business represents an American dream of freedom, yet at the same time, when one has no backup personnel, one may never truly be free.

Such is life.

If I had to choose one drawback to being the perennial independent contractor, aside from the lack of employment benefits, it would be a feeling of being disconnected from a sense of community attached to the work I do for pay. My children are nearly grown now, I am no longer on the front lines of their lives; and I find myself with time to evaluate where I am in terms of my career. In a quest to illuminate my path forward, I recently became certified as a hatha yoga teacher and have been taking advantage of opportunities to teach in local studios. Regular yoga practice helps me feel more grounded and hopeful as I move through my days – I highly recommend it to anyone – and teaching offers me even deeper benefits. It is clear to me that my motivation stems from a desire to be of service in an organization that has a mission greater than simply growing the company for profit (as important as that is). It is time to tilt the machine and aim the ball at that highest score.

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Champions of baseball 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Red Sox are the 2013 World Series champions!! It was great to see them win the title so decisively, at Fenway for the first time in 95 years. My grandfather, Bill Doonan, who loved the Sox, was 14 the last time they did it, and it was the only World Series win he saw in his lifetime. I had to wait four decades to see them win it. Consider that Red Sox fans who are only 11 years old today have seen their team win the World Series three times in their lifetimes. The team spirit this year has been a joy to be part of, considering they ended last season dead last in the league. The Red Sox, unlike the Yankees, allow players to wear beards, and just before the season started a few players (Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Dustin Pedroia are given credit) decided not to shave. The idea took hold that if “playoff beards” can work for the Boston Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2011 for the first time in 39 years, it could work in baseball too. The Sox started winning games, and pretty soon the rest of the players grew in their beards (as best they could, in some cases). Just as each player has his own unique personality, so each beard had a very distinctively style, and a game went up on the official Red Sox website where you could match the silhouette of the beard to its owner. Fans caught the wave and started to wear beards both real and fake, and by the time of the Series fake beards appeared on everything: buses, Wally the Green Monster, and even the venerable statue of Paul Revere! “Fear the beard!” was the slogan. It’s been a great gimmick and a lot of fun. I noticed that during games the crowd spontaneously sang the chorus from Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” possibly in response to a prompt from the PA (“Don’t worry about a thing”). It was a new thing to me, and I think it is wonderful. It seems to me “every little thing is gonna be alright” is a great pick-me-up for a team, and a good attitude for the community, and us all, to have.


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Ante vs. Anti – homophones possibly, but not necessarily synonyms

What I find interesting about the words “ante” and “anti” is that, in addition to acting as a prefix, each of them can stand alone. Although they may often sound the same and be confused one for the other, the two words do not have similar meanings, and they do not share the same root. According to the Webster’s New World Dictionary, “ante” is of Latin derivation and when used as a prefix means “before,” usually paired with other words denoting a particular time, event or physical space. For example: “antebellum” (adj. meaning “before the war” and used specifically to refer to the period of history before the American Civil War); “antediluvian” (adj. “before the flood,” used to refer to the period of history prior to the Biblical Flood or to something that is very old); “antechamber” (n. a smaller room leading into a larger or main room); and “antemortem” (adj. “before death”). As a standalone word, “ante” refers to the stake that each player must put into the pot before receiving cards, or to the act of putting that stake in.

“Anti,” on the other hand, is of Greek origin and when used as a prefix means “against,” as in “antiaircraft,” “antibacterial,” “antislavery,” and “antitoxin.” Standing alone, it refers to a person who is against a certain action, idea, etc., although personally I have never seen or heard the word anti used as a noun.

Keeping in mind the meanings of these two words may be of use to you when it comes time to remember how to spell any word that has the sounds “an – tee” in it. Unless you are referring to the honorific of a female relation who is a sibling of your mother or father, in which case you need to remember a third word which can act as a homophone of these two: “Auntie.”

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Price on Your Head

Recently there has been a discussion on one of the LinkedIn groups I belong to, concerning professionalism in the editing business and its effect on the cost of editing services.

The original poster asked for advice on how to quote a price to a prospective client. There were dozens of responses, with several opinions offered as to whether an hourly rate versus a page or project rate were optimum tools, the importance of assessing a sample of the writing to be edited before attempting to formulate a quote, and getting important terms in writing while leaving oneself room to allow for unforeseen occurrences which could have a negative impact on the editor’s work and bottom line.

One longtime and very vocal member chided another for charging a very modest hourly rate for her work, saying that catering to “starving authors,” while well-intentioned, belittles the importance of editing as a profession, and makes it more difficult for those editors who depend on their businesses as their sole sources of income to garner a livable wage.

My opinion is that every market deserves to be served. There are commercial farmers who are able to provide a large swath of the population with food, backyard gardeners who share their abundance with neighbors, and the folks with a single pot that puts fresh tomatoes in their family’s salad for a couple of weeks. There is room in the garden for all of us.


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Sample letter of notice to current tenant of increase in rent

The following is a letter I wrote for a landlord client, presented here as a sample of my work.





We hope this note finds you well and enjoying this long-awaited spring weather. As you are aware, your lease of the above property expires on July 31, 2013. While under the lease each party has 30 days to give the other notice of intent whether or not to renew the lease, we are extending you the courtesy of early notice of an increase in rent as follows:

As of August 1, 2013, the monthly rental payment under the lease for the above property will be $1,425, which reflects a modest increase of 3%.

This letter is merely notice to you of the increase in rent. Renewal of the lease will be contingent upon your giving us 30 days’ written notice that you intend to renew; performance by us of an inspection of the home no later than the 24th of July for purposes of updating the statement of condition and the addressing by the relevant party of any items needing maintenance or repair; and the signing of a new written lease by both parties on or a few days before July 31. At this time, we do not anticipate any other substantive change to the lease terms. We hope that you have settled into the home and the neighborhood.

Please indicate your intent below to renew the lease by signing and sending back one copy of this letter in the self-addressed, stamped envelope provided, as soon as possible, but no later than July 1, 2013:

[ ] We acknowledge the rent increase and intend to renew the lease.
The following are potential dates that we would be available for a home
inspection: __________________________________________________________________

[ ] We do not intend to renew the lease and will be vacating the home per the
current lease terms.

________________________________________ _______________________________________

Please use the back of this letter to let us know of any items in the home of which you are aware that need to be addressed. If you are aware of none, please indicate that as well.

Thank you very much for your time.



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nonprofessional vs. unprofessional

Noun vs. adjective: A nonprofessional may still give a professional performance, while an unprofessional person does not.
Webster’s New World College Dictionary provides a very helpful list of compound words formed with non- that do not have special meanings and thus “will be understood if ‘not’ is used before the meaning of the base word.” In case you were wondering, the dictionary also states that “a hyphen may be used after ‘non-‘ and is generally used when the base word begins with a capital letter. However, you’d better check with the applicable style guide to see if hyphens are preferred or not in the work you are reviewing.

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“fewer” vs. “less”

The word “fewer” is correct when describing an amount of discrete items, or items which may be individually counted, where the number of items has decreased from a previous measurement. “Less” is used when what is being measured is not inherently divisible but has decreased in general. Examples:

Fewer hours equals less time.
Fewer dollars equals less money.
Fewer horses equals less power.
Fewer grains equals less sand.
Fewer gallons equals less water.

Can you think of other examples?

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A Trip Down the Stairs

One day, when I was four or five years old, my mother accidentally knocked over a large jar of bright-colored plastic beads she had used for decorating Christmas ornaments. The jar had been left on the kitchen floor, in front of the open basement door. The tiny, shiny circles poured like shot down the wooden cellar-stairs with a sound like thundering rain that quickly dwindled to droplets. I saw the look on my mother’s face, and I realized that I could make things right by gathering the beads and putting them back in the jar as they were supposed to be. Eagerly, I leaped onto the top step, oblivious to the fact that a bead-covered step does not provide the greatest traction. I heard my mother shout a warning and felt her grab for me as my legs shot out from under my body. I sat down hard and felt myself rushing downward, carried like a leaf on a roaring stream, the beads like wheels under me. I scrabbled wildly and tried to brake with my feet but was helpless to stop, and I found myself flying headfirst underneath the board handrail toward the cement floor. I did a somersault in the air and landed on my back, the wind knocked out of me. I had gotten a pretty good knock on the head, but what I felt most keenly was embarrassment at having been brought down by the beads, so I stayed quiet, splayed out on the floor, gathering my wits. My mother hurried as carefully as she could down the stairs, calling my name. She told me later that her father had taught her that if a child cries when he falls, it means he wasn’t seriously injured, so my abashed silence after I hit the floor had frightened her. I hadn’t felt entitled to cry. I hadn’t been able to help.


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I come to be served.

Folks, the phrase is “first come, first served,” as it is shorthand for “those who get there first will be the first to be served.” I understand that the closing “d” may be dropped by people who have only heard this spoken aloud, so I would like to set the record straight.

Come first, get served first.

I suggest adding hyphens when the phrase is used as an adjective: Tickets will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

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country or pepper?

In case it has ever bothered you, as it has me, to see the word “chili” spelled “chile” when referring to the pepper, take comfort in the knowledge that, while “Chile” is the single correct spelling of that country’s name, Webster’s New College Dictionary says that the word referring to the pepper is acceptable with either spelling.

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