Friday, May 21, 2010

Y H & O S

Here's a tip for anyone applying for a job: Formality still counts for something.

There's a job opening where I work, and I've received dozens of resumes submitted online through our website. One applicant ended the cover letter with: 
y h & o s
I immediately thought, WTF? What does "yh&os" stand for? More to the point, why would someone sign a cover letter for a job application using something so unfamiliar and informal? 

Eventually I figured out that it's short for: "your humble & obedient servant." 

OK, so the applicant caught my attention. Obviously he was trying to be clever and playful. Those are good qualities in an applicant and eventual colleague. But so is judgment. Knowing when to use formal language, and when not to, is important in writing and copy editing. 

Here are some other general tips for job applicants:
  • Read the job posting thoroughly; if you don't meet the job requirements, don't apply
  • Include a short cover letter outlining why you are interested in the position and your relevant experience
  • Keep your resume short and concise; no longer than two pages
  • Include an email address in your contact information
  • Proofread your cover letter and resume; better yet, ask someone else to read it (we all need editors)
Good luck, 

("Misc." T-shirt pictured is available at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dove vs Dived

I'll never forget my greatest belly flop. 

I was about ten years old and visiting family friends in San Diego. I grew up in Southern California and knew my way around pools and diving boards. So when we went to the local public pool and I was dared to dive from the three-meter board, I quickly clambered up the ladder and made my way to the edge. 

That's when I got scared--three meters (nearly ten feet) is pretty high for a ten-year-old. But it was my first time that high, it was a dare, and I had to do it.

Wrong decision. I froze up, and when I finally dove, I belly flopped. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt--even more painful than when my older brother swung a golf club and struck me in the head, but that's a different story.

Correction: Make that "when I finally dived..." As one grammar stickler pointed out to me early in my copyediting career, "dove" is a bird; "dived" is the past tense for dive. 

This is the type of correction grammar sticklers love. When I see "dove" meaning the past tense, I dutifully change it to "dived." I don't think I'll ever forget the difference, just as I'll never forget my greatest belly flop. 

("I Dive" T-shirt pictured is available here.)