Thoughts on Lang-8

If you’re confused about what Lang-8 is, you can refer to my (very!) brief Lang-8 orientation guide. But if you’ve given it a test drive and want my thoughts on its value as an educational tool, read on!

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First of all, when I talk about “Lang-8,” I’m talking exclusively about the free version. I don’t have a premium membership—quite frankly, I don’t feel I need one, and I’ll come back to that later—so everything in here refers to the free experience. The two aren’t really substantially different, anyway.

While language study is often broken down into four discrete arenas (speaking, writing, listening, and reading), the truth is that all four interact with each other. Even if your focus is on speaking or listening instead of writing, spending some time on your writing will help strengthen all other areas. And overall, Lang-8 is a great resource for practicing your writing. You can post a journal entry and for free it will show up in front of thousands of eyes. There are nearly 200,000 users who have given Russian as their native language and English as their language of study, for example. I can put up an exercise and get corrections within hours. My journal entries average something around 100 views (each), with corrections from 12 or 13 different people.

I don’t even know 12 native Russian speakers here in Stockholm!

But the biggest strength of Lang-8 for me is also related to its greatest drawback: anyone can join and correct your writing.

I have seen some poor English corrections in my day, and while some of this can be written off due to varying levels of pedantry or different philosophies on which errors are “worth” correcting and the goals of writing (to be grammatically perfect? to be grammatically perfect and natural-sounding? to just be comprehensible?), some of it seems to come down to the fact that native speakers don’t often have a firm grasp of the rules of their own language.

Never mind how often a user has misunderstood the author’s intention and provided a correction that substantially changes the phrase’s intended meaning.

This means that you will sometimes get differing or even conflicting corrections. Sometimes users will comment on their corrections and explain their reasoning, but more often than not they don’t. If you don’t have a guide on hand, it can be impossible to understand which of these corrections is the best one, or is actually counter what you were trying to communicate in the first place.

This is where a good teacher or tutor comes in. They can sit with you in real time to make sure they understand exactly what you wanted to say and show you which corrections can help you say that, and which ones would mean something totally different. They can explain why “go on a walk” and “take a walk” are okay but “take on a walk” isn’t. If you aren’t in a position to take a class or hire a private tutor, then you should supplement your Lang-8 corrections with a good grammar book and a good usage guide. (More on those in a later post.)

Despite this, Lang-8 is a powerful tool for your language acquisition; even more so because it’s available for free. There are premium features available for paying users ($7 US/month or $63 US/year), some of which are quite useful, but the site is most definitely very usable and helpful if you’d rather stick with the free version. These are the three features that would most likely get me to upgrade:

  1. The biggest limit on free users is probably the number of languages you’re allowed to study. For paying users, it’s unlimited; for free users, it’s just two. (I chose Russian and Korean.) Sure, there are other writing exchange networking sites out there, but Lang-8 is huge; it’d be easier to have all of your language learning on one site than cobbling together a patchwork of resources. For the price, I think it’s a good value for the language nerds out there.

2. Another premium option that might be worth paying for is the ability to download entries—weirdly enough, any entry, not just ones you wrote—along with their corrections as PDFs, so that you can study them offline. While we live in a digital age, I’m the first to advocate for dead trees and pencils. Sometimes there’s just no substitute for taking notes and marking things by hand. And the PDFs are surprisingly well formatted and clear to follow, instead of some kind of ugly screen shot.

3. And finally, paying users have the ability to search their own journal. I don’t have enough entries yet that I really need a search function, but if you give yourself a daily or even weekly writing goal, your journal entries are going to start racking up pretty quickly. I can see that being very useful.

Overall, Lang-8 is a powerful free resource for developing your writing in English (or any other language you wish to study). It’s not without drawbacks, but in the absence a language course or tutor, it’s the next best thing for your writing.

Have you tried Lang-8? What do you think? Share your profile here or on Twitter (@KobaEnglish)!

Using Lang-8

Lang-8 (lang-8.com) is a free, collaborative language-learning resource focused on writing. If you’re studying English outside a formal classroom, this is a great resource to get immediate feedback from native and advanced speakers. If you’re taking a class, Lang-8 is a great supplement. But it has its drawbacks, and it can be a little tricky to get the hang of. In this post, I’ll only go through the basics of using Lang-8. In the next post, I’ll discuss it more generally in terms of pros and cons.

The basic premise of Lang-8 is that you correct other people’s writing and they correct yours. Every time you submit an entry to your journal, it shows up in two streams: the generic “every English (or any other language) post” stream, and the specific “every post from my friends” stream. In your home page, posts from your friends are at the top, with the entire tidal wave from the entire site below.

How journal entries from your Lang-8 friends look on your homepage.
How journal entries from your Lang-8 friends look on your homepage. On the right you can see your stats and your latest entries.
Scroll down and you'll see posts from the entire site, rather than just your friends.
Scroll down and you’ll see posts from the entire site, rather than just your friends.

Posting an entry is pretty straightforward. The tricky bits come with correcting other people’s writing, as the correcting interface is a little messy. Since everything is web-based—you write and you correct directly in the browser, instead of uploading or downloading documents—there isn’t a great built-in way to track or show changes. You have a WYSIWYG editor, with options for bold, strikeout, gray, red, and blue text. There are no official or even suggested guidelines for how to implement these particular typeface changes, so the corrections any given piece receives will be (relatively) inconsistently formatted. My biggest protip here is to make liberal use of the color options, especially for small mistakes like typos or capitalization. It makes things much easier for the author when they go back to look at the corrections.

Let’s take a closer look at the corrections menu. Many thanks to user Vera Vakhrusheva, whose recent essay on a LGBQT+ demonstration in Russia is featured in my screenshots. It’s kind of hard to show you how the website works if you obscure the entire text, but given that someone could have easily uploaded an exercise with the intent to keep it relatively private, I will only be using one or two extracts and blurring the rest.

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A journal entry on Lang-8 waiting for corrections.

If you click on a journal entry on your Lang-8 landing page, regardless of whether it’s from a friend’s journal or somewhere else, this is where you will end up. At the top you’ll see the title, and then the essay in its entirety. On the right are some stats: privacy level, how many people have viewed it, how many comments it has, how many corrections it has, what language it’s written in, etc. Here, we can see that this was a public entry with 7 views, no corrections, and no comments at the time of this screenshot. Sometimes an exercise will be given in the target language and the original language, but not always. This one was given only in English.

You can “like” a journal entry or not at the bottom. Clicking on the big blue button takes you to the text boxes where you’ll be doing your correcting. (You can also just scroll down.)

The corrections interface on Lang-8.
The corrections interface on Lang-8.

Here is where it gets a little tricky.

Every journal entry has two fields: the title and the body. The title is optional, and if you don’t have one, it just uses the first however many characters of your entry. The title stands on its own in the corrections interface (and disappears if there isn’t one given), but the body can get quite long: Lang-8 parses text into sentences and gives each sentence its own section. If you want to correct the sentence, you click the blue “Correct” button to open up the WYSIWYG editor. A green “Perfect” button also appears when you mouse over (making it hard to nab in a screen capture); select this if the sentence is fine. This image features the title of the piece and the first sentence of the body, both of which I’ve already begun to correct. As you can see, you don’t edit the text directly on Lang-8; you provide corrected copies.

You can only save your corrections all at once. You do this with the big orange button at the top or bottom of the corrections interface.

Sentences I haven't begun to correct yet in Lang-8.
Sentences I haven’t begun to correct yet in Lang-8.

Also note that at the bottom of the corrections interface is the option to comment, generally, on the entry itself. (You can also comment on specific corrections after you open the “Correct” menu.) You can comment without making corrections, if you really feel moved to do so, by typing a comment and then hitting “Post corrections,” but considering the fact that people post here for the explicit purpose of receiving grammatical instruction rather than social media style “wow cool!!” comments, corrections are very much appreciated.

If someone else has gotten to an entry before you, you can simply recommend their corrections instead of making the same correction again.  Their corrections and comments will appear right under the essay, before the corrections interface.

Corrections with comments and votes on a Lang-8 entry.
Corrections with comments and votes on a Lang-8 entry.

You can distinguish someone’s corrections from the actual corrections interface by the blue border. Here you can see the original (gray pencil icon), the correction underneath it (green checkmark icon), and the option to vote for a correction as “good” or to quote it (if you wish to discuss someone’s correction in the comments). You can also see in the gray box that this user left a comment explaining one of his corrections.

After you scroll past all of the corrections and comments, you’ll see the familiar corrections interface at the bottom of the page. This time, each section includes the original text and all of the corrections that other users have made. Once again, you have the option to vote for a good one in addition to providing your own. You also still have the option to mouse over for the green “Perfect” button if there’s nothing wrong with the sentence. If none of the corrections are good ones, then you can click the blue “Correct” button and add your corrections.

The corrections interface on Lang-8.
The corrections interface on Lang-8. Here, two different users made corrections to the first sentence and only one user made corrections to the second.

From the perspective of a Lang-8 user, it’s better to vote for good corrections instead of mindlessly entering in the same one. Things can quickly get cluttered otherwise. At least, I think it’s cluttered.

That about wraps up my guide to Lang-8! Tweet at me or comment if you have questions, confusions, or suggestions. Next time I’ll take a step back and discuss its pros and cons as a language-learning tool. Have a great weekend!

 

Book Review: Greek and Latin Roots: Keys to Building Vocabulary

Authors: Timothy Rasinski, Nacy Padak, Rick M. Newton, Evangeline Newton

Genre: Specialist non-fiction

My GoodReads rating: 4 stars

Average GoodReads rating: 4.44

Target audience: English teachers and etymology nerds

Topic matter: The classical roots of English vocabulary

In-depth thoughts: If my affixes series didn’t make it abundantly clear, I’m a big fan of teaching (at appropriate levels) etymology along with vocabulary. A solid background in prefixes, suffixes, and bases helps EFL students learn words quicker and easier. This is the philosophy of Rasinski, Padak, Newton, and Newton, the authors of Greek and Latin Roots: Keys to Building Vocabulary.

Image courtesy Shell Education
Image courtesy Shell Education

This is a must for any English teacher, EFL or otherwise. English looks random and chaotic on the surface, so the more systems teachers can provide for their students, the better. Greek and Latin Roots does a very thorough job on how and why teachers of every grade and ability level should focus on classical roots when teaching English, with numerous activities and even a couple of sample lessons. They also provide a brief history of the development of English, useful for placing certain words and constructions in context. (My only quibble here is they have the usual breathless “Shakespeare invented so many words!” history without considering the context in which he was writing, but this is a book on teaching vocabulary and not a comprehensive history of English, so it’s easily ignored.)

As Greek and Latin Roots is a book for teachers, it might not be immediately useful for students, except for the appendixes. Appendix A has recommendations for student resources, both digital and dead tree. The recommendations in Appendix B are intended for teachers, but students might still find the word lists and puzzles helpful. Appendix C is a goldmine: a good, foundational list of classical word roots, arranged alphabetically. Finally, Appendix D has a collection of English’s many loan words from other languages categorized by language or language family. (There’s also Appendix E, but that’s a professional development section intended specifically for teachers who want to hone their craft.)

If you’re a word nerd interested in the history of English words rather than how to teach them, David Crystal has some recommendations.

Literal Translations Versus Fixed Phrases

When is a cup not a cup? When is a glass not a glass? Does it depend on what’s inside? What is the balance between literal translation and the adoption of fixed, familiar phrases in the target language?

For example, if a native English speaker were to offer someone tea, there would be a number of different ways to do it. Outlining all of them here would be tedious and beside the point, but I want to focus on which vessel would be named (if named at all). Pop quiz! Fill in the blank:

“Would you like a _____ of tea?”

And let’s put aside partitives like “bit” or “spot”; let’s look specifically at “cup” and “glass.” Is there one you prefer?

For me, and I think for many native speakers, the appropriate semantic unit for tea is a cup. It’s what flows (ha, ha) naturally. And, indeed, we usually have tea in solid, opaque drinking vessels that can’t rightly be said to be made of glass.

Image courtesy Miya

So the discussion over on DuoLingo’s Russian partitive lesson about glass and tea is fascinating and (as of this blog post) has over 100 comments!

Here is the explanation of the vocabulary word “стакан” (stakan):

Russian differentiates between a number of drinking vessels. Стакан is what you call a “glass” in English: typically, a cylindrical vessel made of glass, with no handle.

But when faced with an expression that would literally be translated as “a glass of tea,” should you translate the words literally, or translate the concept of “a vessel of tea” into the most common and most likely English phrase?

duolingo-glass-tea

Of course, the point of DuoLingo is to teach you vocabulary and grammar, not to teach you how to translate longer pieces of writing in context. To that end, it sacrifices a natural-sounding English answer to drive home the difference (in Russian) between a “glass” and a “cup.”

But for many users (myself included) it just feels…wrong. This question has a few simultaneous discussions of essentially this issue; this one is the most typical and the most informative.

duolingo-glass-tea-2 duolingo-glass-tea-3

 

Things also segued into how tea is consumed globally, with users from other parts of the world (north Africa and Turkey, among others) pointing out that having tea in a glass—the “cylindrical vessel made of glass, with no handle” described by DuoLingo—is commonplace where they live.

Black tea in Turkey. // Image courtesy Henri Bergius

So if DuoLingo is insisting on a subtlety that sounds unnatural to many English speakers because of the customs of our particular countries (to have tea in one kind of vessel but not other), how about in translation? If I’m reading a story where the character in the original Russian has a стакан of tea, has something of the nuance or subtlety been lost if the translator chose “cup of tea” instead of “glass of tea”? Is the purpose of a translation to remain as literally faithful as possible to an original (to translate), or to take a story and convey its concepts in the most natural way possible in a target language (to localize)?

I think the same day I stumbled over this thorny issue on DuoLingo, someone shared an article from the New York Review of Books on new attitudes on Russian to English translation and the work of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. This is the same issue writ large; it’s moved from mere teacups and glasses to entire sentences and syntax. It’s turtles all the way down, only instead of turtles it’s semantics.

There is also the question, again, of who an English translation is really for. Considering the prevalence of English worldwide (and the fact that non-native speakers vastly outnumber the native speakers), I don’t think we can rightly claim that an English translation is first and foremost for native speakers. Should native ear qualms over a glass of tea, or larger issues of “awkwardness” or clunkiness, really matter?

 

My Favorite Books of 2015, According to GoodReads

It took me a long to realize it, but I love organization. Specifically, I love record-keeping: diaries, lists, even some sad attempts at scrapbooking. One of my favorite record-keeping tools is GoodReads. Reading is important to me, and being able to keep track of what I read, when I read it, and what I thought about it is immensely satisfying for reasons I can’t really identify. Since 2007, everything I’ve read has been meticulously rated and catalogued. One unintended result of this records obsession is that I can effortlessly track my reading habits and trends. What were my favorite and least favorite books in a given year? What did I read the most of?

My Favorite Books of 2015

Image courtesy semiphoto on MorgueFiles

I gave only four 5-star reviews last year: Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For the Time Being (quite recent), NoViolet Buluwayo’s We Need New Names (also quite recent), Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano (not so recent), and Pär Lagerkvist’s Barabbas (also not so recent).

February 2015: Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry

It’s been my goal for the last few years to read every novel on the TIME Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century list, which is how I stumbled across Under the Volcano. As a revered English classic, the book needs no selling, no praise, no recommendation.

What struck me was Lowry’s complex and intricate prose and the examination of expatriate life. Having lived for a few years in South Korea, the genre of “expats and tourists behaving badly” holds a special place in my heart: The Sun Also Rises, The Sheltering Sky, Tropic of Cancer, and Giovanni’s Room were some of my favorite reads in my tour of 20th century English literature. Under the Volcano is part of that genre, but also more. It’s a lyrical character study, a sympathetic, heart-wrenching exploration of alcoholism and interpersonal relationships, and a study of Mexican politics in the 1930s.

 

May 2015: A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki

I think the only reason A Tale for the Time Being isn’t on the TIME Top 100 list is because it was published in 2013 and the TIME list was assembled in 2005. I hope so, anyway.

In brief, A Tale for the Time Being is about a woman in Canada, Ruth, who finds and reads a diary that washed up along the coast. It turns out to be written by a Japanese schoolgirl, Nao, some years earlier.

Of course it’s also about much more than that. There’s prehistoric flora, quantum entanglement, philosophy, Zen monks, and insects (among others). But everything falls under that found diary and Ruth’s relationship to it.

Ozeki displays an incredible technical range. She ends up writing from the perspective of five different people (not all of them are equally prominent; I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the book focuses primarily on two of them, so the book is much more focused than it sounds like it would be with five different protagonists) and gives them all incredibly distinct and personal voices. There are other metatextual indications when the writing shifts perspective, like a different font or a chapter title or so on, but Ozeki gives each of them a strong enough voice that you would be able to tell anyway.

A Tale for the Time Being is not only a technical achievement, though. Ozeki also creates a compelling story. After rationing out portions of the book like literary chocolate, at maybe halfway through I just binged and read the whole thing. I might have cried. (As in: I cried.)

If you’re in the mood for experiments with narrative form, bildungsroman, or a sampling of Japanese history and philosophy, A Tale for the Time Being is for you.

 

December 4th, 2015: We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo

This book was a mostly-random selection from the “world literature” shelf at the library. “Mostly-random” because I’d heard a little buzz about it beforehand; enough that I checked this book out when I couldn’t find anything from my TIME Top 100 list. (It seems Stockholm biblioteket’s copy of The Buddha of Suburbia is lost forever.) Like A Tale for the Time Being, I think We Need New Names would be a strong contender for an updated and more diverse TIME Top 100 list.

We Need New Names is about the Zimbabwean Darling, first as a child in Zimbabwe and later as a teenager in the United States. Bulawayo’s short story “Hitting Budapest” won the Caine prize, and she later expanded it into a novel. The book lends itself to comparisons with Adichie’s Americanah; I think readers who like one will like the other. The difference (aside from setting) is in focus: Bulawayo focuses on details and short episodes, leaving much implied or suggested, while Adichie went for a grand epic of everything. Bulawayo’s voice is also unique and clear. For a sample, you can read “Hitting Budapest” online.

 

December 27th, 2015: Barabbas, Pär Lagerkvist

This one was a reread for me. You might recall my earlier lament that Lagerkvist English translations are few and far betweenBarabbas is one of his works that has an English translation, and a good one at that. That’s how I originally read it in university. Last year I picked up a copy from the library to give it another go, this time in the original Swedish. Lagerkvist’s style is sparse and straightforward, and the novel itself is quite short, so it was good Swedish practice for me. Likewise the English translation would be good English practice.

Barabbas is the story of Barabbas, the criminal who walked free while Christ was crucified. Lagerkvist tells us the story of this marginal figure, exploring the issues of faith, doubt, and belief through Barabbas’s struggle to understand his fate and the nascent Christian faith.

What were your favorite books that you read in 2015? Are you on GoodReads? If you like, you can follow me there.

“The Invoice”: Thoughts on Translation and Localization

In my private life, I follow a lot of book bloggers. Sometime last year, at least one of them brought The Room to my attention. No, not Tommy Wiseau’s “masterpiece.” This The Room is a novel by the Swedish Jonas Karlsson. The premise sounded interesting and I looked high and low for the original Swedish edition, only to turn up empty-handed. I shrugged and moved on to other things.

One of those other things was NetGalley. I finally bit the bullet and signed up a few months ago. I could rationalize that decision with “it’s important to stay abreast of literary trends when you’re an editor” but really I just wanted free ebooks. (When you live outside the US and Canada, you don’t get the free physical copies.)

Last week I noticed a new title in the Literary Fiction section: The Invoice, by Jonas Karlsson. I recognized his name immediately and requested the book as a way to give him a test run. I was also curious about how the translation was handled, as my luck with English translation of contemporary Swedish books (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) has been much worse than with English translations of Swedish classics (Doctor Glass). Where would The Invoice fall in this spectrum?

Image courtesy Crown Publishing
Image courtesy Crown Publishing

The answer: somewhere in the middle.

In the case of The Invoice, there was something clunky and choppy about the writing. I noticed it, frowned, and continued reading, because at least it didn’t use any archaic or awkward turns of phrases I had seen elsewhere, and by elsewhere I mean in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. (No one uses “anon” anymore; at least, not to mean “soon.”) I eventually stopped noticing the choppiness, but only because something bothered me even more: an uncomfortable mix of American and British English.

I’m all in favor of standardizing English; it would make my job (both as a tutor and as an editor) that much easier. But we haven’t accomplished that standardization yet, and while usage may dictate rules, I don’t think individual publishers deciding on their own “blends” will successfully further the International English cause. When it comes to The Invoice, this blend was:

  • American spelling
  • American punctuation
  • British terms

So we had a character walking into a gray granite building, taking a lift up to the eleventh floor, and talking to a Mr. Something-or-other.

This is a minor quibble on my part, I realize. Once I figured out was going on, I was able to put my discomfort in a box and read the story for the sake of the story. It certainly didn’t hamper my understanding in any way. But I think it’s a point worth discussing: when translating into English, how much should consistency and localization matter?

What we have here is a failure to communicate. // Image courtesy Matthew Hull.
What we have here is a failure to communicate. // Image courtesy Matthew Hull.

After all, I had no trouble understanding the writing. The differences between British and American English have been thoroughly documented, to the point where any adult English-speaking reader (usually) knows there are differences and can (usually) switch between the two without difficulty. And how many people, exactly, really notice those differences? Literature translated into English isn’t done for the exclusive sake of native speakers. There is a huge market for non-native speakers as well; readers who might not be attuned to the differences, or who might prefer “color” and “analyze” but also “lorry” and “dustbin.” Does that make the distinction between conventions nothing more than a shibboleth on par with “rules” about ending sentences in prepositions?

For me, not quite, though I couldn’t give you a satisfactory answer as to why. I just like consistency! (Hobgoblin of a little mind it may be.) If I had been working on this project, I would have favored American terminology and made the appropriate changes, with a comment explaining why.

I asked other editors (informally) and the majority response seemed to be that this was an inconsistency, and one that “should” be rectified, validating my own thought on the issue. A not-insignificant portion replied that they had been instructed to mix conventions in similar ways, or had heard of that happening to other editors. I was surprised to learn that this is something that deliberately happens, but if that’s how a publisher or author wants to roll, that’s what they’re allowed to do.

But something that bothers word nerds might not bother the general public, so I put this question out to you, Internet: how do you feel about mixing different English conventions?

Legal “CYA” moment: in case context didn’t make it clear, I received a free preview copy of The Invoice in exchange for honest feedback and review. The translation issue I described here (in as much as it’s an “issue”) may be addressed by the time the book goes to print.

On Editing

“Editing” can run the gamut from proofreading a finished manuscript right before it goes to print to substantially altering the form and even content of a piece. So when I talk about editing, what kind do I mean?

The terms I use here I’ve borrowed from Aden Nichols, who very helpfully shared her page with a Facebook group for editors. Thank you, Aden! To a lesser extent, I’ve also used terminology from Jean Weber, Word-Mart.com, and Jacquelyn Landis’s course, “The Keys to Effective Editing.”

Typically, when editing the first draft of a manuscript, you start on the macro level. This is the developmental editing process, and it addresses questions like:

  • Is there a clear intended audience?
  • Is the author making their point clearly and cogently?
  • Is there a strong focus?
  • Where is the “filler”? Which parts need more detail?
  • Are the facts straight?

This is where major structure and content revisions happen. People also refer to this as content editingsubstantive editing, or comprehensive editing. If you remember learning any kind of formulaic writing process at school, this is most like the revisions stage.

This kind of editing is also the trickiest to do, as much of it comes down to taste and judgment calls. What I think is great, brooding characterization can be someone else’s snoozefest. Generally speaking, I do not engage in developmental editing. There are always exceptions, of course, particularly if a manuscript is fantasy or science fictionLiterary fiction is also “in my junk drawer,” as Vu Le would put it. In other words, it’s also a genre I feel fairly comfortable in.

But you’ve done your revisions and gone through the developmental editing process. Now it’s time for copyediting. Copyediting addresses issues like:

  • typos
  • syntax
  • light fact-checking
  •  grammar
  • the finer points of style, such as word choice, sentence length, etc.

Usually this is also where an editor will bring a manuscript in agreement with a particular style sheet and dictionary.

Finally, you have proofreading: the final check before things go to print. Proofreaders check for:

  •  typos
  •  orthography and formatting errors
  •  double-check image attributions (if there are any)
  • adherence to a particular style guide or dictionary (or at least internal consistency)

It’s proofreading because the proofreader reads, unsurprisingly, the proof: the mock-up that will be sent to the printer (or eBook printer equivalent).

This means that if you want me (or anyone else) to proofread your manuscript, it should be, essentially, complete. If you want someone to smooth out the rough edges of your style and help everything flow together, you need a copyeditor. If you have a first draft, you should be working with beta readers/a critique group and maybe a developmental editor before anything else.

So, as for what I do!

I specialize in copyediting and proofreading non-fiction, academic texts written by non-native English speakers, whether for publication or simply for school assignments. I can also offer developmental editing in some fiction genres (science fiction, fantasy, and literary), though I ask that you send me a manuscript that has been (1) critiqued, and (2) revised at least once based on feedback from that critique.

If you opt to work with me, I will assume that you are at a place where you feel your style and your content are essentially complete. If I feel your manuscript needs more work than I can provide (that is, if I feel you need major revisions), I will point you in the direction of another professional who can better suit your needs.

My editing philosophy is to be minimally intrusive; most of what I do involves:

  • fixing odd word choices
  • maintaining an appropriate and consistent register
  • fixing typos
  • ensuring clarity
  • trimming wordiness (as necessary)

Many of my edits are, therefore, suggestions. The final call is always yours.

If this sounds like what you need, then feel free to get in touch with me using the contact form on the right. I look forward to working with you!

English Vocabulary With Affixes: Using Affixes to Make Adjectives

This is the fourth and final post (for now) in my affixes series. There are a lot more affixes in English than I’ve covered here, but as this part of the series wraps up the list over on UEFAP, it feels like a natural stopping point.

This post will cover using both prefixes and suffixes to create new adjectives, as well as their Swedish equivalents.

1. Noun + Suffix = Adjective; Verb + Suffix = Adjective

Suffix Meaning Swedish equivalent
-al relating to a noun (central, professional) -al (central), -ell (professionell), -sk (politisk)
-ive relating to a verb (imaginative, effective) -iv (attraktiv)
-ful having or being full of a noun (beautiful, careful) -full (fridfull)*
-less lacking a noun (endless, homeless) -lös (tanklös)*
-able / -ible to be able to verb (drinkable, countable) -bar (ätbar)*

*indicates a group of adjectives that often have -lig or –ig adjective endings in Swedish

2. Negative Prefix + Adjective = Opposite Adjective

Note that all of these prefixes have the same essential meaning and job—to reverse the meaning of the root word. It’s simply that some root words take one prefix and some take another. To avoid redundancy, I’ve omitted the middle column for this last table.

Prefix Swedish equivalent
im-/in-/ir-/il- (immature, inconvenient, irreplaceable, illegal) o- (omjölig)
non- (non-fiction, non-political) o- (obefintlig), non- (nonstop), icke (a full-fledged word, not a suffix)
dis- (disloyal, dissimilar) o- (oärlig)
un- (unfortunate, uncomfortable) o- (orättvist)

Though you can see that this whole table is largely redundant, as a large number of English prefixes fall under the o- umbrella in Swedish. This certainly simplifies things for English-speaking learners of Swedish, but complicates things for Swedish-speaking learners of English!

There is much more to English affixes than what I’ve been able to cover so far, of course. And I’m far from an expert in either linguistics or Swedish! As I progress in my own studies, I will update here. Good luck with your own learning!

English Vocabulary With Affixes: Using Suffixes to Make New Nouns

This is the next part in my series on English affixes and their Swedish equivalents. You can start with part 1 (an introduction, and using prefixes to alter verb meanings), and also check out part 2 (using prefixes to create new nouns). This time, I’m focusing on creating new nouns out of a verbnoun, or adjective by way of a suffix. This process can be classified into three groups: nouns from verbs, nouns from other nouns, and nouns from adjectives.

I’ve taken the English list from UEFAP, but all of the Swedish translations are my own. This and all other posts on affixes will probably be edited as my Swedish improves. Sometimes there’s not really a Swedish equivalent; in those cases, I just skip to the next. Also note that there is rarely a true 1-to-1 correspondence; what I list here are what (in my experience) are the most common equivalents.

1. Verb + Suffix = Noun

English suffix Meaning Swedish equivalent
-tion,  -sion an action/instance of the verb (alteration, demonstration) -tion (dedikation)
-er a person who does the verb / something used for the verb (advertiser, silencer) -ör (redaktör), -are (ägare)
-ment an instance of the verb (development, punishment) -ing (utnämning)
-ant,   -ent a person who performs the verb (assistant, student) -ent (student), -ant (officiant)
-ence, -ance the act of the verb, or the result of the verb (dependence, endurance) -ans (acceptans)*
-ery,   -ry an action or instance of the verb (bribery) or a place where the verb happens (bakery) -eri (raffinaderi)*

*indicates a suffix that is often also -ing in Swedish, instead of a close 1-to-1 correspondence with English

2. Noun + Suffix = New Noun

English suffix Meaning Swedish equivalent
-er person associated with the noun (astronomer, geographer) -are (juvelerlare)*
-ist person associated with the noun (biologist, scientist) -ist (buddist)*
-ism doctrine of a noun (Maoism, materialism) -ism (buddism, marxism)
-ship state of being the noun (friendship, citizenship) -skap (ledarskap)

*indicates situations where, if the base noun ends in “i,” the “i” is removed but no suffix is added (astronomi -> astronom, biologi -> biolog)

3. Adjective + Suffix = Noun

English suffix Meaning Swedish equivalent
-ity, -ness, -cy state or quality of being the adjective (ability, similarity) -het (nyfikenhet, gulhet), -itet (graviditet)

To a lesser extent in this category you see -skap (beredskap), -ing (besittning), and a handful of others, but in my experience -het and -itet are the most common.