Thursday, February 28, 2008

Email or E-mail?

I remember reading a while back in Jenna Glatzer's Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer that different publications tend to vary in whether they want it spelled internet or Internet (with a capital I).

Today I started wondering which is the generally accepted spelling for email. (I sometimes start wondering about random things like that. How many other writers do that?)

I typically spell the word email, but apparently by AP standards it should be e-mail. There's an interesting discussion about how to spell email on Wikipedia (see? Wikipedia is good for something!):

Spelling of this term is disputed. Many now regard the word "email" as a perfectly valid and formal word in its own right, and regard the abbreviation "e-mail" as anachronistic. The word "email" is recognized as a valid English word in all major dictionaries[citation needed] however the e-mail abbreviation is often still used. Despite the word "email" being used in common English the computer industry and web sites still use multiple variants of the term.

One of the sources sited for this paragraph explains the historical and linguistic reasons for dropping the hyphen:

Newly coined nonce words of English are often spelled with a hyphen, but the hyphen disappears when the words become widely used. For example, people used to write "non-zero'' and "soft-ware'' instead of "nonzero'' and "software''; the same trend has occurred for hundreds of other words. Thus it's high time for everybody to stop using the archaic spelling "e-mail''.

Excited by my little discovery, I also looked up Web site versus website:

Although "website" and "web site" are commonly used (the former especially in British English), the Associated Press Stylebook, Reuters, Microsoft, academia, book publishing, The Chicago Manual of Style, and dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster use the two-word, initially capitalized spelling Web site. This is because "Web" is not a general term but a shortened form of World Wide Web...

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary and the Canadian Press Stylebook list "website" and "web page" as the preferred spellings. The Oxford English Dictionary began using "website" as its standardized form in 2004.

Once again, one of the sources for the paragraph, advice on AskOxford.com, offers justification for the more progressive spelling:

It always takes a little time for new words to settle to a standardized form. Our most recent dictionary, the revised 11th edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, published in July 2004, shows website as the standard form, and future dictionaries will reflect this.

We recommend capital initials for Internet, World Wide Web, the Web, but not for individual sites.

I guess I'm pretty progressive (or just British at heart), because I have been using email and website for pretty much my entire writing career. I agree with the opinion that e-mail and Web site are outdated. Hyphenation is usually only used until a compound word becomes a staple of the English language — for instance, tomorrow used to be to-morrow, and blackbird used to be black-bird.

What about you? Do you prefer the more progressive spellings of email and website, or do you stick with the more traditional spellings of e-mail and Web site?

Off topic again for an update on Rolo

A little over a week ago, I posted about Rolo the German Shepherd, a dog that had been sentenced to death for scratching a woman.

Rolo's owner, Laura Hagan, contested the decision. Rolo was still found guilty of being a "dangerous dog" at his retrial, but — thankfully — his sentencing this time around was much less harsh.

Here's Rolo and Laura's new sentence:

1) Rolo and Laura must continue behavioral training.
2) Laura must have her fences inspected.
3) Laura must keep $100,000 in liability insurance.
4) Laura has a suspended jail sentence of 90 days. "Suspended jail sentence" means that as long as there are no further incidents involving Rolo in the next year, Laura won't serve any time.

I think most of the sentence is fair. The liability insurance is kind of high, but I'm too glad that Rolo was spared to complain too much.

What I think is unfair is the dangerous dog ruling. Once again, I have to say that a dog Rolo's size has the potential to do a lot of damage, and very quickly. If all he did was scratch the woman, that's because he didn't want to do anything worse. And if he didn't want to hurt her, doesn't that mean he's not dangerous?

Unfortunately, I think there are a great many non-dog owners in this world who are very ignorant about dogs. And I think that the jurors probably fell into this category. Many people are afraid of dogs because they understand that they are big, strong, and potentially dangerous animals. What they don't understand is that just because there is a potential there doesn't mean a dog is dangerous.

In fact, doesn't it speak volumes that even though the potential is there — instinct, size, strength, teeth — something in Rolo's nature or training resisted all of those factors, and stopped at merely scratching the woman?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Monday

I almost forgot — I promised in a comment yesterday to blog about my exhausting Monday.

Basically, I started out the day at a disadvantage, as I had stayed up late finishing The White Darkness and didn't get enough sleep. I had a riding lesson with my trainer in the morning and then visited Panama for a little while, which was basically the calm before the storm — the last normal moments of my day.

Just as I was getting ready to leave the stables, my sister called from work to say that she was having bad dizzy spells and felt like she had fluid in her ears. She wanted me to pick her up from work and take her to the doctor's office. To explain the background a little, as a kid and a young teen in gymnastics, my sister suffered a lot from vertigo, so we take it seriously when she has problems with her ears!

It turned out she did indeed have fluid in her ears, but the doctor thought it was because she was getting sick. The dizzy spells, the doctor thinks, were caused by the Sudafed my sister took that morning — it was clearing the congestion out of her ears, which in turn upset her sense of balance.

After leaving the doctor's office, I took my sister to pick up her car, as she hadn't had a dizzy spell in a while and felt safe to drive. I then picked Michael up from work, and headed home at last.

I'd been on the road most of the day, and had had little time to eat. I had a headache from driving so much and from clenching my jaw, something I do when I get stressed out. I also felt inordinately tired from lack of sleep and nourishment: All I'd had to eat was a travel mug of tea and some graham cracker snacks in the morning, and some jelly beans I ate on the way to the doctor's office.

A snack and a walk after we got home made me feel a little better, but I still wasn't feeling great. In fact, I planned to go to bed early, but accidentally got hooked on a book and stayed up late reading. I didn't get any work done, didn't even get to check my email until evening, so today I will need to work extra hard to catch up.

My expanded website

I have decided to make some major changes to my website. Essentially, this meant buying several more domains and upgrading my hosting plan to cover everything. Soon all of my alternate blogs — Reading For Writers, Livre du Jour, my wedding blog, and a new blog I'm starting to market my ebook — will be located at their own domain names, rather than on KatharineSwan.com.

I decided to go this route for several reasons. One, the directory for KatharineSwan.com is simply getting too crowded with all these blogs. Two, I wanted separate domains for everything for marketing purposes. It will certainly benefit my ebooks (both the one I have now and a couple of upcoming titles) if each has its own, easy-to-remember URL.

I'm also having new blog templates designed for a couple of my blogs.

I'm working on the changes now, but for the time being I'm only able to accomplish a little at a time — I still have clients to take care of, after all! I'll release the changes on each blog separately, and let you know as each one is ready to go.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Freelance job search and scheduling

I learned something yesterday about scheduling and my freelance job search.

It seems like most people who give advice to writers suggest trolling the markets at the beginning of every day. I've been doing that since — well, since I started freelancing, and I've always noticed how the job search more often than not eats up most of my day. It's amazing, really, how much time you can spend tweaking your cover letter and finding the appropriate clips for each job ad.

Yesterday I tried something new: Instead of searching for work at the beginning of the day, I searched in the evening. And guess what? It was my most productive day of the entire week. That is to say, it was the only day this week that I reached my minimum goals for the day.

I think working first, and searching for jobs last, works best for me for several reasons:

1) It keeps me from procrastinating.

2) It keeps me from getting that false sense of leisure — you know, that feeling that you have all day when you really don't.

3) It ensures I get the "hardest" work done first. Searching for jobs requires less concentration than "actual" work, and therefore makes more sense to do in the evening, when Michael is home to distract me.

Of course, a significant drawback is that by searching for jobs later in the evening, I may miss out on some opportunities. However, I've never been the early bird type, so all of you peepers who are up at 6:00 and 7:00 in the morning are welcome to the extra worms.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I want one!

I guess I'm a little out of touch, because I had never heard of the Amazon Kindle until tonight. I just happened to check the Amazon.com site, and there it was!

I'm only a big gadget person when it relates to my work or my favorite hobbies, but right now I'm experiencing major gadget lust. I want one of these things so bad!

I do love "real" books, but they have their limits. I like the idea of being able to take one little unit with me when I go places, yet have access to virtually any digital book I want.

Of course, I have to keep the cost in mind... Not only the $399 price tag (ouch!), but also the fact that it would probably cause me to start buying more books than ever, rather than getting most of my reading material at the library as I do now.

Freelance job ads that don't make sense

One of my personal favorites are the job ads that contradict themselves. Take this one, for example:

Manuscript Submission.

XXX is an online publishing house created by writers and artists. We are looking for authors of fiction, children’s literature, political satire and graphic novels.

Our mission is to work individually with authors to distribute their work to a diverse national audience. We are run by artists and strongly believe in the power of literature. To learn more about XXX visit our site at XXX

If you have a finished manuscript and feel you would be a good contributor to our e-book library please submit a resume, cover letter and summary of your story to:

[Contact info removed]

Emailed submissions will NOT be considered. We will contact all authors whose work meets our needs and will request the full manuscript at that time.

An ebook publisher that doesn't accept email submissions. Isn't that rich?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Off Topic: Save Rolo

Sorry I haven't blogged much lately. I have been especially busy lately.

I did want to call everyone's attention to a dog-in-need story in the Denver area. A German shepherd named Rolo has been sentenced to death — wrongly, I think. Evidently he got away from his owner and "attacked" her neighbor, but all that he did was to tear the woman's dress and leave two scratch marks. For this, the courts have ordered him to be put down, but his owner is appealing the decision on February 25th.

I just don't think this is something a dog should be murdered over. He didn't hurt the woman or her child, and he certainly could have — anyone who thinks a ripped dress and two scratches is the worst a dog could do is naive about the strength of a dog's jaws. In other words, if this dog were really dangerous, a couple of scratches would be the least of the neighbor's worries.

A red flag for me is that the neighbor kept adding more "bills" to her restitution claims. If you read the trial transcript, she was claiming $1,327 in restitution, including $500 in physical therapy charges — yet the owner says that her neighbor never showed her any bills to back this up. It sounds to me like the neighbor is being vindictive, trying to milk her "victim" status for all that it's worth.

This story really concerns me. Our white shepherd often nips at the air when she greets new dogs, and plays with her mouth open. She's never harmed another dog and I don't believe she ever would, but what if someone takes a look at those big teeth and decides that she would? Furthermore, I've gotten scratched and had my clothes ripped just from our dogs jumping up on me in greeting.

In other words, this could happen to any dog owner.

I believe that dogs are capable of accidents, just as people are. To put this dog down over a couple of scratches and a ripped dress is an atrocity. Please sign the petition and help to save Rolo from the gallows.

Note: After signing the petition, you will be asked to donate to iPetitions. It's not required. Just hit the back button, scroll to the top of the original petition page, and click the Signatures tab to make sure your signature made it onto the petition.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Does this sound like a "top internet copywriter" to you?

During today's job search, I ran across this strange ad:

Can you write, I mean really write? Does Doing Web Copy Interest You

We are looking for someone to become part of our team to become protege of a top internet copywriter

Do you feel like you could slip into the role of professional copywriter sooo easily, and do it better than most others out there? but your not totally confident yet in your copywriting ability?

Can you integrate the left and right hemispheres of your brain to create copy that's both emotionally persuasive and logically sound?

Good. Then email or call me now David XXX-XXX-XXXX

Does this sound like a "top internet copywriter" to you?

He has problems figuring out title case and basic capitalization, leaves off punctuation, and uses "your" instead of "you're" in the second "paragraph." And I didn't know I could "become protege." That sounds like fun!

What do you want to bet this is a scam of some sort?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Attention writers: Postage increase

Evidently they don't feel they've done this to us enough in the past ten years, so the United States Post Office is raising the price of postage again.

The rate increase is only a penny and won't go into effect until May. Still, writers should keep this in mind — particularly if you query or send submissions via snail mail. Be sure to either use the Forever stamp on SASEs, or use enough postage in case the editor sends it back after May 12th.

If you're like me, you might also want to stock up on Forever stamps in the meantime, which will apparently continue to sell at the current price until the rate change takes place.

Friday, February 08, 2008

More tidbits from the job search

Apparently the Lamborghini guy isn't the only crazy running freelance job ads. This one blows my mind:

Book and Business plan editor

I am in need of someone with experience to edit my book. And also some other things for my business.

No awards for thoroughness, but still, nothing disturbing. That is, until you check out the pay:

Compensation: $15-$20 for book, and $300 for other projects

Fifteen to twenty dollars. To edit an entire book.

I don't even know where to start.

The reason I'm not posting as much

Some of you may have noticed that my posts have been more sporadic in the last couple of weeks.

I'm not going to go into details in order to protect the privacy of my family, but a family member hasn't been well lately. The prognosis is good, but I'm more distracted than usual, so if you notice my blog falling behind during the next few weeks, that's why.

Good advice for writers

I've been getting Steve Slaunwhite's newsletter, For Copywriters Only, for quite a while now, and I wanted to recommend it to my fellow freelancers.

Of course, like any marketing newsletter, it's also a sales pitch — Slaunwhite uses it to market his writing courses. However, he's not pushy about it, and the value of his advice makes it well worth it to be on the mailing list.

For example, two newsletters ago he offered some advice on how to earn more: Charge for the tasks you perform that are related to the client's project, but not really part of the writing. For example, if the client doesn't give you the keywords for their SEO website copy or content articles, quote them a fee for keyword research. Likewise, if the client wants to pick your brain on website design or layout, marketing avenues they could take, etc., charge them for your time as a consultant.

I think these are great ideas, and make a really important point: Writers often view these things as part of the writing process, when in actuality, they are services that other companies out there are charging for. So rather than doing them for free, or refusing to do them at all and sending your client's money elsewhere, take advantage of the opportunity to earn a little more per project.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A great big caucus

Michael and I attended our precinct's Democratic caucus last night. It was a first for both of us, and quite an experience!

The caucus was pretty crowded, and even a little rowdy at times: Several precincts met in the same place, and there was (according to the regulars) ten times the usual turnout.

There was one guy (in our precinct, unfortunately) who took to yelling cheers for Obama over the crowd's chatter before the meeting started — all that was missing was a little bleacher-stomping.

Then there was the guy — also in our precinct — whose ravings on Clinton's behalf actually convinced all of the undecided voters to go over to the Obama side.

All of the precincts at our meeting seemed to be overwhelmingly in support of Obama. Our precinct voted for him at a 2-to-1 ratio, which turned out to be representative of Colorado as a whole.

Overall it was an interesting and satisfying experience. I plan to be at least this involved in the next election, too.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Weird freelance jobs ads

I searched for jobs today for the first time in almost a year. I'd forgotten what weird ads you find sometimes, especially on Craigslist! Check this one out:

Writer needed

I need a writer to write a short story about me driving in a lamborghini with the top down eating tons of food, with a hot naked girl. if you are interested, please send me a short sample of your writing. please write a couple paragraphs about me driving in a lamborghini with the top down eating tons of food with a naked girl. If i like what you send i will commission you to write the full piece. about ten to twenty pages. i will pay twenty dollars per page.

My first reaction is something along the lines of "WTF?!"

My next thought is to wonder why any believeable character would be stuffing his face when he's driving a hot naked girl around town.

And finally, how do you get 20 pages out of this? Maybe if the cops pull him over for indecent exposure (on the girl's part, of course). That might make a fun story. If I didn't have good reason to doubt that this is a real gig (who pays $200 to $400 for a nonsense story like this?), I might actually write it.

Back to the job search

My workload has dropped significantly in recent weeks, so I've had to start searching for jobs again.

For the first year or so of my freelance career, I searched for freelance work every day without fail. Then almost a year ago, I got to the point where I had so much work that I had no time to search for jobs. Between my regular clients, a handful or so of new clients who found me via my website, and the occasional job search, I was able to sustain my workload and my income over a period of more than 9 months.

Unfortunately, my workload has dried up a little lately: One of my regular clients no longer needs me, and another has gone MIA. So today I hit the job boards with the intention of once again making this a daily task.

I also decided to make some changes to my approach to searching for jobs. For one thing, I decided to revamp my cover letter — I had made some changes here and there since I started freelancing, but for all intents and purposes I was working off a two-year-old model.

I also decided to apply for fewer jobs, but to spend more time on each cover letter. I used to use copy and paste to (quickly) send my cover letter and resume to pretty much every freelance gig I could find. However, I have so much more experience now that I'm going to be a little choosier — and spend a little more time customizing my cover letters — than I used to.

My goal is to find a couple more regular clients, and maybe a few one-off jobs to jump start my workload in the meantime. Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I've gone minimialist!

Well, kind of.

Michael and I have gotten into spring cleaning mode, probably as a combination of three factors:

1. I discovered Freecycle.org.

2. We live in an older house with small closets and not a whole lot of storage space.

3. We own so much crap that it has started to weigh on me.

Last night I finally pulled some books off my bookshelves that I've been wanting to get rid off. I then rearranged my books and made some room on my office shelves for some books I've been wanting to bring up from the basement.

Between last night and today, I culled about two-thirds of my clothes. Michael's also picked out a bunch of clothes to get rid of. I'm about to inventory everything and organize it into donations to local charities. I've also listed a few things on Freecycle.org.

I have actually been tempted to do this for a while; I think it was Freecycle.org that finally tipped the scales. It's amazingly liberating to get rid of stuff, as if I've been carrying all of my possessions around on my back. Especially my clothes. Fashion, smashion. I have a horse, for crying out loud — if it's not practical, I don't need it!


We had some weird weather in Denver tonight: "thundersnow."

When Michael and I arrived home from grocery shopping, it was starting to flurry. About twenty minutes later, while I was sitting at my desk, there was a weird flash outside. While I was still trying to figure out what it was, thunder rattled the house.

We had maybe half a dozen more flashes of lightning. It was really weird lightning, silent and quick but extraordinarily bright. Grace, our rescue dog, was an absolute wreck, pacing and making a beeline for the nearest hiding place at each flash of lightning. (Have you ever seen an 85-pound shepherd try to get behind a bookcase? It's quite a sight!)

Anyway, the final flash was even brighter than all the rest, and the answering thunder was long and particularly lusty. Michael and I both remarked how close it was.

Later this evening, we found this story on one of the local news stations' websites:

House Struck by Lightning

The first article claims that "thundersnow" only happens a couple of times a year in Denver. Ha! I don't think I've ever seen it happen, and Michael hasn't either.

What a weird night!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Free stuff for writers on Freecycle.org

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered Freecycle.org, a really cool site where you can get other people's unwanted stuff for free. Each individual area has its own Yahoo! group, and once you've signed up you get emails every time someone is giving something away (or looking for something).

It means I have to weed through a lot more emails, but today all that "work" paid off: I got a free HP printer.

I needed a dedicated business printer. Although I was really the only one using the "family" printer, I'd much rather have one that is used solely for my work. I've been contemplating buying one for months, but last night I spotted a rather nice printer that was being offered on Freecycle.

Here it is: the HP deskjet 6122. The lady who was giving it away thought it needed ink, but when I installed it I saw that the ink cartridges are both nearly full. This printer cleans the ink cartridges for you, so I ran through that process about four times. It still doesn't print perfectly, but it does well enough to hold off on replacing the cartridges.

I feel like a kid at Christmas. I'm so tickled with my free printer that I keep looking for a reason to use it. On a more serious note, though, I highly recommend Freecycle.org — I see a lot of printers, computer monitors, and other things freelance writers might find useful. As I said, it makes for a lot of emails, but it's well worth it in the long run!


Popular Posts