Flipping brain switches

“People who don’t know me very well think that I’m quiet. People who know me very well wish that I were quiet.”

That kind of applies to me. I can be “not quiet” when I’m with close friends, but at a certain point, when the group gets too big, I get quiet again, no matter whom I’m with. I think it surprises people who know I’m a journalist that I’m not an extremely extrovert personality — it’s more something I switch on and off as needed.

It even surprises my mom, and when she does the following, it bugs me to no end. She’ll call me to tell me something, and I’ll reply something along the lines of “Oh, that’s nice.” It happened when my brother placed really well in the area and provincial Skills competitions this year. They called to tell me — “Congratulations. Oh, that’s nice.” That’s really all I had to say. Then my mom gets after me, “Use your journalistic skills. Ask your brother about the competition.” No Mom, I’m not working. If he wants to tell me about the competition, he can tell me about the competition. Otherwise, we’re going to sit here and listen to each other breathe on the phone. A friend from school and I were talking a while ago — her family does the same thing to her with photos. Both of us are of the opinion, when we go to family events, we’re not the designated photographer by default. At least ask us, nicely. And we’ll consider it, considering it’s already what we do all day, all the time.

So that part, the interviewing and photography, I can switch on and off. The part that I can’t switch on and off, and it even bothers me sometimes, is the editing part.

I know there are a ton of complaints about the grammar police. Some, like this post, even make some valid points.

On the flip side, grammar saves lives. Which is it: “Let’s eat, Grandma,” or “Let’s eat Grandma”?

The one thing I really do try for is that if I’m going to point out the errors in someone else’s copy, my copy, to the best of my ability, is going to be as clean as I can make it. Still, there is a lot to be said for a fresh pair of eyes, not only by someone else, but even if you put copy away for awhile and come back to it later.

When I wrote my column about Sept. 11, I spent so much time on it and got so close to it that I developed sort of a mind-reading approach to it. Essentially, I forgot to tell people in specific terms, until the final paragraphs, that I was talking about Sept. 11. The words “Sept. 11” actually didn’t appear in my copy until the second- or third-last paragraph, because I was so used to thinking, “OK, I’m writing about Sept. 11, I know I’m writing about Sept. 11, so everyone must know I’m writing about Sept. 11, and I don’t actually need to say Sept. 11.”

Seriously, it would be nice to be able to flip my editing brain on and off, and I swear, I really do try. If I feel like I absolutely must correct the press release with the poor grammar and lack of CP Style, I try and bury it on my desk under some other papers so people can’t see I’ve made corrections to a piece of copy that will never actually see the light of day again.

The last time I was in Calgary, B., a friend whom I’ve worked with on a bunch of copy and newspapers, and I went for coffee. B. is now the editor-in-chief of the school paper, and he brought some proofs of the paper to show me. The first new online edition of the paper I work for had just gone up, and so we switched — I took his proofs, and he took my phone to look at the new online edition.

We talked about a million things that night, but I kept absent-mindedly flipping through his proofs, and even though we were talking more about layout and design, at one point I started digging through my purse for a pen; there was a correction I wanted to make. B. started laughing and even said he had thought (but forgotten) about bringing me a pen, because he knew there would be copy editing that I would catch, as much as I would try not to.

See, but at least that’s an appropriate time and place. What’s not appropriate is correcting and editing tweets (of other people) on Twitter. See my problem?

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