I hate labels. Too bad we can’t go through life without them, or make up things no one’s ever heard of to describe ourselves. If I could do that, rather than calling myself an “editor,” I’d call myself a “writer’s helper.” You see, I’ve discovered during my life as an “editor” that this label sometimes intimidates authors. They don’t feel comfortable giving their work to an “editor” to review. I think they fear I’ve memorized Fowler’s and The Chicago Manual of Style and am waiting, mouth drooling in anticipation, to pounce on them with my red pen. They seem to expect comments like (and, believe me, I did once know an editor who was like this, so it isn’t as though their fear is completely irrational), “This is garbage,” or “During your schooling, did you ever wake up to take note of what it means to write?” I’m pretty sure some of my authors are afraid to have a single typo or awkward phrase when they send me sample pages to review.
The truth of the matter, though, is that I am myself a queen of typos and awkward sentences. I can write something, obsessively proofread it ten times, pick it up a week later, and discover some glaring and embarrassing typo, or a phrase that sounds like I was channeling Tarzan when I wrote it. I turn to my friends who are editors to help me catch these errors, knowing perfectly well that the problem is I’m too close to it. I know what I meant to say, and my brain reads that, even if it isn’t there. I can completely sympathize with those who make mistakes. I have no problem reading and correcting them. I don’t judge those who make them. And there’s nothing I like better than to help turn around somebody else’s awkward phrase, which is much more fun than trying to turn around one of my own.
I have to admit, though, that at one point in my life, I was headed in that nasty, overly-judgmental direction authors seem to fear. When I was a schoolgirl, I was extremely dismissive of people who misspelled simple words like “its” and “it’s” or “your” and “you’re.” We’d clearly been taught the differences between these words, and the differences were quite easy to remember. I was especially harsh with those who would write in my autograph books “your nice” or “your sweet.” How could I have chosen to let such woefully ignorant people be my friends? And how had they made it this far in life (5th grade, I mean, come on!) without knowing the difference? Did they ever wake up in class to take note of what it meant to write?
Then it happened. I was sixteen or so, and I happened to be spending the night with my best friend. I picked up her high school yearbook from the previous year, flipping through it to see what everyone had written, being mostly interested to see what I’d said. And there it was: a “your” where a “you’re” should have been, in my own handwriting, right out there for everyone (you know, all those hordes of people who would be reading her yearbook) to see how ignorant I was. I, of course, immediately found a pen and corrected my mistake.
That yearbook signing must have been the beginning of my career as the Typo Queen, as I’ve discovered myself making similar mistakes ever since (in fact misspelling homonyms seems to be a pet favorite of mine). Email seems to bring out my most creative efforts in this profession, but I’ve noticed blogging is becoming a fine outlet as well. Sew, the next time you sea a slew of errs in won of my posts, don’t be to surprised.