Grammar, Usage and Style – After Deadline Blog – NYTimes.com

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This is a great resource for keeping up with grammar, usage and style. I like it for its real-world examples of common mistakes and awkward usage. It’s a great way to spend five or ten minutes every day enhancing your craft.

After Deadline examines questions of grammar, usage and style encountered by writers and editors of The Times. It is adapted from a weekly newsroom critique overseen by Philip B. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards, who is also in charge of The Times’s style manual.

Source: Grammar, Usage and Style – After Deadline Blog – NYTimes.com

The World’s First Full HD 360° Camera

This looks like a great idea! And the Kickstarter that originally kicked it off was funded and they now have the product for sale. It’s $499 as of this post.

I’m seriously hmmm-ing about this one. Hmmm… :)

PopClip for Mac Will Save You Tons of Time

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I recently started using a new paid system add-on called Pop Clip which saves me tons of time as I work in every application. A little menu appears whenever you select text and gives you access to your top desired actions to perform on that selected text. You just set it up and off you go. 

They have over 100 actions you can install to customize your workflow and needs. You can copy & paste, and access actions like search, spelling, dictionary and even post to-dos to your to-do app or Evernote or updates to social media.

I’ve added some of the typographic changes I’m always making plus connections to Todoist and Evernote and that alone has saved me hours. They connect to a lots of other apps and social media services as well. If you spend just a little time configuring it, you will absolutely save a ton of time and lower your workflow stress.

Note: It does take a little getting used to if you’re used to using keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste. It can feel like the interface is getting in your way, but after I accepted the pop-up offers for copy and paste, it actually improved my speed and overall workflow.

It costs $4.99 and is well worth every penny.

Here’s a screenshot of the few additions I’ve added so far to give you an idea:

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You can see a complete list of extensions here.

Got questions about it? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be glad to answer.

Source: PopClip for Mac

Faster is Not Better, It’s Just Crappier

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I was reading a post today by a man selling a new book on using your mind and developing super awareness. There’s an irony headed your way. Can you tell?

As I read each paragraph, all was well. I was learning about various ways I could improve my mind and increase productivity. I learned that most of us are just mental slobs, barely slogging our way through life, mostly unconscious and missing everything.

But I also learned that this is OK.

We can change!

We have the power to become super aware and this book details it all in detailed detailing with extra detail.

Well, I can tell you I was getting a little excited at this point. I was thinking, yeah, bring this book on! I think I’ll buy that. I need super awareness yesterday. I think I’ll get the wallet out.

And then…

Bang!

I hit a sentence that made absolutely no sense and I was no longer interested.

It was a simple mistake. A word was missing. A simple typo; the sort of thing that happens to all of us all the time. The only problem was that I saw it first. The typo had made it to the published page.

I’d been dreaming the dream of the writer and following his every word. I’d been riding on the mind highway he’d created and it seemed smoothly paved and we were going places.

And then, suddenly, we hit a solid wall and I was lost and the dream was gone. I immediately left the page, went over to my blog and started writing instead of reading.

What the Author Lost

Notice all the things the writer wanted from me which are not happening:

  1. I did not keep reading.
  2. I did not go buy the book.
  3. I did not learn the author’s final point.
  4. I did not find myself trusting the author.

And I was also driven to such distraction that it pushed me into the stratosphere of meta-cognition where I began thinking about ALL the various examples of crappy writing out there that seem to be multiplying as we push on down the road of instant, global publishing from your pocket.

Every time this happens I get to notice how I reach a certain point, a certain threshold of ignoring errors and bad grammar. After 4 or 5  errors, my evaluation system kicks in and I start suspecting I’ve picked up some crap. A couple more errors and that’s it, I am done and gone. I have labeled the author a hack, or at least a time waster and someone to avoid in the future.

It seems the modern pressure to produce material quickly has helped justify the publishing of unproofread work.

Don’t fall prey to the pressure. Crappy really isn’t good enough. Eighty percent really isn’t good enough when it comes to spelling and grammar and proofreading in general. And if you can’t tell, hire an editor!

Here’s The Opportunity

The real damage happens when you break the spell you’re weaving in the reader’s mind. The road between your mind and the reader’s must be smooth and uninterrupted by the potholes of bad grammar and typos if you hope to transmit your message successfully.

Even a single pothole is enough to drive your reader into a brick wall and stun them into never coming back.

And they’re certainly not going to buy what you’re selling. So if you think it’s safe to publish crappy sales letters and unedited educational marketing materials, by all means, carry on! Less competition is OK by me.

Some will say I’m dumb and this extra effort is not worth the trouble in this fast-paced age of instant-on and gimme-now knowledge. “You know what I meant!” cries the lazy writer. And to those folk, I say keep on keepin’ on. I’ll avoid you and you’ll avoid me. Good to go.

But for the rest of us, we who want to create excellent work that stands the test of time, we can make our work better and better with a commitment to focused proofreading and awareness. We’ll succeed where others are eventually run down by the typo bus and forgotten—trash on the byways of excellence.

Lastly, if you’re selling super awareness and your work is filled with typos, I must say I’m a little concerned. I’m not so sure I need to buy any of what you’re selling. In fact, I think I might have an awareness book I’d like to sell you!

Boilerplate Instructions, Bane of Modern Software

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I bought a new theme to install for a client this week.

Normally, installing a theme is simple. Select theme, upload, install, done.

Unless the theme maker has decided to deviate from the standard protocols that we all know and love and which we have been happily following for years.

At that point all bets are off. Basically, the only choice now is to open their documentation and start reading their instructions line by line and following every micro-directive verbatim.

That is, assuming they have actually bothered to tell you what each little step is.

But no, in this case they just told me in generic terms to do what I had already done; the same thing that had already failed miserably.

“Go to the Appearances menu and upload your new theme.” they say.

Boilerplate instructions.

Fail.

Now what?

Oh, yeah, figure it out for myself!

Talk about lazy and thoughtless. Not a great combo!

They didn’t even bother to test their own theme and discover that,

…Oh wait, we packaged it in such a way that the theme is named something completely different from what most people will expect and it’s also buried in a series of subfolders along with another thing that’s called a child theme and you’re just supposed to know that you don’t actually have to use the child theme, but if you do, you’ll need to install that first and then…

WTF!?

Here’s the opportunity…

Test your instructions exhaustively and triple-check your documentation!

Having clear, excellent instructions that actually work is just as important as having a great product.

Junk instructions could cause someone to mistake your product for junk since it’s likely they’ll fail to get it to work as intended.

And then they might just ask for a refund.

Aha, instructions just became as valuable as the product itself!

Funny how that works.

 

Photo by Seth Anderson – CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0