Housekeeping notes

Walk on by, nothing really to see here, but…

Siccing: Effective, well, a week or two ago here (I think) and in the next Cites & Insights (due early next week if all goes well), I’m adopting a “casual corrections for casual speech” practice. (Not exactly a policy, but a practice.)

What that means: When I’m quoting from other blogs, comments, etc., spelling and grammar errors that I notice (or that Word notices for me) will be corrected without drawing attention to them, as opposed to (sic)ing readers on the error. I’ll still use [square brackets]–when I remember–to mark wording changes for the sake of clarity or brevity or whatever, but not for the casual errors most of us are inclined to make in casual writing. (I try to use square brackets to mark imposed capital letters when the start of the quotation I’m using isn’t actually the start of a sentence, but I’m never even close to perfect in that regard.)

While I don’t claim to be a traditional journalist, I thought about the fact that “typical” journalists don’t include all the Ums and Errs and Wells and other verbal ticks when they’re quoting someone. (“Typical” as opposed to attack-dog “journalists” who look for every opportunity to make subjects look bad.)

Exception: If I’m quoting a blogger who makes a big deal out of their magnificent writing skills, well, then I might (sic) them. Right now, I can’t think of anyone who I’m inclined to quote who would fall into that category–but as with Pew and poll quality, people who live by asserted higher standards should be held to higher standards.

Truncated comment period: A couple of weeks ago I noted that I’d turned off comments on posts more than a year old and was considering doing the same for posts more than six months old–not to discourage commenting (I love good comments!) but to discourage spam. (Turns out that linkbacks were accidentally enabled until about 14 months ago…turning all of those off took a while, but substantially reduced the amount of trapped spam all by itself.)

So how did it work? The first day or two after doing it, there seemed to be a concerted effort to show that it was useless: I got more than a hundred (all trapped) spamments, all from the same source, on one day, and more than 60 on the next.

Since then, however, it’s been pretty good–in fact, most days I now have more legitimate comments than spamments, which is how it should be. (At the current rate, I would be willing to plow through two weeks’ worth of Spam Karma trapping to find legit comments after we return from a vacation–when we manage to take a vacation, sigh.)

That may not continue, but so far, so good. If I do cut it to six months, I’ll probably make exceptions as appropriate–but you get precious few legit comments more than six months after a post.

3 Responses to “Housekeeping notes”

  1. Iris says:

    Actually, according to the Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) there are six “Permissible Changes” that authors can make to quoted text (section 11.8). The second permissible change is that “the initial letter may be changed to a capital or lowercase letter” and you only need to call attention to this if you are using the “Rigorous Method” of quoting.

    The fifth permissible change is as follows: “Obvious typographic errors may be corrected silently (without comment or sic; see 11.69) unless the passage quoted is from an older work or a manuscript source where idiosyncrasies of spelling are generally preserved. If spelling and punctuation are modernized or altered for clarity, readers must be so informed in a note, in a preface, or elsewhere.”

    Section 11.69 referenced above simply says where to place those sic indications.

    All this is just to say, go right ahead. Even the Chicago Manual of Style agrees that readability is important.

    And all this leads to one more revelation… I can’t believe I just went and looked up all this stuff. Somebody save me from myself!

  2. walt says:

    Iris, thanks. Maybe I’ll stop being scrupulous about [C]aps. No, definitely I’ll stop…

    I’m going just a bit beyond Chicago in changing the few grammatical errors I notice…but I’m in the spirit.

    Hmm. I have a copy of Chicago Manual of Style at home–needed it when I was editing LITA Newsletter–but never really thought to look it up. Thanks! And, hey, you’re a librarian: That’s a good thing.

  3. Laura says:

    As I am among the world’s sloppiest bloggers, and will freely (if somewhat shame-facedly) admit it, I generally applaud your decision. I’m still inclined to use square brackets when I change anything, even a capital letter, but I blame that all on my mother, who was working on an edition of Life on the Mississippi when she was pregnant with me. I spent many hours in utero listening to debates about whether Twain meant a comma or a semi-colon, and whether he meant school house, school-house, or schoolhouse, and it must have rubbed off on me.