Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Is "Fin me on Facebook" a typo?

Recently several blog readers emailed to alert me to an error on my blog page.

One reader even sent a very cute photoshop reminder:

Well, harrumph harrumph I replied. That's a joke. Shark? Fin? Get it? Get it??

Well no they hadn't.

Which reminded me of a recent conversation I had with an author who was dealing with much the same kind of problem in the editorial process. The reader of the manuscript was "correcting" a lot of things the author had inserted on purpose.  Yes they were "mistakes" if you want to be rigid about these things, but this is art not math and sometimes one plus one does equal three.

At the start of my career I was guilty of some of that thinking to be sure.  I assumed that words or sentences that were "wrong" were mistakes. So I "fixed" them.  It took me a while to realize that sometimes those weren't mistakes, those were style.

I vividly remember "correcting" a word on Steve Ulfelder's second or third manuscript some years back.  Just as I hit the delete key, I thought "hey, I better look that up." Sure enough, it wasn't a mistake, it was a word, and the exact right word.

Which brings me to the point of this blog post: the reason you work very very hard to get everything right is so when you "don't"--when you break the rules on purpose--your reader has confidence in you and knows to look up the word, or admire the style (or not!) and NOT to reach for the red pen.

Meanwhile I changed the avatar on my Facebook link so the joke is a bit less obscure.


LynnRodz said...

I'm always surprised when people cannot see the obvious! Fin - shark! "Hello, is anybody home?" Obviously, not!

Jane | @janelebak said...

I hesitated when I saw the "Fin" as well, and then I thought, "No, dummy, she's making a shark reference." :-) But that's because I already know the blog and I've seen your Twitter avatar etc.

I saw a small-press book where the title had a typo, except when you looked at it closer, it wasn't a typo t all. It was supposed to be a clever pun. But because you needed to know the content of the book in order to realize the title wasn't wrong, how many people just rolled their eyes and ignored the book? Worse, how many people just left the publisher's website because they thought the publisher couldn't even be bothered to catch a typo in a title?

I like what you said about trusting the author, that we have to earn trust and then we have leeway. But a title is the first most readers see of us, and maybe the "Fin" was the first some readers saw of this blog…? Regardless, the kitteh is very cute.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ha...recently you answered a question for me, thank you, it was very helpful.
In that question I said, "...I am light-years away from querying." A reader quickly jumped on to correct me, light-year denotes distance not time. Duh, distance is exactly what I meant.
My knee jerk reaction...hey the dummy didn't get it, I should explain, but I thought better of it because often, I've been the dummy.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I don't think I even read it, perhaps because I was so delighted what we were supposed to "suivre" you on Twitter.

Really, if anybody could've carried off the "no, I meant to do that", you're on the list.

Lance said...

I wondered what happened to the cat. How could anyone not get that? It was great. said...

I "got" the "fin me" on FB, didn't think twice about it. Probably those of us who follow this blog did/would.

I've read/heard, new authors can't break the rules like successful pub'ed authors can..., and shouldn't try. But, when I hear that, I quietly say two words; THE HELP.

mookymcd said...

There always seems to be tension between not talking down to your audience and dealing with the fact that part of the audience is, well, below a significant part of the rest.

french sojourn said...


Yeah,I saw that when you wrote that and thought you were correct....a linear distance worth of writing. (as opposed to lineal which would be heredity)

french sojourn said...

It would be a funny flash fiction contest to use commonly misused words..IE..decimate-to reduce by 10 percent not annihilate as commonly used.
Or not...

Janet Reid said...

Hank, I think you've hit on something delicious!

Now all we need are more words.

french sojourn said...

There are tons...that would be the beauty....a lot of those oh yeah moments...well irregardless.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

In a short work I pubbed at a small house (I referred to it as a nano-press,) you communicated with your editor and readers through a private forum.

I had inserted a pun into the last scene. The MC had been making deals with a demon. The head demon showed up and said the deal was off. She pleaded for another chance and he replied, "I'm sorry, but the matter has been kicked downstairs to management."

Whether you like it or not, the reader didn't get it and was absolutely flipping out over the passive construction. Demanded I rewrite it or she would.

Finally the project editor came on the forum and said, "Um, it's a joke, it stays."

Lance said...

How about preplanning and ironic?

Elissa M said...

I'm in the school that saw "fin me" as a shark reference immediately, even with the kitten.

Sheesh. Some people need to lighten up.

J E Oneil said...

They must not know you very well.

That might still be too difficult to get. You might need to add "IT'S A PUN-HA-HA. FIN NOT FIND. Get it now?"

BP said...

I think people who correct others about the definition of light-year and spend time emailing Photoshopped images of "typos" should:

A. Get a life
B. Get a job
C. Alternatively, get something other than a life or job which prevents them from aforementioned behaviors that may allow them to be more useful to themselves or someone else as a whole.

YEESH...I saw that comment, too, but didn't know how to reply...defending light-years on a writing

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

BP, hahaha.

Wry Girl said...

I've had multiple revision partners correct me saying that 'pong' isn't a word. It's been very frustrating.

noun: pong; plural noun: pongs

1. a strong, unpleasant smell.

A word. *sigh*

Maple and Baobab said...

Reading Janet's post and all the comments I was saying, I must be very dense or I don't know the latest fin jargon on social media. Does it have a sexual connotation? Did Janet insult someone? Huh? D you dummy! It's the d that's missing. Ah Jees, the correctors were looking to find the missing d. Sheesh. Concentrating on a lonely d when there is a whole alphabet of deliciousness on this sight, and they were worried about a d that wasn't even supposed to be there. The shark wins again.

Andrea van der Wilt said...

I had a critique partner correct "cuddling" into "coddling", but I did really mean "cuddling", though in a more figurative sense of the word. Eventually I did change it into "coddling" when somebody else mentioned it as well and I didn't want to keep defending my word choice all the time, and it didn't really matter that much. I think I deleted the whole sentence during revisions anyway...

Another word for the above mentioned list: disrespectful :-)
And one thing that bothered me for a very long time is the use of "that" with a person, e.g. "the boy that ate the apple". It still feels wrong to me and I'd always write "the boy who ate the apple" myself, but I looked it up and apparently it's grammatically correct... oops...