You’re reading something and you spot a typo. What do you do? That depends on who you are. If you’re someone outside the editorial realm, maybe you pat yourself on the back and bask in the pride of having caught an error. Maybe you show it around to other people to demonstrate how keen your powers of observation are. Maybe you point it out to whoever is responsible for the copy, or maybe you let them wallow in their ignorance, content in knowing that you found something that they missed.
But if you’re in the editorial world -- and I can speak to this because I’ve known a lot of people in the editorial world -- your reaction to a typo is much more visceral. To an editor, a typo is like a zit on prom night. It’s like seeing someone walking around with their fly undone. It’s like an opera singer hitting a horribly flat note during an aria. It’s just so, for lack of a better term, wrong.
Emotions can run high in this business. Here are some typical editorial reactions to a typo:
- Fear. This one comes up most often if your job is to catch typos and you’re reading through the “final” version of something and you spot something you missed. It’s a terrible, sinking feeling, and many editors find religion as they wonder if there’s time to catch the copy before it goes out the door.
- Embarrassment. This is the worst. You’re convinced the copy is clean and you’ve told everyone as much, and then someone -- whose job is something other than catching typos -- comes to you and points out something you missed. It’s like your entire world falls apart. Your heart sinks to the floor. You humbly mark up the offending word, and then you’re immediately filled with …
- Doubt. Was that the only typo you missed? Were there others? Now fear rears its ugly head again, as does embarrassment as you ask for the copy back to take one last look at it. You can feel your credibility slipping away as you double-check and triple-check your work, hoping against hope that it was a lone typo and not the end of your career.
- Anger. This happens when you diligently mark up copy and make it perfect, and then it comes back to you with STET written everywhere, and half of the approved edits not made. It becomes an editorial tennis match -- you tell them to fix it, they don’t, you tell them to fix it, they don’t. It’s not too long before the screaming begins.
- Resentment. This is the natural by-product of anger. Because they didn’t accept your edits, you immediately start to wonder why you even bother. You’re the editor, after all. This is your purview. If they want their copy to look stupid, fine. But then anyone who knows that you had a chance to look over the copy is going to blame you. Assholes.
- Joy. Rare, but it happens. You take a really rough piece of copy, you polish it, massage it, tweak it, and scrub it free of typos. You hand it over, all of your edits are approved and made, and in the end, you get to see a clean, gleaming version of the mess you originally tackled. And you immediately start checking it for typos.
By Steve Boudreault
Occasionally I’ll have trouble expressing a particular thought or feeling, or get frustrated when I can’t find a description precise enough to describe a loved one, and I’ll realize – I don’t know enough words. And I’m not alone in this. I’ve read estimates that there are 600,000 words in the English language and the average American can easily access only 60,000 of them. We could all expand our vocabularies a bit.
But here’s my real problem – I fake it.
I smile and nod at parties, faking comprehension, when a couple of words I don’t know can make me lose the entire meaning of a conversation. And that’s a shame both for the person who took the time to share an idea that fell flat because of my ignorance, and for me because I lost the opportunity to gain new wisdom. I’ll laugh at jokes I don’t get while promising myself that I’ll learn that word when I get home. And if I remember to do so, I may chuckle to myself at the remembered joke, but the community aspect of a shared joke is lost. I once went home and looked up the word cromulent after laughing with colleagues at a joke I didn’t understand. When I discovered that it was a Simpsons reference and not a real word, my embiggened ego was crushed.
This behavior goes against everything I believe in. I’ll have maddening arguments with my husband, also a writer, over semantics because precision of language is extremely important to us both. And I truly believe that language is an art form that can be raised to much loftier places than we sometimes allow it. But living these beliefs requires that I know more words.
So this year, my New Year’s resolution will be to quit faking it. If I don’t understand a word that you use, I’ll ask you what it means. And in the process, I’ll become a better editor, a more precise writer, and a more effective communicator. I might get to know you a little bit better, too.
By Emily Olson
Social media has only made it easier to see what the people you care about are up to, and you need to be paying attention.
In one of my first jobs, I managed a weekly e-newsletter for the company I worked for. In the industry, it was an extremely popular newsletter. We had just over 10,000 subscribers. I was constantly scouring other industry publications and news sources for information and articles that I could write about or include in our daily industry news feed. At first, it was totally overwhelming. It seemed that it would be impossible to sift through all of the info to find the nuggets of gold.
When I started, it took me an entire day to find three relevant industry articles and write blurbs about them. It was time-consuming and painful. But I quickly learned where the best stuff was, and soon I was able to pull the most significant news, write blurbs, send info to my colleagues, and post it to our site in less than an hour.
I had my finger on the pulse of the industry. I always knew about government policy changes, key partnerships, acquisitions, or investments almost before anyone else in the company. Or the industry, for that matter.
Having to conduct these activities on a daily basis forced me to constantly be paying attention. I knew what the top-of-mind issues were for our clients and potential customers – in some cases before they did. I passed on the most important and pertinent info and news to my colleagues to help them improve their knowledge and level of customer service. I loved my job.
Social media has only made it easier for companies to pay attention to what their competitors are up to and what their customers are looking for. I know that it’s easy to get bogged down by the day-to-day activities of our jobs. It’s only natural, and it happens to the best of us. There are only so many hours in a day to get done all that you have to do. But, if you set up keyword searches, find the most important sources of news and information, and integrate these activities for even a few minutes a day, you will see a multitude of benefits. If you’re not listening, you may be missing out. And, lucky for me, I still love my job.
By Emily Trask
I was rearranging my bookcase today, in a mildly obsessive manner, because I decided for whatever reason that the books should be arranged by height rather than by author or publisher. A strictly aesthetic change, but one I felt strongly about.
When I had the books all pulled out and sitting in random piles on the floor, I thumbed through a few of them and took an unexpected and nostalgic trip. There were phone numbers of old friends scribbled on inside covers. There were birthday messages written on title pages. There were even some stains that reminded me of drinks and food I’d consumed while I read them. And I couldn’t get over some of the things that had been used as bookmarks — boarding passes from trips I took years ago, napkins from restaurants that have long since shuttered their doors, and even a grocery list of items that, since it was folded into long-closed pages, I can only assume I never bought.
It got me thinking about electronic book readers, like the Kindle, the iPad, and the Nook. The appeal of these devices is obvious — you can download hundreds of books into them, they’re lightweight and easy to transport, they’re environmentally friendly, and they don’t require a bookcase. As a fan of cool new gadgets, and a fan of anything that promotes literacy, I think they’re great. But as they become more common and their use more widespread, I think something is indelibly lost. You’ll never find any of the things I found today in an e-reader. It’ll never have dog-eared pages or highlighted passages indicating a well-loved and well-read story. To me it makes great literature disposable, and that’s something great literature (and hell, even crappy literature) should never be.
I suppose it’s the way the world is trending. In the home of the future (and in some of the present) you won’t have media cabinets filled with CDs or DVDs. You won’t have a separate TV and computer. And you won’t have bookshelves loaded with pages and pages of the written word.
My original ending was to ask how one would bring an e-reader to an author’s book signing. But I suppose in the future, we won’t have book signings either.
By Steve Boudreault
When describing to a friend of mine/business acquaintance what we do here at Solidus, I gave our party line: “We provide a multimedia approach to brand enhancement through language.” Then I said, jokingly: “We’re like language whores!” She laughed. Then I started to think about it. “Actually,” I said, “I guess we are more like language hoers.” Of course, the two phrases sound the same (whore and hoer), but the two ideas are very different.
If we talk about massaging language, which is very popular in marketing circles (and we do do this), it sounds like we are more like whores. However, I much prefer the idea that we are like farmers, nurturing language, enhancing it, cultivating it.
We can start our own garden from scratch, tending the soil, providing food for thought. Or, we can enhance the seedlings of others, tilling the soil (suitable venue/foundation), moving the crops (words and sentences) around as necessary, providing nutrients and water (proper grammar, spelling, and style), ultimately helping the seedlings or ideas to blossom and thrive. At the end of the season (writing or editing process), you have a beautiful, healthy harvest (perfectly crafted language and message).
Maybe this should be our new tagline -- Solidus: we are language hoers, helping to feed the world one sentence at a time.
By Emily Trask