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Monday, October 9, 2017

Keeping Up with Language Shifts

Have you noticed lately that our world is speeding up? I don't refer to that well-known sensation that time passes more quickly as you age. That's a given. But I've been noticing that in this digital age, information multiplies faster than most people can keep up with it. And that means that our language is changing, too. Here's a prime example.

I have spent the last few days doing a careful word-by-word check of the manuscript for my next book, which is scheduled to come out in November. Because it is something of a "How-To" book on self-publishing, I have been more than usually aware of any mistake that might cast doubts about my ability to write such a book.  After the usual spelling and grammar check done by Microsoft's Word for MACs, I put the entire thing through two passes of Grammarly Pro, which promises to find any of  250 common writing problems, including spelling.  And only then did I turn to reading the manuscript out loud, almost one word at a time, to spot words left out, awkward phrases, unclear explanations, and random typos.  I did that three times!

Today I was confident enough of its correctness that I uploaded the .mobi file into Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing Platform. The program accepted my formatting and then announced it was searching for errors. "Ha!" I thought. Then to my dismay, it churned out a list of 51 possible spelling errors. The instructions said I should consider correcting these and then re-submitting.

I couldn't decide how to react. Angry? Insulted? Embarrassed? Ashamed? Humbled?  I started going through the items, one by one. A few were proper names, which I could simply mark as "Ignore." Three were British spellings -- not exactly incorrect, but needed "Americanizing" for a US audience.

But the rest? They were all terms that have come into common and accepted usage in the last few years as we all become more and more computer-literate. Several were words I used repeatedly, which increased my total number of errors. Here's the list:

backstory
barcode
bulleted list
grayscale
headshot
journalling
metadata
misdated
overthinking
retweet
scammer
smartphone
timeline
trackback
username

I'm trying to be understanding about this, but deep down, I have to wonder why an internet powerhouse like Amazon's KDP is not as current on computer language as this 78-year-old woman!

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