Monday, January 02, 2006
Call the comma cops!
We’ve just updated the Playground website and one Playfriend has a partial going out, so the emails have been flying fast and furious with the subject line “Look at this, please.” One of the best things about this group is that five sets of eyes can look over something before you release it to the world, thereby saving you the embarrassment of sending out query letters with your name misspelled.
Since Danniele has a BA in English and I teach the stuff, we spend a lot of time chasing down errant commas and dangling participles to ease the grammar fears of the Playfriends (who don’t really need to be worrying all that much.). Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind doing it. I think it’s important. (Just don’t ask me to look at something after I’ve been grading papers. Freshman writing is enough to drive anyone over the edge of grammar sanity, and I may just nit-pick your query letter to death.)
I think because I teach English, folks seem to think I read every email with my teacher hat on, looking for misplaced modifiers and tsking your comma usage. Sorry, life’s too short for that. I wouldn’t want anyone going after my emails with the red teacher pen. Now, this only applies to emails sent to friends and family. That email query you’re sending in should be perfect. But that’s business; you want to put your best semicolon forward.
Of course I notice stuff. But it’s probably the same stuff you non-English teachers notice. Typos like ‘is’ instead of ‘it’; ‘form’ for ‘from.’ But the only reason I see it is because this is the first time I’ve read it. You know what you’re saying—your eyes will see what you meant to say. My eyes see what you actually typed.
(I'll even let you slide on a 'your' instead of 'you're'--at least once or twice. After that, I'm coming after you!)
This is why I’m a huge supporter of cold reads as part of your proofreading. It’s great if you can find someone else to read your stuff as they’ll find a lot of the typos. Just be careful of who you ask. Folks who know you well will also see what you meant to say. I had a manuscript read by half a dozen people—none of whom noticed that I had typed ‘imaging’ instead of ‘imagining.’ Put your pages away for a while—cold eyes will catch a lot. Find a friendly English major to take a look. :-)
So if you notice a typo on one of my blog posts, just ignore it. (But if you see one over on the Playground, send me an email immediately!) Not even English teachers get it right every time. And our embarrassment when we do mess it up is far more acute than you can imagine. Just know, though, that I rarely take out my red teacher pen unless asked.
Otherwise, I really would be the Problem Child.
PS: Be sure to check out the updates over on the Writing Playground and enter our first contest!