26 May 2010

GOOGLE (say 'goohguhl) (googled, googling) 1. to search for information on the internet 3. an instance of such a search: 'to have a little google'

Sometimes editing is a soaring occupation.
Some days it's all about big picture, blue sky and game plan. It's about motivation and reaction and resolution. It's about keeping secrets or making revelations, about staying or going, about love and hate and life and death.*

At other times it's all about the small stuff, the cellular level, the minutiae. It's the pebble, the pin head, the grain of sand.

I think Grover really explains this polarity best.

Today we're going to talk about 'near'.

The saying 'Don't sweat the small stuff' was not coined by an editor.

It's not just the commas and the apostrophes and the full stops; it's the small details in the fabric of the story that can make the difference between the reader believing or losing faith.

BUT, contrary to popular opinion, editing does not require a vast and all-encompassing knowledge of all the small stuff that has ever been, will be and is, so that the editor is able to spot a mistake at 50 paces.

Good editing is far more about developing a nose for when something might be wrong, so you can look it up. It's the equivalent to having what my grandad called a good 'bump of direction' and so always being able to find your way home.

If you have a good 'bump of mistaken' then all you need are good tools of the trade. We have many that we have a deep and abiding love for - the Macquarie Dictionary**, Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Urban Dictionary, the Style Manual, The Elements of Style (Strunk & White) to name a couple more than a few - but the touchstone resource for editors in the House of Onion is, we have to admit, Google.

We love Google. We use it every day. Many times a day.

But you do have to know how to use it. Good googling is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.***

A quick glance at the questions that have driven the denizens of the House of Onion to Google recently gives you a pretty good snapshot of what an editor does on a 'near' day, when we are sweating the small stuff. (As usual, some Onions have been unable to resist annotating their responses.)

- Did Subaru make a 2-door hatchback in the early eighties?

- Which stations are on the Sydney-Bathurst train line?

- What was the name of the Yardbirds song about daises and when was it released?

- Chromosomes

- What's the word for people who are both male and female (temporarily forgotten).

- Whether aforementioned people are scientifically referred to as 'freaks' on a chromosome-y level, or whether this descriptor is totally inappropriate.

- What is a pie floater and which states is it popular in?

- Would 'strong, silent type' ever have a hyphen? (Leading to: 'do women like dangerous men, or the silent type of guy'? and 'Dating the strong, silent type'. Hmm, useful.)

- Should 'Boathouse' be capitalised if you don't put 'Fairfield' in front of it? (Leading to: ooh I really ought to go there for lunch soon, and ooh perhaps I'll just email my entire family and suggest this.)

- How is water used in a nuclear reactor?

- What are cream scones?

- Do Burgher Sri Lankans have blue eyes?

- Did people in the Middle Ages refer to 'hours' even though they couldn't measure time?

- What time is the Cats game on the weekend and which network is broadcasting it?****

And answers? Google did provide. So, while we're sometimes a little uneasy about your plans (*whispers*) for world domination, for the time being, Google, we like you, very much. Just as you are.

* And sometimes it's about doing a little happy dance in a colleague's office because a resolution suggested to an author about a particularly troublesome plot point has been received with appreciated warmth.
** Thanks, Macquarie, for supplying the title of today's post.
*** Bad Googling leads you up the garden path and abandons you by the duck pond.
**** We concede this one may not actually be a book-related Google query, however it is not beyond the realm of possibility that we might one day have to Google: What was the date of the 2007 Grand Final in which the Cats triumphed over Port Adelaide by the biggest margin in VFL/AFL history.

1 comment:

bruno! said...

New Game: Google Image Search an animal & a mode of transport, then check for results. √ Alligator on a motorcycle. √ Lion on a pogo-stick. (via Frank Chimero, https://twitter.com/fchimero)