On my Desk: Secret Shame

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When I was in university I thought I had to be extremely knowledgeable. You know how it is. You’re in a highly academic atmosphere, where the halls are teeming with pomp and grandeur. Well, at least metaphorically, sometimes our halls rained. We all have our secret shames, though. I remember some prof. friends of mine talking about a drinking game they played once. It was something along the lines of the “I never…” game. One prof. shocked the room into silence by admitting they had never read Macbeth.

As I have grown up I have come to realize that it’s okay to not be the most learned and widely read. We are all works in progress. If you’re not, then goodness help ya! So today I thought I would talk about my secret shame, which came up this week while I was going over some proofreading exercises.

Let me start off by sharing a huge relief and breakthrough I had with regards to editing and proofreading. When I took part in the course, The ABC’s of Proofreading through Editcetera, my teacher pointed us toward masses of information, research, and reference. One such reference was The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn. 41DHFqpNjkL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_ I subsequently purchased this book. I believe it was this work, or in the week we received the reference, that it came up. Somewhere around there, I came across the advice that to be an editor or proofreader means that you are a researcher. You check the dictionary for specific spellings, a thesaurus to suggest an alternate phrase, or in my case, you wonder if that word even exists. You also google random information, like the difference between American and European locks and thresholds, or pregnancy advice for police officers. You constantly reference style guides over things such as the appropriate use of em dash and en dash, etc. There is no shame in having to check something when you are an editor. There’s no shame in checking any time in your life. I rarely see it now, it was rare when I was in school, but I was the girl with a dictionary in her bag. I always checked words and meanings, partly because of my approach to problem-solving situations. You CAN be ashamed if you don’t do the footwork. Most people are okay if they’re that type of person though. You’re so chill! I say while viewing my collection of worry stones and anxiety tinker toys.

There’s no shame in checking any time in your life. I rarely see it now, it was rare when I was in school, but I was the girl with a dictionary in her bag. I always checked words and meanings, partly because of my approach to problem-solving situations. You CAN be ashamed if you don’t do the footwork. Most people are okay if they’re that type of person, though. You’re so chill! I say while viewing my collection of worry stones and anxiety tinker toys.

How freeing and exciting that was to know! The editor is paid to do these things. They go the extra mile to ensure it’s right, clear, and concise. Sometimes the facts don’t always stick, though. We have bad habits ingrained, or the definition doesn’t find traction in out brains.  Here is my secret shame.” I always forget the difference between Affect and Effect. I struggle with which one should go where. Sometimes I will even try to write around it! The hard-ass in me kicks back and tells me the desire to avoid it is all the more reason to keep using those words. I grew up being advised to work harder and longer at the thing you are bad at. So, knee-jerk reaction I guess. Every time, especially when editing other people’s work, I am looking up the difference between effect and affect. Grammar girl, Chicago style, grammar manuals, google, etc.

Someday, it may stick. If I work through it enough. Maybe I’ll just put a sticky note among my post-it kingdom to remind me. I’m sure it will come around in time. So let’s not say I never. I prefer to phrase it, “I haven’t …yet.”

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