Solidus Editorial Solutions Star Trek
As proofreaders, copyeditors, and copywriters, we’re often the go-to people when someone has a question regarding the English language. And though the percentage is up for debate, I’d say a good 85% of the time, we have the answer, either because it’s something that’s been stuck in our heads for whatever reason, or because we’ve seen it in copy so many times we can rattle it off like gospel.

But then there’s the other 15% of the time. When we don’t have the answers. And the reactions we get during those times range from simple acceptance to amusement to outright glee -- the editor doesn’t know! Huzzah! I’ve stumped the editor!

So what does all of this have to do with Star Trek? The connection is actually very straightforward. There are fans of Star Trek -- folks who know the character names, the episode titles, and more than their fair share of quotes. And then there are fans of Star Trek -- folks who know how old the characters were in a given episode, which planets are in Beta Quadrant, and entire episode scripts verbatim from start to finish. Fans.

Similarly, there are editors and writers who know when to use a semicolon, whether it should be who or whom, and the common exceptions to the i before e rule. And then there are editors who know the pluperfect subjunctive, the difference between dependent and independent clauses, and what a gerund is. They tend to be former English teachers, and not only do they lord the information over regular, unsuspecting folk, they lord it over their fellow editors as well. Which is a really dick move, by the way.

I freely admit it: I don’t know what a gerund is. And I don’t care. I also don’t know which episodes Kirk wore his green tunic instead of his gold one, and I don’t care about that, either. I know what I know, and that’s always been good enough for me. The other 15% of the time, you can go ask the professor. But don’t expect to escape without a lecture on ergative verbs.

By Steve Boudreault

Solidus Editorial Solutions Proper English
Most folks don’t realize what a constant battle it is to defend the English language. Typos are everywhere. New words and acronyms that make your skin crawl – I’m looking at you, YOLO – try and worm their way into the common vernacular. And texting has all but eliminated the use of capitalization and punctuation, and reduced the grandeur and majesty of the language to embarrassing stubs like “l8r” and “bcoz.”

Which begs the questions: Is it time for us to lay down our arms? And are we fighting a hopeless battle?

I certainly hope not, but perhaps the writing – poorly spelled or otherwise – is indeed on the wall. Those of you who are too young to remember can scarcely imagine the outrage when CDs first began appearing on music store shelves, threatening to replace beloved records and cassette tapes. Now even the CDs have been supplanted. Things outlive their usefulness. The world moves on. Maybe it’s ready to move on without editors.

One realm that is still a bastion of editorial bliss is advertising. Ad agencies are so afraid of looking stupid – or worse, making their clients look stupid – by printing or posting something with a typo that they keep in-house teams of language lovers handy to give everything a once-over. But if those of us who care about, respect, and love the English language are a dying breed, how long before corporate America stops worrying about errors in spelling or grammar? If they’re advertising to people who don’t see typos, then what does it matter if they’re there or not?

People who do what we do know what we mean when we say that “the radar is always on” – in other words, we can never not see an error, no matter where we are. So we will always rail against typos and errors no matter where we see them. But if we’re all eventually put out to pasture, it won’t matter what we say – because no one will care.

By Steve Boudreault

Solidus Editorial Solutions Decisions
When you make the decision to dip your toe into the editorial world – and here’s hoping you do – you have to make a fundamental choice early on. Are you going to create the words, or are you going to fix them?

I’ve seen every type of scenario imaginable when it comes to writing and proofreading, and there are only two that are ideal: when a talented writer is writing for a living, and when a talented proofreader is proofreading for a living.

Here’s what can happen when things go wrong.
  • I want to be a writer so I’ll start as a proofreader. This is far and away the most common situation, and the most frustrating for the editorial department. If you’re honest about your intent to use proofreading as a stepping stone, why would the proofreading department want you? You’re already planning your exit! And if you’re disingenuous, you’re only going to piss off your fellow proofreaders when you leave, and that is not something you want to do.
  • I want to be a proofreader so I’ll start as a writer. This never happens.
  • I choose to be a writer; proofreaders are bottom-feeders. Harsh as it may sound, there is some truth to this statement. Proofreaders are bottom-feeders in the sense that if there are no writers, there’s nothing for proofreaders to do. Still, an attitude like that will not ingratiate you to your editors, who can make or break you at their whim.
  • I’m a proofreader, and I could write better than this. Even I’m guilty of this one – you read the copy looking for errors and it suddenly dawns on you that the writing is shit. You naturally assume that since you have a passion for words and an ability to spot shitty writing, you’d make a better writer than the writer. Trust me, it may look easy, but writing is hard. Really, really hard. Just because you think you can write better doesn’t make it so.
  • I hate proofreaders. This would be the battle cry of the tired and cranky copywriter who just got back his or her copy marked up in copious amounts of red ink.
  • I hate copywriters. This would be the attitude of the proofreader who just spent hours and hours thumbing through dictionaries and thesauruses to try and make heads or tails of what the copywriter is trying to say.
  • I’ll do both. It’s not often you run across someone who’s an equally skilled proofreader and copywriter, but it happens. If you’ve got both skills, go for it. Just don’t fall into the trap of being the only proofreader for your copy. Get some fresh eyes.
  • I’ll do neither. This is perhaps the greatest gift you can give the editorial world. If you have enough self-awareness to know that you stink at writing and you stink at proofreading, then choose another career path with our heartfelt blessing. There’s always politics.

By Steve Boudreault

Solidus Editorial Solutions Kicks Ass
Before the advent of the Internet (yes, there was a time before the Internet), the printed word had a much longer and expensive journey on its way to reaching the masses. Most everything in those days was printed, so there were numerous checkpoints along the way to ensure the quality and integrity of the copy – including, in most cases, a good, solid proofread by a skilled proofreader.

Nowadays, any knuckle-dragging strap-hanger can post anything they like online with no vetting process whatsoever. Granted, there are vigilant trolls and Grammar Nazis out there who are more than happy to point out a typo, but fixing things on an ex post facto basis still exposes the raw content, warts and all, and will no doubt make future generations wonder why proofreaders were not treated with the same awe and celebrity as, well, celebrities.

Still, in the face of overwhelming odds, there are still awesome things about being a proofreader and proofreaders in general. Here are a few.

  1. You know words others only dream about. I was at a party recently and held the entire attending group in thrall with the word “ampersand.” These were all successful, reasonably intelligent adults, and none of them knew what an ampersand was. It was like showing cavemen fire.

  2. You can ply your trade anywhere. After being laid off by an ad agency, a soon-to-be ex-coworker said to me, “Don’t worry. There’s always work out there for someone who can spell.” It didn’t make me feel any better at the time, but it turned out she was right. There is always work out there for someone who can spell.

  3. You get to speak a secret language. There’s nothing as great as the blank stare you’ll get when you bring the copy back to someone and say, “I found a stack and a ladder. You might want to re-wrap to avoid the river in the second paragraph. There’s also an orphan and a widow. And your kerning’s too tight.”

  4. The wordplay is endless. “Every time you make a typo, the errorists win,” is one of my personal favorites, but I’m also a fan of “Another day, another lorem ipsum dolor.”

  5. You keep the red ink flowing. There isn’t as much call for ink as there used to be, and even less call for red. It’s important to keep those hard-working red ink makers gainfully employed.

  6. You can read dirty books as part of your job. Believe it or not, there are still some adult book stores out there. And those adult book stores carry adult books. And someone’s got to make sure all those naughty words are spelled correctly.

  7. You are, in many ways, like Batman. A silent guardian watching over the English language, striking fear into the hearts of those who would use it for their own nefarious purposes. No matter who you are, that is seriously bad ass.

By Steve Boudreault