Allow me to reintroduce myself

After so many years “behind the scenes,” it wasn’t exactly a direct route to publishing By Way of Detours. 

Now, if you’d known me in Chapel Hill, N.C., where I helped kick-start the hip-hop and spoken word scenes as a college student, playing the back may seem like the real departure. I loved testing out new material at the Durham coffee shop where I hosted a regular poetry event, or on the North Carolina Central University campus where I was a frequent open mic’er. 

While most of my journalism-school peers were angling for bylines and photo credits, I leaned into the editing side of things. Copy editing, to be specific. Not only did the field come with its own reference manual – the Associated Press Stylebook – that you were expected to use on the job, I’d been an ace speller since my pre-K through sixth grade Montessori days. And at Percy Julian Junior High in Oak Park, Ill., I could diagram my way out of the longest sentences my teachers threw up on the chalkboard. 

I liked being good at things. I learned early that I was good at spelling. Before long, I was good at writing.  

Somewhere in between, I discovered voice recording. Me and my sister Cheronda would sing songs and talk into one of those flat cassette players with a single speaker at the top, recording over what I’m sure were some of my dad’s favorite music tapes. 

Maybe Dad was being a good sport. Maybe Mom knew that it was the start of something. 

Fast-forward decades later, and settling in front a microphone is still one of my favorite things to do. My rap career probably peaked when I opened up for The Roots at Cat’s Cradle near Chapel Hill, but the Mo*Audio podcast I co-hosted with Carlton Hargro and Larmarrous Shirley gave me the same thrill.  

J-school paid off with an internship at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I got the gig partly because of my love for hip-hop – me and the friends I MC’d with started a hip-hop newspaper. I’ve been in Atlanta ever since. 

Thankfully I still get to work with words. And also thankfully, it’s at a Fortune 50 company that allows me to put all of my coaching, encouraging and building-people-up tendencies to work. 

I hope you see a theme here. While one thing may have led to another, it’s not always been the direct route, let alone the expected one. 

I guess you could call it strategy. Because strategy is about deciding where you’re going to “play” and how you’re going to win when you get there.  

If you have even an inkling of what you like to do, or what you’re naturally good at, you’re halfway there. My aim is to offer you a little guidance on the way, and help you trust that you will get there.  

The how to win part? Well, you just have to get behind the scenes and let the detours lead the way. 

Chante Sez … It’s unfair to judge

If we would take the time to judge ourselves — examine ourselves first, that is — we often wouldn’t be judged by others. Of course, when others do judge, it’s unfair.

I try not to judge myself for constantly misspelling judgment. I’m always inclined to add a second “e.”

Here’s my tip on how to avoid “judgement.”

Judgment is wrong; it’s an an error. Since “error” starts with “e,” remember that it’s an error to add one.

ChanteSez … Cool it now

With cool weather comes references to temperature.

A common mistake is to say the temperature is getting warmer or — in the case of autumn and winter — cooler.

But think about what’s at play here. It’s the temperature itself, not the weather.

Temperatures only rise or fall when used in this context. A few examples:

My dad would always make me wear a hat when the temperature started to fall.

Folks love it when August hits and the weather gets cooler — but not so much when there’s a big temperature drop in the winter.

Georgia has distinct seasons. When September comes, the days start cool but then the temperature raises to the mid-70s.

Think of it this way: Temps drop, weather does not.

ChanteSez … There’s no easy way through

Shorthand is commonplace when you’re texting or on Twitter and Facebook. And fast communication has a friend in fast food.

“Thru” is often used in place of the proper “through.”

But “drive-thru” is actually the only term where the shorthand is correct.

I understand you’re in a rush. Just remember to write right when it really matters.

ChanteSez … Back that thing up

Easy one this week, folks. It’s the difference between the action of backing up, building up, and the results thereof.

A few examples:

When you hold back on how you feel about small offenses, they’ll eventually build up — and lead to a blow up.

When you don’t make a backup of your files, you risk losing all your work.

Commercials that mention plaque buildup gross me out.

Sometimes you have to back up to move forward.

Notice the difference? When using “back up” or “build up” as a verb, it’s two words. As a noun — “backup” or “buildup” — you put them together for one word.

Think of it this way: Verb equals two words; noun, down to one.

ChanteSez … Is it ‘then’ or ‘than’?

A colleague had seen “then” incorrectly used so many times when “than” should have been — in laudable publications, no less — he started to question which was right. ChanteSez to the rescue!

If you’re talking about time, it’s “then.” A few examples:

If I don’t do it now, then I’ll never get around to it.

Every now and then, I crave mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Think of it this way: Time means “when,” and when means “then.”

“Than” is about a comparison of some sort.

She refuses to date anyone who’s shorter than she is.

I’d rather be busy than bored.

Here’s your clue: Stay aware (with an “a”) when you compare.

Of course, the best way to avoid this typo, and so many others, is to do a good read before you post, print or pontificate.

ChanteSez … Know your criminal acts

It’s summertime in Atlanta. In my neighborhood, as in many others within city limits, there’s often a spike in criminal acts to correspond with temperature hikes.

Did you know there’s actually a difference between a burglary and a robbery? And between a homicide and a murder?

  • Burglary involves entering a building — not necessarily breaking in — with the intent to commit a crime. Robbery, on the other hand, includes using violence or force when trying to steal something.
  • You rob a person or a house, but you steal the money and valuables on hand.
  • Homicide is the legal term for a killing. Manslaughter is the act of killing, intent aside.
  • Murder, however, is premeditated homicide committed with malicious intent. A person shouldn’t be called a murderer unless there has been a conviction processed through the legal system.

There you go: Crime defined according to Associated Press, and ChanteSez. I certainly hope you escape any and all criminal acts — this season and beyond!

ChanteSez … Dig picture perfect punctuation

I wish I could claim today’s ChanteSez, but alas, that credit belongs to Curtis Newbold, aka The Visual Communication Guy. For those of you who are more visually inclined, his handy chart lists 15 of the most common punctuation marks, and amusingly, how hard they should be to learn.

There’s the period at the low end, and the comma at the hard end.

Check it out below. Thank you to Piggie for the tip!

Punctuation marks chart

ChanteSez … Don’t get possessed by apostrophes

Will F. from @HighImpactMda suggested today’s ChanteSez grammar tip weeks ago — I appreciate his patience, and yours. Sometimes you see an apostrophe before an “s,” and sometimes after. What gives?

Here are a couple of examples:

The twins’ style is so different, even though they are identical.

You can catch Mo Audio every Wednesday on Jabari Graham’s ABL Radio.

When you’re forming a possessive, and the item (or person) doing the possessing ends in “s,” you add the apostrophe to the end of the word.

Conversely, if the word doesn’t end in “s,” add one and put the apostrophe before it.

Here’s how to remember it: No “s,” add one. With “s,” needs none.