The Naked Writer: Job Role/Relationship Role

My students, bless them, are my source of writing goofs. They very much want to write—so how did they wind up making this many mistakes? Well, not every one of them makes the same mistakes, but a lot of them make particular ones… I think (a) they sleep-walked through some of their high school classes, and/or (b) their teachers, not knowing any better themselves, didn’t instruct them properly.

I believe the second is what happened to me. And I actually worked as a writer and editor for many years before learning certain style standards. Yes. I think teaching at all levels is hit and miss, and when language and punctuation rules are missed, our common culture ends up with a mishmash in books and publications.

The one advantage I had in grade school was that we learned to diagram sentences. That was a big plus. But a big minus was a lack of training in mechanics. Mechanics means all those (mostly) mechanical actions we take such as putting a period at the end of a sentence or punctuating dialogue.

Mechanics, though mostly mechanical, can still leave a certain amount of room for decision, and not all decision guidelines in regard to mechanics and style are that clear. They require a knowledge base, but also a logical putting of two and two together as well as an educated ear for how punctuation and other elements sound on the page.

So if some editor—maybe me—has perhaps marked up your manuscript, don’t feel inadequate. Writing is an art form like any other, and we always have to be in the process of upgrading our skills. Just go right ahead and upgrade.

The particular subject I had in mind today was, as I say in the title, the question of job roles and relationship roles. The difficulty many students and clients encounter is that they don’t know which job titles and relationship titles to capitalize. The answer is actually a simple one, but even then isn’t always followed.

In reading an article in a major magazine, I was appalled by a certain set of errors. And I hadn’t too long before read a piece by the copy editor at that publication telling how carefully she applies the rules. Well, if this editor was applying house style, the style for the publication is an odd one.

The magazine piece I’m referring to capitalized both President and Presidential. The commonly accepted rule, however, is that we don’t capitalize job roles. We would say: “The president gave a speech tonight. Though he may sometimes try to sound presidential, this evening he was off the mark.”

We don’t capitalize “president,” unless the word is used as part of a name or as a name. Here’s an example:
Hoover, elected president in 1928, later presided over the country’s deepest-ever economic depression. Though painted as cruel and uncaring, President Hoover made efforts to aid business, farming, and the unemployed.

Naturally, if this is the case for “president,” the same rule applies to other offices, from generals to justices of the Supreme Court.

“Excuse me, General, but you’re wanted at the White House.” The colonel was happy to see the general go.

John Jay served as chief justice of the Supreme Court until he was elected governor of New York and then resigned from the court. Chief Justice John Marshall died in office.

Similarly, relationship roles aren’t capitalized unless they’re part of a name or used as a name.

I asked Mother not to come to my graduation as the event would be tiring for her. I told the guys in advance that my mother wasn’t coming, but that I’d asked Uncle Steven, who would enjoy going to lunch with us. He was my favorite uncle and a very cool guy.

I think that’s clear and easy to follow, but for questions, email me: GMikiH@yahoo.com. Or download the Kindle version of my style and composition guide, The Naked Writer at Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Naked-Writer-G-Miki-Hayden-ebook/dp/B019PUPZN2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1490930021&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Naked+Writer+by+G.+Miki+Hayden

Or take a class with me at Writer’s Digest University.

The Naked Writer: Job Role/Relationship Role

The Naked Writer

Paragraphing—Yes, You Heard Me

I wouldn’t think paragraphing could be a mysterious business, but apparently so.

I wish I had an electronic rubber stamp that said, “Break your paragraphs,” because writers need to do exactly that. My students, in particular, need to do just that.

Strangely, a 250-word paragraph is not too inviting to readers. Well, let me mention here that the length of a page in print is traditionally considered to be 250 words. How good does a page look without a paragraph break? Such a page looks…bad. It looks intimidating. It looks unreadable. It looks grey. Such a page has no white space.

Oh, and I’ve seen much longer paragraphs—350 words, say… That’s solid print.

Break your paragraphs.

Break your paragraphs for each new speaker. But you know that. However, a recent student of mine apparently missed that day in school.

We’re trying to help our readers read. Break your paragraphs.

And then again, where should we break a paragraph, other than for each different speaker?

Oh, you’ll find plenty of opportunities. Trust me on that. You can break a paragraph with a change of subject, or…when a break seems reasonable. Reasonable is good enough because we want to break our paragraphs and have a page with some white space, a page that attracts the reader.

Break and perhaps give some transition at the start of the new paragraph.

Short paragraphs say: Read me. I won’t bog you down or ask more of you than you’re willing to give.

I wonder about writers who don’t care what the reader thinks or about the burden being put on the reader. Does narcissism impress? Sometimes, it does. But generally speaking, good writing manners count.

Break your paragraphs.

Want to know more about writing style and composition? https://www.facebook.com/GMikiH1/  http://www.gmikihayden.com

http://www.amazon.com/Naked-Writer-G-Miki-Hayden-ebook/dp/B019PUPZN2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456114006&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Naked+Writer+by+G.+Miki+Hayden

 

The Naked Writer