Thursday, December 17, 2009

Editor Schmeditor

Being hired as a proofreader, or editor is a funny thing. Sometimes it is literally comical to see the strange typographical errors that people make. Most of the time it is funny in the weird sense that you are a new person hired onto the team just to find the errors that other, more established employees hadn’t noticed. You are actually looking for the mistakes that your boss makes. Imagine doing that in any other position. I don’t think it would make you very popular around the office. But when you are specifically cast as a proofreader, it makes you a hero. People gasp about all of the spelling mishaps, and grammar missteps that you found, exclaiming what a great job you did! You saved the publication!

It’s a fine line that must be tread lightly when starting at a new place. You need to learn the standards of the company, and how strict they are with their grammar and colloquial expressions. For the most part, grammar is a really subjective thing. Everyone learns it one way, and uses it how they see fit. Any published author will tell you sometimes they throw correct grammar to the wind because it just doesn’t sound right.

People have their different pet peeves. Some hate the word “Get” in any context. In pretty much any instance, there is another verb that could take its place and sounds better. Some flip over the passive voice (which can be difficult to avoid). Others don’t condone parenthetical statements. Even the use of ‘once’ is a hotly debated term. Is it a time marker, or can it be used as another way of saying after? It really depends on your audience.

The truth is that most people don’t really know what “proper” grammar is, and will just trust you as the proofreader if you say it is right, a lovely little power to wield. Yet the standards of proper change based on audience, writing type (technical, promotional, academic, etc). It is a peaceful thing to go quietly through pages of text, fix the problems, and finish knowing the document is better after you have finished with it. At least in your eyes.

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