There’s a lot to love about being an editor. A co-worker recently described editing as a big seek-and-find puzzle, with every found typo or syntax error a small, exciting victory. I would agree, though the job, like most, is not without its hazards. My sister, a nurse, is our go-to source for “Does this need stitches?” questions. And my nephew, an auto mechanic, good-naturedly listens to us imitate the strange noises our cars make before we ask for a sight-unseen diagnosis and repair estimate. So I’m fine when I get my fair share of this:
I don’t mind when friends send me typos they come across, because it means they’re thinking of me:
And I appreciate the thought even when there’s a certain sameness to Christmas presents:
Truth is, I really don’t silently correct anyone’s grammar. Speech is usually spontaneous, and though I might notice a slip-up, I don’t judge. Especially since there’s that whole casting the first stone thing.
But I am less forgiving when a mistake is mass produced, when it’s out there in big, bold letters, screaming at passersby I DIDN’T BOTHER TO HAVE ANYBODY ELSE CHECK THIS BEFORE PRINTING IT.
Since not all mistakes are created equal, over the years I’ve established my own personal levels of forgiveness. They’re sort of like levels of edit, but snarkier. Take a look.
Level 1: Text messages or anything else that fat fingers, speed, and autocorrect can gum up. All is forgiven. (A treat for “Mean Girls” fans below.)
Level 2: Mistakes on social media, because if I cared about them, they would kill me.
Level 3: Material created by anyone who knows it will be reviewed by an editor. Because we have to earn a living, right?
Level 4: Quotations. Nobody likes to be misquoted and misspelled at the same time. If your work contains a quote, please don’t perpetuate someone else’s mistakes by blindly reprinting it from the internet or other dubious sources. Even if Led Zeppelin wouldn’t care, Charles Dickens probably would. (And is its/it’s really that hard to master?)
Level 5: Any signs or similar items mass produced with the intention of reaching a large audience. These are the things that will be listed next to “Cause of Death” on my death certificate. I know a great company full of talented editors who would be happy to make sure your words are correct, even if there are only a few of them.
Level 6: Books, magazine/journal/newspaper articles, TV chyrons. Nobody’s perfect, but it kills me when mistakes make it past a staff that includes real-life editors. And I know the only person who feels worse than me when I see a typo in places like these is the editor who missed it. (I know, because I’ve been that editor.) Though painful, it makes me want to be a better editor. I’m sure its what Charles Dickins would want.
This post was written by Kathryn Flynn, an editor at Dragonfly Editorial.
Learning how to reframe criticism can help writers truly improve. A lot has changed since