Author Archives: thomasfarley01

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.

More on Revising

More On Revising

Editing and proofreading fiddles with copy, revising recasts. One of our writers submitted a page with this paragraph. He is a fine writer but under deadline for this piece. I have more time as I am generally not doing original research and writing, rather, editing and revising material already written.

Here’s the troublesome paragraph:

“When you are in a difficult situation, you don’t want your lawyer to be inaccessible, unsympathetic, and only speaks in confusing legal jargon. You want legal service that’s not only effective but compassionate as well. That’s exactly the kind of service our clients get at Donovan and Reed.”

Can you count the negatives? 1) difficult 2) don’t. 3) inaccessible. 4) unsympathetic. 5) confusing. 6) not.

Writing for the public must be positive. In this setting, these everyday words and phrases  conspire to present a negative image. Instead of saying what a client doesn’t want, let’s say what a client wants. And, perhaps most importantly, what the firm wants as well.

It took me an hour and at least ten revisions before I was happy with what you see below. This was abnormally long for a single paragraph, however, this was for a client’s home page. Home pages must be positive, copy has to move, and they cannot ramble. The rest of the page needed only minor editing.

Here’s my revision:

“You want a lawyer who is accessible, sympathetic, and plain speaking. You also want legal service that’s effective and compassionate. That’s what we want, too. And that’s exactly what we provide at Donovan & Reed.”

Details? I eliminated “When you are in a difficult situation” because the client is undoubtedly already in one. The negative language was then eliminated and the copy tightened.

As I alluded to previously, it was important to state that the law firm’s wishes were the same as the client. “We want that, too.” This invests or aligns the company with the client’s concerns. It’s not just the client desiring something, it is the business as well.

Some before and afters:


Many Canadian companies usually look at U.S. possibilities when they think of expanding their business internationally. Primarily, the American market has many reasons to offer which include a similar language, a common culture, geographical closeness, and an environment that’s conducive to business.


Many Canadian companies look at the United States when thinking of expanding their business internationally. The American market offers a common language, a similar culture, geographical closeness, and a conducive business environment.


This one’s tricky. It’s an opening paragraph and brevity is easily achieved, however, do you see a point of contention? I changed a “common culture” to a similar culture and a “similar language” to a common language.

I have two Canadian-English dictionaries but I’d say their English is quite close to American English, enough to say common, rather than similiar. The culture, on the other hand, seems different enough to say similar rather than common.

Here’s the real question: how do you incorporate French and Quebec in all of this? Without being wordy? Does the following work?

Many Canadian companies look at the United States when thinking of expanding their business internationally. The American market offers a common language, save French, a similar culture, geographical closeness, and a conducive business environment.

Hmm. You can’t forget the French language in Canada, not at all. I understand all government documents and websites are in both languages. It’s now just a struggle to keep from getting wordy.

Bad Revising

Bad Revising

My last post was on how I revised the work of a writer on our team. (external link).

The next example is of bad revising, in which some unknown scriptwriter revises the book of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. The arrogance and gall of this writer is appalling.

“The novel’s utopian vision, with its ugly flares of racism and misogyny, also required renovation. ‘The book’s hugely problematic,’ Wiener said. So the show pivoted toward equality, race-bending and gender-flipping several of the supporting characters.” (external link)

This paragraph relates to a new miniseries which is bringing to life the book Brave New World. The New York Times, incredibly, quoted that writer’s drivel.

If you’ve read Brave New World, I’d suggest reading Huxley’s set of essays in Beyond the Mexique Bay, particularly ‘Copan.’ It is masterful creative nonfiction (external link), with Huxley speculating and ruminating on many themes besides a drugged out future.

Huxley is challenging. He was formidably educated and conducted provocative, mind-enlarging essays. He wrote for the well read who were brought up with the classics and who knew Greek and Latin. Still, this is like having the company of a very smart friend. Learn to keep up. Because it’s worth it.

As with all difficult writers, however, the internet has made him more accessible than at any other time. While reading his writing on the web, you can look up his references and allusions as you go.

To read the uncensored Huxley is to know the true, full man of his time, not the man we want to manufacture today.

It is an absolute tragedy that young people will watch this bilge and think this film represents the book.

It is a continuing tragedy that our history is being erased to fit the times, that our society, our great achievements, and yes, our great writers, are all being brought low to satisfy our present day short attention span culture, with its attendant political correctness.

Henry Ford once declared that history was bunk. That’s not a bad quote from a semi-literate. But to have academia embrace that thought is a breaking down of our most bedrock intellectual principles. It does violence against reason.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. We’ve heard that maxim since third grade, it’s accepted wisdom. Inviolate. Yet, how do we learn from the past if we alter its record? A bumper sticker once read: “Seat belts, helmet laws. What next, Comrade?”

Huxley’s Doors of Perception led me to try LSD. Twice. His experiences with that drug while it was still legal were beautifully expressed. So much so that I had the confidence to try it when the right opportunity presented itself.

I’m waiting for that book to be banned. For their own good, we can no longer let young people make free, risky choices. We want to take away all risk today. Look at our colleges.

They have gone from trying to protect a young person’s physical health to protecting their mental health and their emotional state.

Dare to read. Dare to decide. Dare to think on your own. We are now shaming people who do.

I have a suggestion for those crippled  screen writers. Work on your own writing instead of tearing down the writing of someone else. Someone you will never equal.

Here are just two paragraphs from Beyond the Mexique Bay, a travel book into the land and mind of a distant place. Numinosity, by the way, refers to something invoking a strong spiritual feeling, perhaps of the Divine. . . .

Esquipulas is the home of a Black Christ of such extraordinary sanctity that every January pilgrims came, and still come, from enormous distances to worship at his shrine. It seems that in the eyes of all the aboriginal American races, black is traditionally a sacred colour; so that what draws the worshippers from as far as Mexico in the north, and as Ecuador in the south, and even as Peru, is probably less the saintliness of the historic Jesus than the magical sootiness of his image. With us, black is symbolical only of grief. The black uniform of our clergy is a kind of chronic mourning that is meant, I suppose, to testify to the essential sérieux of their official character. It has no magical significance; for on all ceremonial occasions it is discarded for a praying costume of white linen, or of cloth of gold, or of gaudily embroidered silk.

But though black is not with us a sacred colour, black images of exceeding holiness are none the less fairly common in Europe. The reason, I suspect, is that such statues have a somewhat sinister appearance. (The Holy Face of Lucca is very nearly black and, with its glittering jewelled eyes, is one of the strangest and most terrifying sculptures ever made.) In Otto’s terminology, black idols are intrinsically more ‘numinous’ than white. Numinosity is in inverse ratio to luminosity.

Last thought. Do you think our idiot screenwriter could ever pen something like that?

Assessment Tests

Assessment tests are often required but results depend on the writing style and preferences of the test writer. Or the guide they use. CMOS? AP? MLA? Importantly, will the tester tell you the guide used for developing the answers? Or is it, again, the writer’s own preferences?

I stand on my published writing before any assessment test. Do you like my writing or not? That’s fair, isn’t it? No problem if you don’t. Besides my published writing, and the last five years I’ve spent professionally writing and editing, I have 851 posts at my personal blog. and I have a 60,000 word MS on this page. See anything you like? Yet, I recently had to take an assessment test.

This was a timed test on grammar problems. Eleven minutes. This lack of time kept me from looking up solutions to these difficult, unusual thought experiments.

Editors like myself rarely spend time researching usage, we just recast a sentence. That’s far quicker than musing over conflicting opinions and guides. In this test, however, we were supposed to dawdle on things like whether “womens” or “women’s” was correct in a particular sentence. Good grief. Just revise. And get on with the rest of your work.

Their first question probably revolved around a semi-colon. I don’t use them in business writing since they slow things down and make things less direct. Although I admire how Melville and Tolstoi used them to string together 150 word sentences with six tangents. Want to hear something shocking?

I sometimes substitute a comma when a semi-colon is called for.

That’s when one of our writers pens an otherwise well-crafted or intriguing sentence which only needs to move faster. Jazz would have never developed if musicians always stuck to playing the correct notes. More eccentricities? I don’t use dashes, parentheses, or italics. I let our writers use them but only to a certain extent. But back to the test.

The test writer consistently used “of been” instead of “have been.” That’s a style question, not a grammar problem.

Question seven moved me on before I was done. Technical problem.

Question eight referred to Catalan. Odd. I thought the area Catalonia, like in Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. The test writer then called the people catalans, not capitalizing the “c”. That’s like calling a Californian a californian. Yet there was no way to point out this mistake, instead, the grammar problem in this question was about something else. I’m being graded by a writer who can’t capitalize?

Question ten had problems in the text underlined and noted as “A” through “K.” “Select which ones have a problem.” “K” had a problem but there was no “K “radio button to click. The button list only ran through “J.” Another technical problem.

Five professional editors would grade differently with this test. Does CMOS, MLA, or AP agree on everything? Of course not. And if you are working for a publication that has its own style sheet, well, it may not agree with any of these guides.

For comparison, the writing test I took five years ago for InFocus required twelve hours to complete. They paid me for my time and I wrote a number of papers on subjects they chose. An extended essay test. I’m still working for this honest and professional company.

An eleven minute assessment test is better suited to math or other fields whose problems have definite answers. In writing there are grammar mistakes that all can agree on but there are also thousands of instances in which writers or editors will disagree. There’s an art to English that an assessment test cannot assess.

It Came from the Nineties!

This is issue No. 9 of private line magazine, which I produced from 1994 to 1995. I just made it into a .pdf:


It’s was in black and white to save costs but I think I did a good job with the design, considering the Technology of The Times.

I did most of the writing and all of the layout. In Word. Incredibly tedious work and nothing lined up. Each page was a separate Word doc file. Argh.

The magazine was a critical success and a commercial failure. My biggest distributor went bankrupt on me, taking down my magazine and at least a hundred other small titles.

The $5,000 dollars they owed me was an unrecoverable loss. I refunded subscribers for the issues they would not receive.

My private line page is here, under Published Works.


Revising Examples, continued . . .

August 21, 2020.

Hello. The following two or three posts are from my personal website, I will add many, many more from there as I build out this website, a continuing and slow process.

I revise the work of overseas writers. Most of these writers are under hard deadline and are not native English speakers. It’s a credit to them that they can do this work at all.

April 17, 2019


After you got into an accident, the responsible party’s insurance company will send you a series of documents to sign. One of the forms you will likely sign is a Medical Authorization Release. This permits the insurance provider to check your personal medical history to determine the value of your personal injury case. If you’re concerned about whether you should sign it or not, then make sure you understand what each paperwork is about before signing any of them. If you don’t know what they could mean for you, then you should consult with an attorney.


The responsible party’s insurance company will send documents for you to sign after your accident. One vital form stands out: a Medical Authorization Release. Signing this lets the insurance provider check your personal medical history to determine the value of your injury case. If you don’t understand how that release or any other paperwork impacts your case, consult an attorney.


The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor recently announced that they have decided to issue an additional 30,000 I-2C visas until September 30 this year. This means that foreign nationals who hope to work a seasonal job in the US may have a better chance of entering the country.


The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor will issue 30,000 additional I-2C visas until September 30th of this year. Foreign nationals who hope to work a seasonal job in the US may have a better chance of entering the country.


It’s not surprising to find out the multitude of nursing homes in Kentucky as subjects of complaints. According to the Department of Public Health, its Department’s 24-hours a day Nursing Home Hotline processes as many as 19,000 calls annually. Throughout the years, nursing homes have been linked to several issues such as neglect, abuse and all sorts of misconducts. For those with loved ones inside nursing home facilities, this is both alarming and necessary reasons to always be on the lookout. If you suspect that someone you love or know may be having a negative experience in a nursing home, here’s what you need to know.


Kentucky nursing homes are frequent and continuing subjects of complaints. Nursing homes over the years have engaged in neglect, abuse, and all manner of misconduct. The State’s Department of Public Health runs a 24 hour-a-day Nursing Home Hotline. It gets nearly 19,000 calls each year. Friend and family caring for a loved one inside a nursing home must continually look for warning signs. Here’s what to know if you suspect poor or abusive treatment.


Ndot has taken a more significant step to keep Clark County roads safer by replacing 800 of the controversial guardrail X-Lite sections across the state. According to a statement from the state, it is taking a proactive step to address concerns about the guardrail’s parts not up to par with field performance expectations. The planned X-Lite product replacement will cost as much as $20 million although the federal highway regulations do not require it.


Ndot has taken a significant step to keep Clark County roads safer by replacing certain parts on guardrails in Clark County and across the state. 804 X-Lite sections have generated controversy in several states for possibly causing fatalities. According to a statement from the department, it is replacing these parts to address concerns about the guardrail’s components not meeting performance expectations. Ndot will spend as much as $20 million on replacing the X-Lite sections although federal highway regulations do not mandate that they do so.


The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that motor vehicle crashes declined consistently throughout the years, although the same can’t be said for wrong-way driving incidents. Approximately 300 people die from wrong-way crashes every year. In Las Vegas alone, two accidents already occurred this year. One man died on Interstate 5 near Downtown Las Vegas last January, while another one did on Interstate 805 near Rocky Ridge last March.


The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that motor vehicle crashes have been on the decline for the last several years. That, unfortunately, cannot be said for wrong-way driving accidents. Approximately 300 people die from wrong-way crashes every year. In Las Vegas alone, two accidents have already occurred this year. One man died on Interstate 5 near downtown Las Vegas in January, while another man died on Interstate 805 near Rocky Ridge in March.


Companies must also get operating permits every six months in January and June. The permit will provide more details about the size of every fleet. Companies must even settle any related fees that will be imposed by the City Council. According to the mayor’s proposal, these include $150 per device and $235 per permit.


Under the new regulations, companies must get operating permits every six months in January and June. To be approved, the permit application must provide information on the size of a companies’ fleet. Companies must also pay any fees imposed by the City Council. According to the mayor’s proposal, these charges include $150 for each device and $235 for the permit itself.


Highways and trucks always pose a risk to both drivers and passengers. Recently, two truck rollover accidents on the roads of Las Vegas highlighted that risk. The accidents killed two people and injured another one as a semi-trucked flipped over Sandy Valley, and another big rig crashed and overturned a few miles southwest of Spring Mountain State Park. Truck-related accidents are so common that they affect so many people. If you or your loved one has been involved in this type of accident, then it is best to call an attorney. The following sections will discuss more the dangers of trucks in Las Vegas and what you can do legally when you or someone you know is involved in one.


Large commercial trucks on highways can pose great risks to drivers and passengers of ordinary vehicles. Recently, two truck rollover accidents on Las Vegas roads highlighted this danger. These accidents killed two people and injured another as a semi-truck flipped over in Sandy Valley, and another big rig overturned a few miles southwest of Spring Mountain State Park. Truck-related accidents are common and impact many people. If you or your loved one has been involved in this type of accident, call an attorney. The following sections detail the dangers trucks present in Las Vegas and what to do when you or someone you know is involved in a truck related accident.

Another Revising Example

Still testing. These first few posts are all filler, just to see how this new template works.


In certain cases, an existing Texas child custody order may need to be modified by a court after custody has been initially determined. This means you can request a court to modify a custody order when a new and substantial change in family circumstances have occurred since the initial custody decision has been made.

If the change will considerably affect the best interests and welfare of your child, a court may find it necessary to modify a child custody order.


A court may modify an existing Texas child custody order to reflect a new and substantial change in family circumstances since the initial custody decision was made. The court may modify the child custody order if the change considerably impacts the best interests and welfare of the child.

The Miserable Necessity of SEO

If you’re writing for the web, you are writing for your boss, of course, the client, certainly, but also most importantly for a bot, a group of algorithims somewhere in Mountain View or wherever Google has them kept. If you don’t have people handling SEO for you, then you better get on the learning curve and quick.

The days of producing substantive writing and throwing in some keywords to attract the search engines is over. There’s too much original, quality writing on the web for you to get noticed by that alone. Keyword selection is still important but it goes hand in hand with a dozen other methods to get your client ranked higher in results.

Worse, a few individual web pages may not help a client’s website by themselves, instead, an entire website of pages specifically written to appeal to Google is more likely to win. That’s where a team comes in, you can’t do this by yourself unless you want to dive deep into SEO and become a webmaster as well.

Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Kafka would have real difficulty producing business writing these days without an understanding of search engine optimization. Which is terribly unfortunate; it makes me angry to think that I am often writing or revising mainly for a machine.

What triggered this discussion?

I got a nice email today from Aliaa El Nashar today about a great list of writing courses her group has put together. Link below. She writes,

Hello Thomas,

My name is Aliaa and I’m the editor of Kotobee Blog. Our goal is to help writers achieve their dreams of honing their skills and getting published. I came across Thomas Farley’s Blog and found it to be quite insightful and gripping.

We’ve been accumulating a list of over 300 online writing courses that you and your readers might be interested in. You can easily filter through the courses by genre, date, and price. Here’s a link to the post: (external link)

You’re more than welcome to share it on your blog. Let me know if you’re interested. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on it?

Have a nice day!

Aliaa El Nashar


To which I responded,

Thanks for the email and that is a great list. I’ll share it on my blog in less than a week. Right now I am moving to a new home and everything here is in chaos.

That Berkeley course on writing for social media has no relevance to business. I signed up for the course only to drop it immediately, a sad thing for me because a previous Berkeley course on writing creative non-fiction proved rewarding (internal link) and well worth the money.

I communicated with the teacher of the course at the time and the emphasis was on developing quality writing, something any good English course can do. Today. we need to write for humans, somewhat, but more importantly, for a bunch of bots and algorithms.

If my company doesn’t get our client on the first page of Google’s search results then that customer is invisible. That is what writing online is today, a combination of good writing and an understanding of search engine optimization.

The company I’m with produces blog posts and other writing for law firms across the country. Our writing matches up as good or better than other website developers. While I am only on the edges of the SEO work that my team does, my duties are chiefly editing and writing, I am aware of certain methods we use to make our pages more search engine friendly. And these techniques go way beyond keyword selection and they are constantly changing as Google won’t reveal its methods lest someone game the system. There is also a constellation of other tricks that support any page that is posted. These are not within the writing itself but have to do with how the writing gets distributed or promoted beyond where the page resides. SEO is a dark art and unfortunately any writer putting content on the web better know something about it. (Content – I hate that word!)

I know of no course that combines business writing with SEO. Steinbeck, Kafka, and Conrad would all be lost today without an optimized website. Social media writing without SEO in mind? Good luck. I’m 62 and have been writing professionally since 1994. Now, my chief concern is getting the attention of a bot.

With personal websites like my writing website, who cares? I don’t sell anything, have no ads, and don’t care where I wind up with Google. For any business writer, though, they better get used to a new reality that will take time away from their craft and put it down a rabbit hole of algorithms. Sorry for the rant, all of us business writers need to move from an uncharted sea onto a new land. Most people, though, like that Berkeley teacher, haven’t landed on shore yet. Tom

NB: More here: Do I Need To Repeat Myself? (external link)

I, A Stranger and Afraid in a World I Never Made

I, a Stranger and Afraid In a World I Never Made

Alfred Edward Housman was a turn of the century English poet and scholar. A man at the end of the Empire.

He penned beautiful, short, jewel like poetry that could be incredibly depressing. And at the same time, an awesome display of word mastery.

His poetry went beyond cynical to about being doomed. His most popular book,  A Shropshire Lad, was extremely popular among British soldiers sent to die in the trenches of World War I.

Orwell knew Housman’s poetry well and thought it shaped an entire generation of British men during the Edwardian era. “A kind of bitter, defiant paganism, a conviction that life is short and the gods are against you, which exactly fitted the prevailing mood of the young.”

Illustrated, used copies abound for little money. My book had illustrations as melancholy as the writing.

In this poem, however, Housman is more defiant than resigned. He gives in at the end but he protests along the way. For a subject of the realm, for any of us, that’s something.

The Laws of God, The Laws of Man

by A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbor to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.
And since, my soul, we cannot fly
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man.

The Housman Society is the premier resource for everything Housman, including a fine collection of his poems: (external link)

A fine reading of a Housman poem by the erudite Richard Hawkins is at my website is here: (external link)

Continuing Test Posts

EXAMPLE POST FROM PERSONAL WEBSITE — figuring out this template

What Happened?

Hard opening paragraphs over the last two decades in newspaper and magazine work have been replaced with soft openings, this style now infecting all manner of writing, Including business writing. I’m revising nearly every opening that comes across my desk.

A standard opening might have been,

“John Smith, 32, was badly injured in a vehicle accident last night on the 215 Expressway. He was the sole occupant of the vehicle which was hit by a big rig driving in the wrong direction. As of press time, Smith remains in guarded condition in the Intensive Care Unit of St John’s Hospital.”


“John Smith was a hard working owner of a bait and tackle shop in suburban Urbana. He had kids, a mortgage, a wife of five years, and a dog. Last night his life was shattered. Possibly forever. For reasons still unknown, a big rig traveling in the wrong direction on the 215 collided with Smith’s vehicle head on. A GoFundMe account has been set up to cover some of Smiths’ medical bills.”

Here’s a lead from a randomly selected law office post on ridesharing:

“Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have drastically changed the way people get around the city when they can’t or don’t want to do the driving. No one can disregard the fact that Uber or Lyft makes traveling easier and more convenient especially after a night of partying and drinking. DUI’s have reportedly dropped anywhere from 15% to 62% as a result of ridesharing. Car accidents, unfortunately, continue to happen.”

Here’s how I would rewrite the lead:

“Accident cases involving rideshare companies like Uber or Lyft are complex and difficult as the law governing the rideshare industry is rapidly changing. Only an attorney experienced in rideshare cases can get you the compensation you deserve.”

As always, get to the point. Engage in storytelling if you must with the rest of your piece, but get the opening right.

Some Shape of Beauty Moves Away the Pall

A poorly worded ad caught my attention. See below. It meant to capture Keats but he is not easily seized.

Yesterday’s post by Shelley was from 1820. ← (external link) The following excerpt is from Keats in 1818. I understand they were not friends.

Keats pens an exceptional line with, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” He quickly adds to his genius. “Some shape of beauty moves away the pall” easily reasons why beauty is joyous, why it counters our dark spirits.

Besides keeping a quiet bower for us and a sleep full of sweet dreams.

Endymion by John Keats

(an excerpt)

A Poetic Romance


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.