The other day I was chatting with someone who had written something, and she just couldn’t bring herself to look at it again. She knew that she’d need to edit the work, probably multiple times. But she hates that part.
I so don’t relate. I love tinkering and moving around paragraphs and fixing punctuation. It is the sitting-down-and-starting-to-write part that is absolutely the worst for me. I love editing.
I feel ridiculously passionate about it. I do a lot of editing. Sometimes I am plowing through a bunch of stuff for work, and it feels like imposing order on an untidy space, like walking into my kitchen and seeing seven different cabinets and drawers ajar and closing them one by one. (Oh yes: that totally happens. The combination of our old house and a family who feel much less strongly about feng shui than I do means that closing cabinets and drawers is a frequent occupation at my house.) But then when I see repeated punctuation inconsistencies, I get all riled up and mutter scornfully and shake my fist. I am impatient.
Recently I was editing something for Cute W, and a coworker had a look at the same hard copy he’d given me, and I felt very strongly that this coworker did not understand some concept–I can’t remember what–and I couldn’t restrain myself from scribbling a note that clearly this person doesn’t know whatever-the-blah-blah-blah it was, and Cute W had to print out a new copy so that the note would not be seen by anyone. I get riled up.
Just this morning, M and I were going over one of her papers, and I’d replaced the word “less” with “fewer,” and she started arguing with me about it, and part of the way into my tirade, I realized that she was just messing with me because she knows how Deeply Important using the correct adjective in this situation is to me.
Another thing I correct is random capitalization in other people’s writing, and I get all bent out of shape about their Random Capitalization choices, but I know that I’m a hypocrite because sometimes I simply must capitalize words (like Deeply Important) and it does not feel random to me at all. On one level, I think that I should abide by these other peoples’ personal choices. But, really? I think I’m right and they’re wrong.
One of my greatest pet peeves is when people don’t include the hyphen between two or more words that function as a single modifier. As in: She is a twelve-year-old girl who loves her flea-bitten cat.
One of my favorite mistakes, often found on Facebook, is when someone says, “I’m going to loose the weight.” It always conjures up these images of freedom and rebellion, as if the fat were, say, galloping off like a herd of stallions let loose from their pen.
I don’t think it’s normal to have favorite and least favorite spelling and grammatical errors.
Although, speaking of spelling, my favorite hard spelling word since about fourth grade, I think, is “onomatopoeia.”
And speaking of that sentence, I know that it is considered grammatically correct these days to put the period before the closing quotation marks in the above sentence, but a small part of me shrivels up and dies whenever I do that, because I really believe that it would be more appropriate to put the period after the closing quotation marks, since the period pertains to the entire sentence and not to that single word. But I am a rule-follower, so I do what makes everyone “feel more comfortable.” See: I did it again.
Who does? This woman right here. I am adamantly in favor of using the Oxford comma.
My greatest editing triumph? The time I noticed that Cute W’s draft that was going to be distributed to many, many people accidentally said “pubic” instead of “public.” Spellcheck doesn’t pick up stuff like that.
I view Spellcheck with contempt.
Nevertheless, of course I make mistakes.
And I hate it. Every once in a while I’ll look for something in my blog from years back, and I’ll notice a typo or other mistake from, say, four years ago. When that happens, I feel the sort of hot flush of shame you might imagine if you suddenly noticed that you’d tucked your skirt into your underpants before walking across town. I freak out and immediately go to fix it, but then my stomach fills with a rush of shame-acid. I am inventing the term shame-acid, but do you ever have that? Well, I just named it. Anyway, I should just move on with my life, but when something like that happens, I have little mini-flashbacks. I’ll go to bed later, and while I’m trying to fall asleep, all of a sudden I’ll jolt and think, “Oh, my God! I wrote ‘hear’ when I should have written ‘here’!” The flushed face and deluge of shame-acid return. Like some mild form of grammar-related PTSD.
I said before that I was just editing one of M’s papers, and I was grateful for the opportunity. Often the girls don’t bother asking me to edit their papers, and it makes me a little bit crazy. Recently J completed a gorgeous, amazing writing product for school, and smack in the middle of one of the prettiest pages there is a spelling error that made my stomach flop over with sorrow. I was so sad that the teacher hadn’t caught it and so sad that J hadn’t asked me to look it over because I totally would have caught it. I didn’t point it out. It was too late to fix it by then, and the apple doesn’t fall from the tree with J. She would have been upset. In fact, she will be upset, probably some time in 8th or 9th grade when she pulls out that old project and, in a rush of nostalgia, decides to read it one more time and finds the error. When that happens, I’ll be there for her. I’ll completely understand.