Refine. Hone. Distill. The self is a text, too.
Devoting the majority of my educational electives to subjects that would hone my editing pen-blade was a choice I still wholly advocate. I exhausted innumerable hours and highlighters wrapping and rewrapping my mind around the complexities of my fickle and fluctuating mother-tongue. Often, I wondered if the sadists who wrote higher-level texts about the mechanics of the English language were playing a private joke on students, using excessively complicated language to explain excessively complicated language.
And now I can read nothing without seeing each typo, piece of missing punctuation, fatty phrase, or awkwardly separated concept as a glaring distraction. I am constantly copyediting in my head. I want to offer my services to Kickstarter projects promising book-related products but who use “it’s” instead of “its.” I read a phenomenal article about Sandy’s political implications that flows smoothly, delivering incisive insight, but lost my rhythm with misplaced punctuation: “The President is also taking heat from some unexpected and–were the situation not so serious, comically inept–quarters.” (“The President is also taking heat from some unexpected and–were the situation not so serious–comically inept quarters.”)
Sometimes it is downright infuriating. When reading the The Matthew Shardlake series, (which — don’t get me wrong — I thoroughly enjoyed from a storytelling perspective) I actually started cataloging the plethora of errors, including content repeated verbatim a few pages apart, but then wondered what purpose it would serve to mail off a list of mistakes to a publisher who probably already knows about it, considering the books came out several years ago. Yet, I have to ask myself, who missed these typos or didn’t notice this quote lacks the closing quotation marks? Who signed off on these pages, and how do I get that job?
Once, I was passed over for a copy editor position at an institution where I taught English, and the first piece of advertising distributed by the marketing department after filling the slot was a flyer for the “Veteran’s Day” celebration, offering “give-a-ways” at a raffle that would be held behind the “Entertainment Buisness” building.
Blessedly, I know that I am not alone in this experience and am thankful for each red-pen-wielding, language-refining, Track-Changing editor out there who battles the perception that these things don’t matter. Sometimes I even get to laugh about it when other people who share my perspective do things like create a coffee table book about it.