Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Most common mistakes I find when editing

***warning!! You may encounter sentence fragments and be exposed to dangling participles in this post***

I do a little editing work for Maple Bear, where I teach Music classes. The teachers have to write newsletters to parents, telling them what is happening in the classroom (which I wish would happen at my kids school....) and labels for the artwork that is displayed at the school, and labels for the portfolios that are made to give to the families at the end of the year. For the most part, I really like this work. I can do it from home, I can do it when I have time, and I get to be picky about grammar and spelling, and I don't have to talk to anyone when I do it (believe it or not, I'm an introvert).

However, it's been a little taxing recently. On Sunday night I spent at least an hour rewriting a teacher's work, and in the end just translated it. But my job is supposed to be just to edit, not to translate. I've talked to my bosses about this, and there will probably be a workshop to help teach the teachers. But here are some of the most common mistakes I find. If you do editing in Brazil, please leave me a comment and let me know what you encounter!

1. "Momento" DOES NOT always = "moment" or "moments." We had many nice moments in the classroom. Nope. Instead use "time."

2. Shorter sentence are better. I think that in Portuguese grammar longer sentences are more common. It gets a little too confusing to write paragraph sentences. Here is an example of something that should be about 4 sentences:

Maple Bear School, within the principles of humanity and citizenship that guides your employees, teachers and principals, and according to the educational philosophy "Solidary School" that is part of its pedagogical project connected to the surrounding community in need, is launching this final year of his social project "Jingle Bear."

Lord have mercy.

3. Capitalizing titles. I have not studied the rules in Portuguese, but I think that you only capitalize the first word. In English, most of the words are capitalized. There are websites with rules, but it's okay to error on the side of "over-capitalizing."

4. When talking about events in the past, use past tense. I know this is way too simple, but if you aren't so familiar with the appropriate use of tenses, don't try to make everything to present tense, or past perfect, or past perfect continuous. Keep it simple.

5. It's "hand-eye" coordination. Not "eye-hand."

6. Commas. I'm going to tell the teachers I work with to just not use them. What they do is use them all the time, and it becomes very tedious to edit them out (I have to highlight the error, use the "line through," option, then highlight it. When you sprinkle your writing, with, commas, this becomes, very difficult.)

7. Begin sentences with a subject and then a verb. I realize that this seems a little boring, but I encounter all kind of crazy sentences that make no sense beginning with passive voice, noun strings, gerunds ("Seeing the dog, the children draw it." Is that starting the sentence with a gerund? Or is that called something else?) I see subordinate clauses in the middle of sentences, misplaced modifiers....and many other wacky things. For example:

With the pancakes, we observed that the liquid when in contact with a hot surface, it changes the look of its texture, making it a delicious muffin pan.


8. Until versus by. I need the document by 5:00 pm. You have until 5:00 pm to finish it. Using the wrong word here makes a big difference.

I'm probably going to take this info and use it in the workshop, so thank you for being my guinea pig.


  1. I have a long but helpful activity on by vs until. Email me at cookingbrazil @ gmail if you want me to send it to you!

    But most of these mistakes are logical for second language learners, especially punctuation. Heck, most native English speakers don't know the language's punctuation rules. It sounds like your coworkers are doing they're best, but they still translate in their heads and will benefit from your workshop.

  2. haha Daneille--I will send you a message about the exercise. You are right about the mistakes being logical, and I shudder to think about the horrible mistakes I am making in Portuguese. They are doing their best, and I had a really, really bad weekend. Like I was up until 1 am on Sunday night, and I didn't even finish. Thankfully my supervisors are on my side, and are trying to help me figure out how to make it better...

  3. Interesting post.
    As an English teacher I feel your "pain".
    I hope to find some side work editing/proofreading while in Brazil.