You’ve reached the neglected blog of Dawn McIlvain Stahl…

It’s true: none of my editorial pursuits have been as sorely neglected as this blog.

I’ve edited books and articles. I’ve written content and materials and articles and word games. I’ve proofread training manuals and websites. I’ve expanded my social media editing and management services.

And yet here sits this blog.

And that’s OK. Sometimes the cobbler’s kids LIKE to run around barefoot. Sometimes you’re so busy “kindly bringing style and order to writing” that the only “telling the tale” you do is in short snippets on Twitter and Instagram.

But then there’s this! —> I’ll be heading out to #EFACon16 (the Editorial Freelancers Association National Conference in New York on Monday and Tuesday, August 29 and 30) and there will be much telling to tell! It’s the first EFA conference in more than a decade, and I have the privilege of covering it for Copyediting, one of the sponsors of the event. I’ll be telling the tale live on Twitter @Copyediting and will also be providing posts for Copyediting’s Facebook and Storify accounts.

Tune in! I mean, maybe not HERE on the sorely neglected blog, but, you know, on Twitter and stuff.

(And MAYBE here if I have any overspill tales to tell. You never know. Sometimes the cobbler’s kids have fantastic footwear.)


Current business cards. Alas, I have only the electronic version. See “cobbler’s kids” remark above. 

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Google+ Business Page

Continuing my love-hate-irrelevant relationship with Google+ by setting up a business page. I’ll be completely honest about the primary reason for it: the ability to push content there using a third party app. I live out of Buffer, scheduling relevant posts to several different accounts and platforms and then visiting those different sites to personally engage with people as I have time. A personal Google+ page doesn’t work in that system, but a business one does, so I’m trying it out.

I haven’t worked out all of the kinks or even figured out how the following/circling aspects work for it, yet, but here’s a start.

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I’m Thankful for the Cheekiness of Old Words

@HaggardHawks Tweeting about the word 'pastinaceous'

@HaggardHawks bringing the awesome with interesting old words on Twitter

Awesome old word voted most likely to be used (in good humor!) of a relative this Thanksgiving — PASTINACEOUS: adj., looking all parsnip-like

If you haven’t guessed yet, in addition to my love of ridiculous new words, I have to confess that I also love ridiculous old words. As I wrote for the Copyediting blog:

Old words demand nothing from the conscientious editor. Time has set them aside in a nice, comfortable place where they aren’t asking for our judgment or acceptance. My favorite current sanctuary of old-time words is Haggard Hawks Words.

Check out the full post on Copyediting or go straight to Haggard Hawks on Twitter.

Image credit: “Pastarnoko šaknys,” Jonathunder, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Firstable, secondable, should of, would of, could of

"Join The Conspiracy Of Kindness" by Wade M on Flickr

“Join the Conspiracy of Kindness” by Wade M on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

I’ve seen them in the wild, and BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick recently rounded up a collection of them [content warning: profanity] — examples of firstable being used instead of first of all.

It’s #WorldKindnessDay today. So “firstable,” I’m going to refrain from ranting or ridiculing. I rarely rant … on my blog … and genuinely try to never ridicule. My aim, as always, is to kindly bring style and order to the world of writing. Even when it’s not World Kindness Day, I consider myself a kindness conspirator.

So “secondable,” I’m going to kindly point out that — much like the case of should of, would of, and could of (which I wrote about on — your ears are tricking you here. When spoken, -able and of all sound very similar, as do of and the contraction ‘ve. But they are not interchangeable. Here are the correct forms:

You could HAVE used first OF ALL and would HAVE used second OF ALL, if you had known. But really, you should HAVE simply gone with first and second.

Or, you could let your points stand on their own, without the unnecessary introductions. First points come first, second points come second, and people are generally smart enough to follow along. Really!

Simply say what you mean, without trying to give it a grand setup or overemphasize it. You will sound less defensive and, if it helps you avoid the unfortunate firstable error, better educated.

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#WorldStrokeDay meets #NationalCatDay

#NationalCatDay is full of squee, but #WorldStrokeDay can save a life.* And now, thanks to the wealth of cat pics on the Internet and the half-hour I stole from other projects, you don’t have to choose between the two. Do yourself and your family a favor: get your blood pressure checked, learn the signs of stroke, and share this graphic of friendly felines to help educate others.

World Stroke Day meets National Cat Day

#WorldStrokeDay meets #NationalCatDay

*This post has nothing to do with editing, but much to do with my everyday life. A couple of years ago, my mom survived a massive stroke that left her with hemiplegia and some short-term memory loss, among other more minor issues. She is an amazing and inspiring person whose story deserves to be told in full sometime. But today is not that time. Today is when #WorldStrokeDay meets #NationalCatDay. Enjoy!

Images: Helen Haden, Jeff Oien, shira girl, Americatidol

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Another editor confession

I have another confession to make. Yes, I’m a professional editor. Yes, I’m paid to make sure writing makes sense and matches a certain standard and style. But … a little wordtastic awesomesauce never hurt anyone. 😉

From my latest on

When new words pop up in pop culture, as they do, it never occurs to me to bemoan the state of the English language or the literacy of the current generation. Whether I like a modern coinage or think it’s the worstmanteau ever (surely that one is in the running), my initial response tends to be appropriately learned and eloquent, like “Heck yeah — words!”

I love ridiculous new words.

Read about procaffinating, presponding, Wordwatching, WordSpy, and more in “Editor Confession: I love ridiculous new words.”

You may also enjoy: “Editor Confession: I used the non-literal literally.

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The one thing that makes a dream impossible …

"Fear of Failure" quote from Paulo Coelho

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More on Those Top 3 Lessons from Freelance Failure

Sometimes what we call "failure" is really just that necessary struggle called "learning."

Image credit: cc license, venspired,

Whenever I speak to new freelancers or students about freelance editing as a career, I talk a little about the path I’ve taken. Editors come to their careers from many paths (see?). Mine included an early, spectacularly failed stint of full-time freelance. Feedback suggests that talking about that failure is one of the most valuable parts of the conversation.

For the edification of the freelance editing community, then, I blogged about the top three lessons I learned from that first failed attempt at full-time freelancing. You can read those lessons on

And here are a few more details and thoughts that didn’t make it into that post:

  1. A too-local focus is an unnecessary handicap. But working on paper and having to deliver that work to a neighboring town a few days a week is a nice way to a) save your eyes from all the screen time of electronic editing, b) make yourself get out of the house and maybe have lunch with colleagues, and c) rack up some business deductions.
  2. I didn’t have a clear vision for my freelance business and, consequently, the services I offered were too broad. I wasn’t selling gourmet grilled sandwiches, but I was splitting my time between editing, proofreading, and tutoring. One of these things is not like the others.
  3. Treating your freelance business like a business isn’t just about the financials. But the financials can’t be ignored. When I was in college, “pre-approved!” credit offers flooded the mail room at my dorm. I accepted a couple of the ones I was offered, ended up using them for medical expenses that weren’t covered by insurance, and then also used them for some combined living/business expenses when I started freelancing later. Kids, don’t try this at home. Or at the home office. Don’t combine your business expenses with your living expenses and don’t roll it all up in some nebula of credit. Educate yourself about the financial aspects of freelancing before you launch your business. And track everything.


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A Few Resources of a Freelance Editor

Shout-out to University of Illinois Journalism 421. These links are far more clickable than those on the paper handout. 😉

Essential, Daily Tools

Top 20 Blogs and Sites for Editors and Wordniks

  1. American Copy Editors Society
  2. An American Editor
  3. American Heritage Dictionary Tumblr
  4. Arrant Pedantry
  5. Chicago Style Q&A
  7. blog
  8. Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips
  9. KOK Edit’s Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base
  10. Language Log
  11. LibroEditing blog
  12. Macmillan Dictionary blog
  13. Merriam-Webster Unabridged blog
  14. NYT After Deadline
  15. Online Etymology Dictionary
  16. OxfordWords
  17. The Proofreader’s Parlour
  18. Sentence First
  19. Wordnik blog
  20. Baltimore Sun’s You Don’t Say [with archives here and more McIntyre posts here]

Books on My Desk [i.e., in a stack by my couch]

  • The Copyeditor’s Handbook (2011) by Amy Einsohn
  • The Subversive Copy Editor (2009) by Carol Fisher Saller
  • Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009) by Bryan A. Garner
  • Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (1994)
  • Making Word 2010 Work for You (2014) by Hilary Powers
  • Effective Onscreen Editing (2010) by Geoff Hart
  • Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers (2013) by Louise Harnby


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Business cards are a tough business …

If any of the three sites I tried had been working properly, I’d have shiny new business cards in hand and ready to distribute to my fellow Vegas-bound ACES conference goers. But alas.

Here are the last of the four different designs I tried. Maybe I’ll just distribute the screen capture.

Business Card 2014 attempt #3


Business Card 2014 attempt #4



So, instead of shiny new cards, I’ll have old cards that will, appropriately I guess, have lots of editing on them. Purple pen at the ready…

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If I’m not here, I must be somewhere else!

You’ve found the blogging space of Dawn McIlvain Stahl. Sorry to disappoint, but I haven’t time to do it justice right now!

I’m a professional freelance copyeditor and writer with many interests. Exceptions: calculus, catheters, and cake. And sometimes even cake is awesome. See for the daily informative and entertaining posts I write for the copyediting community. See Light & Life Communications for examples of my content editing and proofing for monthly magazines and online. See my Google books profile for a partial list of mostly academic, book-length projects. Catch up with me on Google+ and Twitter if you’d like. Or, for a real time sink, check out my bookish, designish, randomish Pinterest boards.

Contact me today to see how I can wield my purple editing pen to enhance understanding between you and your readers.

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